A city political operative fined $6,000 by the State Elections Enforcement Commission for her role “taking unauthorized possession of absentee ballots” pertaining to the August 9, 2016 Democratic primary in Bridgeport between State Senator Ed Gomes and Dennis Bradley has gotten a reprieve from paying it. Sonia Belardo who was assisting the Bradley campaign will not have to pay the penalty “due to exigent financial circumstances evidenced by Respondent.” See commission decision from last month here. School board member Maria Pereira who’s backing State Senate candidate Aaron Turner against party-endorsed Bradley in the upcoming August 14 primary writes Belardo will be watched closely.
During the August 9th, 2016 Democratic primary Helen Losak was working for the Ed Gomes Senate Campaign against challenger Dennis Bradley.
Helen Losak lives in the JFK Precinct where Fireside Apartments is located. While canvassing for Senator Gomes, voters repeatedly stated that Sonia Belardo, a long-time (City Clerk) Lydia Martinez operative who was working for Dennis Bradley’s campaign, had already been to their homes, assisted them with filling out their absentee ballots, and in some cases she left the premises with the ballots in hand in violation of state law.
Helen Losak filed a formal complaint with the States Election Enforcement Campaign (SEEC) in July 2016. Ms. Losak just received a letter from the SEEC dated July 6, 2018 that on June 20, 2018 the Commission voted unanimously to adopt the attached Consent Agreement and Civil Penalty regarding the complaint.
Ms. Belardo’s “attorney” submitted a sworn statement to the Commission denying all the allegations.
The SEEC launched an extensive field interview of potential witnesses and found “credible evidence” that Sonia Belardo violated state law “by taking unauthorized possession of absentee ballots pertaining to the August 9, 2016 Democratic primary in Bridgeport.”
The agreement goes on to state “the Commission finds there was an intentional concerted effort by Respondent to obtain absentee ballots from individuals at 730 Palisade Avenue, Bridgeport. As a result of field interviews of individuals who cast absentee ballots, Commission staff found evidence that Respondent, on three occasions, took possession of absentee ballots when unauthorized to do so …”
In addition, it further states “the Commission deems the imposition of a $6,000 penalty as a sufficient deterrent on Respondent and a clear message to the public that the Commission views the unauthorized possession of absentee ballots as egregious conduct and will treat violations for such conduct accordingly.”
The Order reads as follows:
IT IS HEREBY THAT the Respondent shall pay a civil penalty of six thousand dollars ($6,000) to the Commission ($2,000 for each violation), for failing to comply with the requirements of General Statutes 9-140b (d). Collection of such civil penalty is suspected due to exigent financial circumstances evidenced by Respondent.
It was signed by the Executive Director & General Counsel of the SEEC and Sonia Belardo in June.
We spoke with the SEEC attorney this morning to inquire as to why the $6,000 penalty was “suspended.” The SEEC attorney stated Sonia Belardo’s attorney presented significant documentation demonstrating her inability to pay the fine.
The SEEC attorney was asked how could Sonia Belardo hire an attorney if she is claiming she is unable to pay the fine. We then asked who was Sonia Belardo’s attorney. It was none other than Dennis Bradley. The same Dennis Bradley who personally told me “I’m like a second son to Lydia (Martinez).” We notified the SEEC attorney that Sonia Belardo was just paid over $400 by the Ganim for Governor campaign. He became silent.
We had Sonia Belardo committing blatant violations of the laws that govern ABs to help Dennis Bradley defeat Senator Gomes in the 2016 Democratic primary, Dennis Bradley submits a sworn statement from Sonia Belardo claiming she did not commit these violations although she was committing these violations while on his campaign payroll, and then he has the gall to represents her in the SEEC complaint. We further stated she was a paid operative of Lydia Martinez. He stated he was completely familiar and aware of Lydia Martinez and her past transgressions.
The SEEC attorney stated that the Commission purposefully assessed significant fines to demonstrate to Sonia Belardo how egregious her actions were. He also urged us to file any complaints regarding Sonia Belardo because they would be thoroughly investigated. He closed with if Sonia Belardo is found to commit any illegal activity with ABs again she will be arrested and referred to the Chief State’s Attorney for criminal prosecution. If she decided to violate the terms of the agreed upon terms of the Agreement and the Consent Order there would be no further civil penalties, only criminal prosecution.
We know she committed the exact same violations during the DTC elections this past March while she was involved in this investigation. Several residents told us in June that she literally fills out their ballots for them or sits next to them while they fill them out. She also takes them with her and mails them.
We are committed to thoroughly watching what is going on in Fireside this election season. Several residents have agreed to work with us because they dislike Lydia Martinez and Sonia Belardo. We will not hesitate to file a formal complaint against Sonia Belardo or any other operative who violates our laws governing ABs.