A formal complaint was filed against ex-Middletown Mayor Sebastian N. Giuliano with the State Election Enforcement Commission Tuesday – a day before that same commission is scheduled to vote on its announced decision to hire Giuliano as its executive director and general counsel for more than $100,000 a year.
The complaint, filed Tuesday afternoon by a Wesleyan University student in behalf of a group of campus Democrats, adds to controversy that developed late last week with the commission’s announcement that it intends to hire Giuliano for the high-profile election watchdog’s post, from which Albert Lenge retired in September.
The complaint relates to the November mayoral election in Middletown, which Giuliano, a three-term Republican incumbent, lost to Democrat Dan Drew. It alleges that Giuliano and “those affiliated with him” made public misstatements about student voter registration that amounted to an illegal “pattern of attempts to intimidate, mislead, or otherwise discourage a specific segment of his constituents from voting.”
The question was whether about 500 Wesleyan students could vote after registering by using their campus mailbox as their residential address, as had been allowed in past years. The students said that late in the campaign, Giuliano and his allies suggested publicly that the students might not be able to vote unless they appeared in person to verify where they lived.
It ultimately took a Nov. 4 letter from the Secretary of the State’s office to clarify that the students’ voting registrations were legitimate, said Mansoor Alam, a Wesleyan freshman who appeared Tuesday afternoon in Hartford outside the election agency’s office to talk to reporters. The election complaint was delivered earlier in the afternoon by another student, Paulina Jones-Torregrosa.
Alam stood by himself in a cold drizzle, holding a hand-lettered, cardboard sign that said “SEB ELEC ENF COM?” to question the commission’s pending decision to hire Giuliano.
Giuliano denied during the campaign that he was trying to discourage or prevent any of the students from voting, and said he was just trying to assure that they avoided a potential problem.
Neither Giuliano nor the election enforcement commission’s chairman, Stephen Cashman, could be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon – either on the student Democrats’ formal complaint or the intended hiring that was announced last Thursday.
The day after that announcement last week, the Democratic co-leaders of a key legislative committee blasted the decision, asking that the election enforcement not hire Giuliano because he was too recently removed from a partisan political role in a hotly contested campaign. The two Democrats said that to serve on the election enforcement commission, a person must “be removed from partisan politics for three full years," and they argued that the same cooling-off period should apply to the top paid administrator who reports to the commission and runs the agency it oversees.
"I strongly believe the SEEC must first and foremost be an independent watchdog of Connecticut's elections policies, procedures, and processes, without even a hint of partisanship, and a chief elected official, of any party and any municipality, who served in office and ran for re-election as recently as this nominee, compromises that desire for irrefutable nonpartisanship," one of the two leaders of the government administration and election committee, Sen. Gayle S. Slossberg D-Milford, had said.
The elections enforcement agency investigates complaints that candidates and office holders violated state election laws, and runs the state’s public campaign financing system.
Slossberg said late Tuesday afternoon that she has heard nothing to indicate that the election enforcement commission has deviated from its plan to formally approve Giuliano’s hiring in a vote scheduled for Wednesday morning.
“I have no idea what they are going to do,” she said in a telephone interview. “I do not believe that he is an appropriate candidate” because of his political involvement, she said. Since last week’s announcement “people have expressed their concerns, and [the commission members] have to decide what they choose to do," Slossberg said. "All I care abut is the integrity and independence of the agency, and the confidence that the public places in it.”