BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (WTNH) — Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim testified in court Tuesday about allegations of illegal ballot box stuffing during the city’s recent mayoral primary.
A lawsuit was filed by fellow Democrat John Gomes and his campaign, challenging the results of the Sept. 12 primary, in which Ganim defeated Gomes by 251 votes.
Ganim took the stand for about an hour, answering questions surrounding the September primary and absentee ballots. The hearing and questions stem from videos Gomes and his campaign team released, which they claim showed a Ganim supporter stuffing absentee ballots into a ballot drop box.
In court Tuesday, Gomes’ attorney, Bill Bloss specifically asked Ganim about absentee ballots and videos that have surfaced since the primary.
Bloss: “Mayor Ganim, do you know who that is?”
Ganim: “I do not.”
Bloss: “You don’t?”
Ganim: “I do not.”
Bloss: “Would it help if I zoom in?”
Ganim: “You can try.”
Bloss: “You don’t know that to be Eneida Martinez?”
Ganim: “I do not.”
In some videos, a woman resembling Wanda Geter-Pataky, the vice chair of the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee who works as a greeter at the City Hall annex, can be seen making repeat trips to an absentee ballot drop box outside the building early in the morning on Sept. 5 and stuffing documents inside.
Bloss: “Mayor Ganim, do you not know that to be Wanda Geter?”
Ganim: “I believe it’s her. I can’t say for sure.”
Bloss: “Why do you think it’s her?”
Ganim: “It looks like her.”
Geter-Pataky invoked her 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination Friday. Among the questions she wouldn’t answer: Whether she was the woman seen on surveillance footage making multiple trips in the predawn darkness to an election drop box outside a government building and stuffing papers inside that looked like ballots.
Ganim denied any knowledge of wrongdoing and said he never discussed absentee ballots with Geter-Pataky but said she volunteered with his campaign.
Bloss: “Was she active on your primary campaign?”
Ganim: “She was active on my campaign. She was active in all the campaigns.”
After testifying Tuesday, Ganim spoke outside the courthouse, saying he was grateful for the opportunity to testify and be part of this process.
“In the midst of all this, I think we need to focus on things we know are facts in this case and not a question. Some years ago, it was my office, through my instructions, through my chief of staff to work with and ensure that these ballot boxes, which were new in Connecticut, were placed exactly under the cameras that already existed for monitoring so that God forbid a situation like this would come or other situations, that we had a precaution in place.”
Ganim also accused the Gomes campaign of hypocrisy, claiming some of his workers were caught on video depositing multiple absentee ballots into drop boxes.
Gomes, however, said he spoke with those supporters, who complied with the law.
“Any allegation or claim is of major concern,” Ganim said.
In court, attorneys on both sides worked to establish how many ballots might have been impacted. Gomes’ campaign and his legal team said that number could be hundreds.
“It’s a culture that’s been created in Bridgeport,” said John Bailey Kennelly, attorney for city elections officials. “It’s a culture of harvesting people’s applications and going back and getting their ballots.”
Under Connecticut law, people using a collection box to vote by absentee ballot must drop off their completed ballots or designate certain family members, police, local election officials or a caregiver to do it for them.
The legal proceedings are unfolding just weeks before the general election on Nov. 7. Gomes is hoping for a new primary altogether but said he’ll still appear on the November ballot.
Testimony is set to continue on Thursday.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.