PORTLAND — The Democratic Registrar of Voters has submitted a complaint to the State Elections Enforcement Commission alleging that one of the recently elected Republican selectmen does not live in town.
According to the complaint, Kristy Fuller, the Democratic Registrar, received an anonymous letter on October 31 claiming that Republican Selectman and candidate Michael Pelton no longer lived in the Town of Portland. Attached to the letter was a copy of pages from a website celebrating Pelton’s September 2023 wedding.
The website requested that guests send gifts to what is described as the couple’s home — an address in Wolcott, CT.
The anonymous writer stated that he or she had sent the same letter to First Selectman Ryan Curley, Republican Registrar of Voters Pauline Neumann and Town Clerk Michael Tierney.
Pelton, who won a seat by a narrow margin, was elected to serve a fourth term on Portland’s Board of Selectmen. Before that, he served as a member of the town’s Board of Education for three terms.
Fuller wrote in the complaint that there was no record in the Connecticut Voter Registration System showing that Pelton had moved.
First Selectman Ryan Curley, a Republican, confirmed to CT Examiner that he, too, had received a copy of the anonymous letter. He said that he contacted the Elections Enforcement Commission, but that at the time, they had not received any formal complaints. He also said that Pelton had recently renewed his voter registration, and that a letter was sent to the address he gave in Portland.
“If it gets returned to sender — well, then there’s a problem, but that mail was received by Michael [Pelton]. And our town attorney was of the opinion that the town has done its due diligence,” said Curley. “We can’t hire a private investigator and follow our elected officials around to see where they are.”
Curley said he thought the complaint against Pelton was politically motivated, particularly given its timing – the anonymous complaint arrived a week before the election, and the SEEC complaint was filed just after. He said that Pelton had always done his job, and was the highest vote-getter.
“It kind of seemed like somebody trying to attack a long-standing member of the Board of Selectmen,” said Curley.
He also noted that Fuller was a Democrat, and Pelton was a Republican. He shared with CT Examiner an email from the town attorney, which stated that Fuller “had no obligation to investigate beyond standard procedures the validity of any elector’s residence,” since the complaint was anonymous.
“Obviously this is a Republican, and this is a Democratic Registrar of Voters,” said Curley. “From everything I’ve seen, she was under no obligation to [file a complaint].”
But Fuller said that she wanted to personally speak with election officials at the state level to find out how she should handle the situation.
“There is frequently a difference between what you need to do and what you should do,” Fuller told CT Examiner.
Fuller told CT Examiner that when she received the letter, the first thing she did was look for the wedding website. When she saw that the home in Wolcott was listed as “our home,” she said, she reached out to the State Elections Enforcement Commission.
“I didn’t know what my responsibility was in that situation. This was my first election as the Registrar of Voters,” said Fuller. “And so I wanted to make sure I was doing what should be done.”
Fuller said that the person she spoke with at SEEC advised her to file a complaint. She also talked to an attorney at the Office of the Secretary of the State, who, she said, agreed with the advice SEEC gave.
Fuller said she waited until after the election results were finalized, and it was confirmed that Pelton was elected, before submitting the complaint.
“I didn’t want it to be a political thing,” she said.
Pelton told CT Examiner in a phone call that he had lived in Portland since 2000, and in that time had served multiple terms on the Board of Education and as selectman.
Pelton said that he maintains two addresses — his wife’s home in Wolcott and a place in Portland that he rents from a friend. He said that while he spends nights in Wolcott, he is at his Portland residence most days, since he owns a business in town.
“That’s where my mail goes, that’s where my car is taxed, that’s where I get the registration forms. So that hasn’t changed,” he said.
He added that he, too, had spoken to an attorney at the Secretary of the State’s office, who he said had told him that he was “covered” legally.
A spokesperson for the Secretary of the State’s Office told CT Examiner that they would defer to SEEC for any complaint under the agency’s investigation.
Pelton said he and his wife had been looking for a house in Portland for a year, but that the market had made it difficult to find a place they could purchase.
“If I find a place tomorrow that I liked, that we could afford, we’d sign up right away. I’m anxious to get back and make it easier for [my wife] too,” said Pelton.
Joshua Foley, communications director for the State Elections Enforcement Commission, told CT Examiner he was “unable to confirm or deny” the existence of a complaint until it was presented to the Commission, and they determined whether it was worthy of investigation. The Commission’s next meeting is December 6.
This story has been corrected to say that Pelton was previously selectman and was elected to a fourth term