PRESS STATEMENT ON THE FEDERAL GRAND JURY INDICTMENT OF BRIDGEPORT COUNCILMEMBER MICHAEL DEFILIPPO ON ELECTION FRAUD CHARGES
by Gemeem Davis and Callie Gale Heilmann, Co-Directors, Bridgeport Generation Now Votes
The indictment of Bridgeport Councilmember Michael DeFilippo for multiple counts of election fraud is the latest example of the systemic corruption that Bridgeport voters have had to endure in recent years from both our elected and party officials.
From Councilmember Michael DeFilippo to State Senator Dennis Bradley to School Board Member Jessica Martinez to convicted felons Chief Armando Perez and Personnel Director David Dunn, in the last year alone, it’s been a never ending parade of political corruption plaguing our city. How many times will Bridgeporters have to read about indictments and convictions month after month, year after year from the individuals who are put in positions of public trust? Enough is enough.
Sadly, we know this web of voter fraud and corruption spans much wider than just Councilmember DeFilippo. The charges against him date back to the 2017 and 2018 contested city council primaries in the 133rd District, which resulted in former State Rep. Bob Keeley, suing city and campaign officials in “Keeley v. Ayala” over allegations of absentee ballot fraud and abuse. During sworn testimony in the second trial related to that election, Bridgeport police officer Paul Nikola testified before Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis that he was ordered by then-Police Chief Armando Perez to report to Democratic Party Chairman Mario Testa at Testa’s pizza restaurant the day before the primary. Nikola said Testa introduced him to DeFilippo who then provided Nikola with addresses to go to pick up absentee ballots.
While these allegations against AJ Perez, Mario Testa, and Michael DeFilippo are just beginning, the verdict on Bridgeport’s democracy is already in: Bridgeport’s democracy is broken, and systemic corruption pervades our local elections and city government.
It is time for Connecticut Democrats to take a stand. While national Democratic leaders like Stacey Abrams are fighting to protect and expand the right to vote – not defraud and suppress it. It is undisputed that the people of Bridgeport have been suffering under a system of voter manipulation and intimidation for decades, perpetrated by our local party. State Democratic party leaders must call out what the local party has done to the voters of Bridgeport as immoral and unjust – not to mention a violation of our civil rights – and strip Mario Testa of his chairmanship and remove him permanently from party leadership.
The people of Bridgeport demand and deserve better from our elected and party officials, and that’s why a diverse and growing coalition of Bridgeport voters, community leaders, and organizations are working together to #UnrigBridgeport and fix our broken democracy.
Earlier this the month, the #UnrigBridgeport Coalition unveiled The People’s Platform: a transformative vision of a “Beloved Bridgeport” and comprehensive 30-point plan that offers a positive vision of justice and equity initiatives, good government proposals, pro-democracy measures, and takes on the culture of systemic corruption in the Park City. It was informed by hundreds of conversations with city residents and members of the #UnrigBridgeport Coalition at community events and meetings across the city. (Full press release here.)
In the platform, there are specific Anti-Corruption proposals that call for Election Oversight and Compliance; Public Financing of Municipal Elections; Ethics Reform; Ending Political Patronage; and Fiscal Watchdog provisions. There are also Pro-Democracy proposals for expanding Voting Rights & Participation through early voting and no-excuse absentee ballot voting as well as ensuring Absentee Ballot Education, Reform & Compliance. We encourage all like-minded voters and candidates running for Bridgeport City Council who share our positive vision for change and who are committed to #UnrigBridgeport to support The People’s Platform and to take The People’s Pledge.
Together, we can – and will – unrig Bridgeport.
About Bridgeport Generation Now Votes and the #UnrigBridgeport Coalition
BRIDGEPORT GENERATION NOW VOTES is on a mission to increase voter turnout in Bridgeport elections. Key to that work is strengthening democracy, fighting corruption, and expanding and protecting voting rights for the people of Bridgeport.
We are a nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)4 affiliate of Bridgeport Generation Now, working on legislation, litigation, and grassroots organizing.
The UNRIG BRIDGEPORT COALITION is made of the following partner organizations, community leaders, and Bridgeport residents: Bridgeport Generation Now Votes, Bridgeport Strong, Connecticut Citizen Action Group, The Greater Bridgeport NAACP, Greater Bridgeport Ed Gomes Black Democratic Club, Make The Road CT Action, PT Partners, SEIU 1199 New England, The Working Families Party – Bridgeport, The Working Families Party – CT, Kelvin Ayala (Bridgeport Resident), Donna Curran (Former Democratic Town Committee member), David Daniels (Bridgeport Resident), Ron Bailey (Retired Bridgeport Police Officer), Joe Luciano (Bridgeport Resident), Pete Spain (Former City Council Representative)