Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Commission Says Bysiewicz Exceeded Authority in Aiding two Democrats

The state Elections Enforcement Commission has found the Susan Bysiewicz was in the wrong when she allowed two Democrats who had missed paperwork deadlines to appear on the November ballot.
Bysiewicz has said she consulted with Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, also a Democrat, and was told she had discretion to place the candidates on the ballot.

"Nevertheless, the commission disagrees that she has such discretion and finds the exercise of discretion contrary to the express language of the statute and the prior written opinions and long-standing practice of the Secretary's office in interpreting the same statute," the commission wrote in its ruling.

House Minority Leader Robert Ward, R-North Branford, and Rep. Robert Farr, R-West Hartford, the Republican candidate for attorney general, filed a complaint with the commission last month. They said Bysiewicz had required a Republican House member in 2004 to go to court to get on the ballot under similar circumstances. (AP)

The two candidates, both incumbent state representatives, will be allowed to remain on the ballot.


"News and Notes From the Campaign Trail." Associated Press 19 July, 2006.


Anonymous said...

It doesn't really seem right that she doesn't have the authority (which was called into question immediately) yet they can stay in the ballot. I'm sure the two candidates knew that placing their names on the ballot was an uncertainty.

Are rules meant to be followed?

What is it with Garfield and the SEEC?

Anonymous said...

Hey GC, instead of giving the D's cover, why not mention them in your post? In case anyone's wondering, it is Rep. Janowski of Vernon and Rep. Mushinsky of Wallingford.

MikeCT said...

I am shocked, SHOCKED that Susan Bysiewicz doesn't know how to do her job.

Anonymous said...

Quick! Quick! Quick! Let's get Caruso and Meyer on the case! How could such an outrage be allowed to happen? A constitutional officer setting different standards depending on the party affiliation? If this doesn't cry out for a GAE investigation, what does?

Oh yeah, they're all Democrats.

Anonymous said...

Susan B playing favorites? Surely you jest?

Is this an impeachable offense? And was she fined or just told that she is a bad bad girl?

Anonymous said...

Assuming for the moment that the paperwork deadline was a failure to file a certification of the nomination with the Secretary of State's office pursuant to Conn. Gen. Statute 9-388 (its hard to tell from the article)she actually just saved the state a ton of money for a fight it would lose!!!

Before automatically assuming the use of discretion was wrong or that Bob Ward is right (because when was the last time that actually happened) do your research: for example see the case of Ocif v. Tashjian, 1990 WL 283831 (Conn. Super.) My applogies for not being able to provide a free citation - its only a Westlaw Case. Here is the gyst: Litchfield County nominee for High Sherriff's paper work was never received by the Sec. of State. Sec. of State says no nomination - you cannot be on the ballot.

Candidate files an action seeking a Writ of Mandamus (an order requiring a governmental official to do something - in this case putting his name on the ballot. Candidate wins and his name is placed on the ballot. (If I recall correctly, I think he won the election as well.) The crux of the matter in Ocif was whether it was clear a nomination had taken place. There the court found that a nomination had clearly taken place and the screw up was paper work related. Since the article quoted above does not indicate either way, we don't know for sure. It does, however, seem that it was a purely paper work issue, i.e. failure to timely file or something of that nature. In other words, from the wording in the article that a nominating convention took place and for some reason there was a paper work snafu.

Therefore, it certainly appears that the matter falls squarely within the Ocif opinion. Which means Susan was right to exercise discretion and avoid litigating something she wouls lose anyway, the Attorney General was correct in his advice, the Election Commission needs better lawyers, and everyone else either needs to do their research.

Disgruntled. Period. said...

Anon 8:00 AM - I see your point, but if filing the paperwork is secondary here, why were the laws changed to require these forms to go directly to the Secretary of State's office in Hartford rather than the local Town Clerk's office in the respective district - if not to eliminate careless filing and ensure centralized compliance?

That said, what's the deal with the decision-- the candidates stay on the ballot....?

So what value did the process have?

The D-candidates don't follow the rules, and prevail. The D-Madam Secretery breaks the law, and can essentially shrug it off. The D-Attorney General is complicit, and walks away.

Anonymous said...

I understand the question as to what point is the paper work in the first place. That said, the court concluded that the electoral process is important enough that the mere failing to submit the paper work in the right order at the right time is insufficient to keep a candidate off the ballot.

The crux of the matter is if it is clear that a convention/nomination was held and the candidate in question was nominated then the candidate goes on the ballot.

Side note: the candidate in Ocif was the Republican nominee for High Sherriff. Thus it cuts both ways.

Anonymous said...

The reason the law got changed and all State offices file with the SOTS is the 2004 case involving Debralee Hovey. She got the wrong paperwork, that said file with the town clerk. But she was a multitown district and was supposed to file with the state. By the time the clerk realized, the deadline had passed. She attempted to be placed on the ballot since it was a simple bookkeeping error, and was told the SOTS doesn't have the authority to do so. She had to go to court to get an order to be placed on the ballot. She also had to pay an attorney, and couldn't accept the discounted rate they usually charge the state, because that would be an ethics violation where she used her position for her own gain. It cost her campaign $4,000.
At the same time, two democrats went to court to get on the ballot as well. They both "retained" Updike Kelly, a regisered lobbyist firm, and were never charged for the legal work. No campaign filings ever showed a record of the legal fees paid by anyone, or an in-kind contribution made by a lobbyist or by the party to the campaigns. So D's get free leghal work, but an R has to dip into the campaign funds for $4k.
The other odd thing is that the AG didn't want a written opinion in the Hovey case because they didn't want a precedent, and only wanted the orders in all three cases to apply to the specific cases involved. Then, this year, they cite Hovey and the other two as broad "precedents" to get two D's on the ballot.
Say all you want about saving the case boatloads of money - it saves them nothing - they have an AG on salary who is paid to represent them, and the court filings would be paid by the candidates. Nothing is saved, since everyonme who needs to be paid is already on the state payroll. What it DOES save is a few thousand dollars in campaign contributions for Mushinsky and Janowski that can now be spent elsewhere. And you are absolutely right - GAE or someone else SHOULD look into this, but they won't. Nothing will happen. But if it was a Republican again......
So the SOTS, who said she had no authority two years ago,
Say what you want about

bluecoat said...

and, of course, the answer to this is for the GOP to put up candidates that can get rid of Dick and Susan. so why didn't they?

Anonymous said...

Bluecoat, the answer is they didn't - because they can't.

To the previous poster: thanks for the story from 2004. Two things come to mind: in the end the courts have consistently placed candidates on the ballot in these kidns of situations. If that is the case in 2004 and in the Ocif case - then it begs the question of why bother avoiding the mess this time around.

As for the legal fee issue: campaign finance reports may not show fees if the candidate paid for it personally. Moreover, I don't know that it necessarily is a reportable campaign expense - though I think it would be an appropriate expenditure if made by a candidate. Full disclosure I am an attorney - $ 4,000.00 to bring that action sounds a little high.

Finally, the candidate didn't need to accept a discount - her attorney just needed to keep his/her thumb off the meat scale. Or the attorney could have done it for a flat rate, instead of by the hour billing in 6 minute increments.

Anonymous said...

There were two people in 2004 who had to go to court to get on the ballot. One was a Republican (Hovey) and one was a Democrat (Gasparino, he ran in Fairfield County somewhere). Bob Ward and Bob Farr, who both are trying very hard to enjoy their last few days of relevance, failed to mention this when accusing Susan Bysiewicz of partisanism. Again, why let the facts get in the way of a good accusation.

2004 set a legal precedent that candidates can get on the ballot if the issue is something as simple as filing paperwork. The SEEC disagrees with the Secretary of the State having discretion, but they make it clear there was no wrongdoing and that the ballots don't have to be changed.