It’s been less than a month since the State Election Enforcement Commission (SEEC) dismissed allegations of election misconduct against Fairfield’s Democrat Registrar Matthew Waggner in the 2022 election. However, new claims have surfaced. This time, the accusations involve the custody of absentee ballots, illegal hand counts and neglect of duties.
And this time there is video.
The allegations were outlined in a letter sent to Secretary of the State (SOTS) Stephanie Thomas on Sept. 26 by former Fairfield Town Attorney James Baldwin. According to the SOTS office, they then forwarded the complaint to the SEEC on Sept. 29 as that is the “agency that is statutorily tasked with investigating elections law violations.”
In the letter, Baldwin urged the SEEC to investigate whether Waggner should be temporarily relieved of his role as registrar. The request stemmed from two key concerns: the dysfunction in the registrar’s office due to Waggner’s misconduct, neglect and incompetence, jeopardizing the Nov. 7 elections’ integrity, and allegations of Waggner violating laws outlined in Title 9 of the state statute.
Baldwin explains in the letter that statutes and regulations regarding the two municipal registrars’ responsibilities (when preparing for and conducting elections) are written with the intent that most tasks are to be done in agreement between them, otherwise “the entire electoral process is brought into jeopardy.” However, Waggner is accused of doing the complete opposite.
According to Baldwin, “Waggner’s consistent refusal to cooperate with Republican registrar Cathy Politi and office secretaries” has caused “dysfunction and chaos” to the operations of the registrar’s office.
Waggner’s lack of cooperation with the other registrar is evident in several instances, most notably in a bizarre exchange with Fairfield law enforcement officials. A video captures Waggner, seen on the left wearing a black mask, refusing to cooperate not only with Politi but also with local law enforcement and the SOTS office.
In the video, Waggner tries to seize election tabulators ordered by the SOTS office to be stored under a dual lock system. Despite a police officer’s request to stop, Waggner continues; locking the closet door and hip-checking the officer to move him aside. When the officer tells Waggner not to “push him” and questions if he intends to make things difficult, the registrar responds affirmatively, stating, “Yes, I am going to make it this difficult.”
The situation escalates, as depicted in this footage, where Waggner is observed glaring at an officer. The officer notes Waggner is staring at him “angrily” and advises him to calm down. As police officers proceed to move equipment into the closet, Waggner attempts to force his way inside the closet, but his efforts were thwarted. Police then inform him that it is unreasonable to be locked in the closet by himself.
In a third video, police successfully secure all but two tabulators which Waggner clung onto, reluctant to hand them over to officers for safekeeping. Despite being urged to relax, Waggner continues to dispute with officers about placing them in the closet.
An officer then instructs him to take a seat while they contemplate their next steps, emphasizing that they cannot leave until the tabulators are secured. The officer mentions consulting their attorney to determine the appropriate course of action. However, Waggner refuses to sit. Another officer is heard suggesting that Waggner either places the tabulators in the closet or risks being charged with confiscating them.
With a police negotiator present, Waggner eventually released the tabulators, and they were safely secured in the closet. No charges were filed.
Waggner’s erratic behavior and reluctance to collaborate with the other registrar was also on display when he insisted that she file a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act request for records under his control, a direct violation of the law. More troubling is Waggner’s continued demand for Politi to submit FOI requests, even after the SOTS office advised him on March 22, 2023, that such a practice is inappropriate.
Baldwin’s letter further highlights an instance where Waggner is accused of mishandling absentee ballots. In the 2022 election, Fairfield registrars informed SOTS that absentee ballots would be counted at polling locations, each with designated counters. However, 123 ballots at Mill Hill School couldn’t be read, leading moderator Ken Line to return them to Fairfield Town Hall per Waggner’s orders.
The ballots then went through an unauthorized hand counting, including by Waggner and without the moderator’s supervision, a violation of state statute and the Moderator’s Handbook. Waggner then conducted two more hand counts of the same ballots the next day, without properly notifying the public, Politi or Hines. Affidavits signed by Politi and Sarah Matthews and Jeanette McMahon were included in Baldwin’s letter.
Baldwin concludes the letter by stating, “This request is not made lightly, however, if left unabated there is a serious concern that the untenable situation in the ROV [Registrar of Voters] office will compromise the integrity of the upcoming November election.
On Sept. 29, the SOTS office forwarded the complaint to the SEEC. Acknowledging the nature of the allegations, the SEEC deemed it necessary to initiate an investigation. The case is now classified as an open investigation, awaiting a final decision.
As the SEEC continues its investigation into the serious allegations against the Fairfield Registrar, the town awaits a decision that could potentially hold him accountable for his actions. The recent incidents, documented through signed affidavits and video footage, paint a troubling picture of Waggner’s refusal to cooperate, raising significant concerns about the integrity and security of Fairfield’s elections.
With the case now classified as an open investigation, the community will have to wait to see whether the Teflon Registrar’s streak of luck will finally come to an end in a forthcoming SEEC meeting, determining his fate and the consequences — if any — for his apparent abuse of power.
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