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Panel finds Bridgeport Democrats in violation of state party rules

Bridgeport City Hall was built in 1854 to house both the City Hall and Fairfield County Courthouse-Bridgeport, Connecticut
Shoba Dasari, WSHU
Bridgeport City Hall is also known as McLevy Hall which is a municipal building-Bridgeport, Connecticut.

A panel of Connecticut Democratic Party leaders has released a report, revealing issues the state party has with how the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee conducts business.

The report, which was written based on testimony from a hearing last week, was released on Thursday. It broke down instances in which the Bridgeport DTC clearly violates state and local party rules and Robert’s Rules, which are used for conducting open meetings. The state party also found instances of gray area and instances in which the DTC is without fault.

To comply with state party rules, Bridgeport's town committee is expected to update its digital footprint to share timely meeting notices and agendas. Bridgeport Democrats do not have a website and therefore post no updates for members to participate, which violates state party rules.

The findings cite State Party Rules Article VII, Sections 5.B and 8 as violated.

“The Bridgeport DTC has no website. Nor does the Bridgeport DTC update its social media pages. Multiple witnesses stated that agendas were nowhere to be found. They are correct because there is nowhere to find such an agenda. While the rule states that such actions should be taken 'if feasible,' the panel believes that creating a website and entering the 21st century is feasible and, further, that there is no reason not to post notices of DTC meetings and agendas to the existing Facebook page,” the report reads.

“As such, the panel concludes that the Bridgeport DTC has violated applicable State Party Rules concerning the electronic posting of meeting notices and agendas.”

In the instances in which it could not be determined whether rules were violated, the panel said they could not reach a conclusion because representatives from the town committee did not show up to the hearing last Friday.

Democratic State Chair Nancy DiNardo said there would be consequences if the DTC does not change its behavior. However, she was not specific.

“The allegations in this complaint were concerning, and we welcome the panel’s report,” DiNardo said. “We expect all of our town committees to follow the letter and the spirit of their own local rules, the state’s party’s rules, and state law. Bridgeport Democratic leaders need to run the town committee in a transparent manner that encourages participation, and if necessary, we will take steps to make that happen.”

The complaint was initially filed against the town committee by two Bridgeport Democrats, Gemeem Davis and Callie Heilmann.

Before the public hearing, Davis told WSHU the best outcome would be the dissolution of the current DTC.

“The best case scenario, from my perspective, is that they disband the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee and we get to start all over,” Davis said. “They bar people who have been involved in absentee ballot harvesting from being party leaders. If this party, under the leadership of Mario Testa, has violated these rules for 40 years, they remove him as the chair and bar him from ever being chair again.”

Bridgeport Democratic Party Chair Mario Testa could not be reached for comment at his place of work, Testo's Pizzeria & Restaurant.

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.