FAIRFIELD – Only a few hours after the town announced a recount for the race for first selectman, police were called to investigate a possible burglary where the ballots were stored, but found no evidence of a crime.
With Democratic candidate Bill Gerber only 42 votes ahead of Republican incumbent Brenda Kupchick, the Fairfield Registrar of Voters scheduled a recount on Thursday morning to be held on Tuesday, Nov. 14, at the Bigelow Center for Senior Activities.
Later that afternoon, state and local police cordoned off the senior center to investigate a report of a potential burglary attempt.
According to a Friday statement by state police, the Bridgeport State’s Attorney asked the Western District Major Crimes Squad to respond to a report of a broken window screen at the center, where election officials had moved the ballots in anticipation of the recount.
“Damage to a rear window screen at the property was reported and was believed to be the result of a possible burglary,” police explained.
After conducting a “thorough on-scene investigation,” police said they determined that the damage to the window screen did not appear to be connected to any criminal activity, and the center was not compromised.
In an email to CT Examiner, Democratic Registrar Matthew Waggner, who was at the senior center on Thursday, gave his account of the investigation.
According to Waggner, the two registrars met at around 2 p.m. to unlock the senior center so town officials could drop off “material” from Fairfield’s polling places. He said the registrars made a plan to leave while the materials were being delivered, and meet back at the center in an hour.
But when he arrived back at the senior center an hour later, Waggner said, Fairfield police were at the scene. He said police told him that James Baldwin, the town attorney, had requested the investigation into the building’s security.
“I was not made aware of any concern at the time, and no call was placed prior to our departure,” Waggner said. “Chief Kalamaras was on site by the time I arrived at 3:10, and said that it was Town Attorney Baldwin who requested the investigation.”
It is unclear how Baldwin was alerted of a potential breach. He did not respond to a request for comment on Friday prior to publication.
While state police did not detail their findings, Waggner told CT Examiner that police found evidence – a cobweb – that apparently proved the window screen couldn’t have been damaged on Thursday.
“The state police relayed to us that their investigation determined there had been no entry from the outside window or door (as confirmed by intact cobwebs), that the rip which had been observed in an outside screen was not recent, and that they had already prepared a press release detailing their efforts prior to departing the scene,” Waggner wrote.
Waggner said police asked the registrars if they had any further concerns, and both confirmed that they did not.
Fairfield Police Chief Robert Kalamaras released a statement on Thursday prior to closing the investigation. He confirmed that he had received a report from town legal counsel, and he underscored the gravity of the matter.
“Noting the incredible sensitivity of such a report, and given the ongoing closely contested race for First Selectman in town, I made the decision to immediately notify the State’s Attorney Office for the Judicial District of Fairfield, to inform them of the matter and to request the assistance of their office,” Kalamaras wrote.
In a Friday message to CT Examiner, Fairfield’s Democratic Town Committee Chair Steven Sheinberg thanked the state’s attorney’s office and police officers who conducted the investigation, and looked forward to a transparent recount process.
“Trust in our elections is critical to our democratic process. Fairfield voters made their voices heard in Tuesday’s election and their votes will be counted again in an open and transparent process on Tuesday, November 14. We remain confident in the results and that Bill Gerber will be Fairfield’s next First Selectman.”
CT Examiner did not receive a response from the Republican Town Committee prior to publication.
The office of the Secretary of the State, Stephanie Thomas, also issued a statement on Friday reporting no evidence of burglary or compromise of the ballots.
“We thank the Fairfield Judicial District State’s Attorney, the Connecticut State Police, and the State Elections Enforcement Commission for their quick and careful attention to this matter,” the office said.