BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — The mayoral race in Bridgeport is coming under more scrutiny. Surveillance video obtained by the campaign of challenger John Gomes has surfaced. It appears to show a city worker, who is a supporter of Mayor Joe Ganim, stuffing absentee ballots into a drop box outside the Margaret Morton Government Center.
The Gomes campaign said the city worker illegally deposited fistfuls of absentee ballots during the early morning hours of September 5, a week before the primary election. The video allegedly shows the woman making seven separate drops over the course of about two hours.
“Imagine what else has been happening that we have not seen,” said Gomes, who held a news conference at his campaign headquarters Monday to address the issue.
Bridgeport Police confirmed an investigation is underway into, “possible misconduct”, but at the same time said a parallel investigation is underway into how the Gomes campaign was able to obtain the video and said the “integrity of our security systems is of the utmost importance.”
The Gomes campaign declined to say how they got the video.
“That information was given because Bridgeport is tired of seeing the continuation of a violation of our civil rights…that’s really all I have to say about that. I will not discuss the source,” the Gomes campaign responded.
On Monday, the Secretary of the State’s Office also chimed in that they were planning to address what they call, “reports of alleged absentee ballot malfeasance,” in Bridgeport.
Connecticut law does not allow a person to turn in or deposit an absentee ballot on behalf of someone else unless that person is a family member, caretaker, police officer, or local election official.
The Gomes campaign claims the city worker in the surveillance video is Wanda Geter-Pataki, the Vice-Chair of the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee. Geter Patacki works as a front desk receptionist at the Bridgeport Government Center. FOX61 went inside to find her. An employee at the desk said she was, “taking a few days off.”
FOX61 went to Ganim’s office looking for more information about Wanda. Communications Director Tiadora Josef said, “I cannot give you that information at this time. If she’s not down there, then she must have taken a day.”
In addition, Bridgeport city officials called the Bridgeport Police Department on FOX61. Bridgeport Police responded and conducted an investigation into the presence of cameras inside the public building. A police officer referenced an unenforceable policy on signs that state all visitors to the government center must show I.D., sign in, and be authorized with an appointment before being escorted up to the Mayor’s office. FOX61 reminded the Bridgeport Police that the Margaret Morton Government Center is a public building, funded with taxpayer dollars and that the First Amendment of the Constitution allows for freedom of the press, and the call was resolved.
Ganim declined to speak to FOX61 for an interview Monday but did speak to FOX61 last week where he addressed the claim of a stolen election.
“Whether it’s Gomes or Trump you hear that kind of stuff. I’m sure they certified the results today. If he has issues with them I’m sure there’s a process he can take a look at but it’s a little bit of sour grapes at this point. We’ve seen this movie before. Disgruntled loser frankly,” said Ganim.
Gomes responded on Monday and said people want change.
“I would like to say to Ganim that he lost at the polls by 470 votes. It took 50 years and everything he had and yet the people spoke loud and clear. They want change,” said Gomes.
The Gomes campaign said as a result of its evidence, they will file a lawsuit to have the primary results thrown out and a new vote held.
In addition, Gomes campaign manager Christine Bartlett-Josie said, “We will be seeking a restraining order against the distribution of any additional absentee ballot applications from the town clerk's office.” She went on to say, “We are calling on the state police to take immediate action. We believe the 2019 recommendation for investigation should be pursued vigorously to ensure accountability for any wrongdoing.”
The State Elections Enforcement Commission said it is their policy not to confirm or deny any claim of voting impropriety until after a public vote is held. The commission will meet on Wednesday morning.
The SEEC also said that back in June, they completed their investigation into alleged absentee ballot fraud in Bridgeport related to the 2019 mayoral race. They referred the findings of that case to the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney for possible criminal charges.
The Gomes campaign said they have submitted 22 separate complaints to both the Office of the Secretary of the State and the SEEC regarding voting improprieties, with more to come.
Late Monday, Ganim released a statement addressing the surveillance video.
“I want to state unequivocally that I do not condone, in any way, actions taken by anyone including any campaign, city, or elected official, which undermines the integrity of either the electoral process or city property. The Bridgeport Police Department is actively investigating all these matters, and my administration will continue to update the public as we are able to obtain more information.”
Gomes, who used to work for Ganim and support him, said voters should have pause about a fair investigation because the police chief was appointed by Ganim.
The unofficial vote tally, which has still not been certified by the Office of the Secretary of the State, has Ganim leading Gomes by 251 votes. Gomes was leading by hundreds of votes until absentee ballot tallies were added late at night and Ganim surged ahead.
Ganim was first elected mayor in 1991. He resigned after his conviction on bribery, extortion, mail fraud and other charges in 2003. He was sentenced to prison for nine years. After he was released in 2010 with time off for participating in sentence reduction programs, he went to work for the family law firm and ran again for mayor and won in 2015. Ganim also ran for Governor in 2018 but was defeated in the primary. He was reelected as mayor in 2019.
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