Watch: GOP Split Spills Into Town Committee Meeting–Mayoral Candidate Denied Access At Port 5

Dishon Francis, right, departs Port 5.

Zest for control of Bridgeport Republican Town Committee? Let the games begin.

Dishon Francis, a 23-year-old Republican mayoral candidate, says party chair Mike Garrett blocked him from attending a Republican Town Committee meeting on June 19 where another GOP mayoral candidate Ethan Book was addressing the committee at Port 5 in Black Rock.

Francis is backed by a wing of the party opposed to Garrett including former party leader Charlie Valentino and ex City Sheriff Joe McLaine who has been highly critical of Garrett in the OIB comments section for not reaching out to African Americans. Francis is black.

We’ll start with Francis’ version of the events, followed by Garrett.

“On Wednesday, June 19, 2019, my slate and I attempted to attend the June meeting of the Bridgeport Republican Town Committee (BRTC) at the Port 5 National Association of Naval Veterans in Black Rock. Unfortunately, other Republicans and I were denied entry into the meeting by BRTC Chairman Michael Garrett and we were asked to leave the premises by an officer of Port 5.

“Despite being invited to attend by two members of the Bridgeport Republican Town Committee, I was denied entry to the meeting room at Port 5 where town committee business was being conducted. I did not make a request to speak. Our only intention was to observe the meeting and we were denied the opportunity. According to the BRTC Chairman, the reason for the refusal of entry was failing to formally request permission to attend the BRTC meeting prior to the start of the meeting.

“This denial of access to a publicly noticed meeting is inconsistent with the Bylaws of the CT GOP State Central Committee that states, “Notwithstanding the contrary provisions of any local rule, all town committee meetings shall be open to the public unless the town committee shall, because of unusual circumstances, by a majority vote, elect to go into executive session.” A copy of the BRTC Bylaws cannot be found on the party’s webpage, only a message that states, “ATTENTION, the Bridgeport Republican Town Committee By-Laws are in the process of being
revised. We will publish the revisions soon.” We were in the right to attend the public meeting at the private club, however we still complied with the request to leave the building.

“Upon leaving Port 5 and walking toward the parking lot, a Bridgeport police cruiser arrived on the scene. A Bridgeport police officer emerged from the cruiser and entered Port 5. After several minutes inside, the police officer left the building and questioned why we were there. We explained what happened, the officer replied, “This is a private club and they don’t want you back. If you go back, you will be charged with breach of peace.” We complied with the request and drove away from Port 5 and did not return.

“I remain steadfast and determined to run as a Republican candidate for mayor in spite of the incident. I am confident that despite the fact BRTC Chairman Michael Garrett is also a longstanding member of the CT State Central Committee, the committee will be fair and impartial in its ruling. I believe the CT State Central Committee will take my complaint seriously and will make corrective action to ensure that incidents like this will never happen again. When I approached the BRTC in March regarding a mayoral run, committee members encouraged me to run as a Democrat. When I held a Meet and Greet for my campaign, I invited every member of the Bridgeport Republican Town Committee to attend, including Chairman Michael Garrett; he declined.

As a salesman, I’ve grown immune to rejection. It’s a part of life, but I will never let it define me. I expect additional challenges and barriers and I will continue to overcome them. Join me and my team. We welcome everyone; no invite or request for permission to participate will be required. I encourage all city residents and those in surrounding towns to help us in our cause to build a better Bridgeport together!

Mike Garrett. Photo: Cathy Zuraw / Hearst Connecticut Media

Garrett statement:

He showed up with an entourage that included Charlie Valentino. Ethan Book wanted to be heard. These other people I don’t even know wanted to enter the meeting to observe. First of all this is Port 5, a members only situation. The RTC rented the space. I am aware what the state bylaws say but what are you supposed to do when people who want to enter didn’t have the decency to ask for an invitation? It weighs on my mind that I could be endangering the town committee. Joe McClane is famous for disrupting meetings.

Because we allowed Book to speak for five minutes I told Dishon I’ll allow you to speak for five minutes. He said he was not prepared. Valentino tried to bulldoze his way in. I had safety in mind.

The bartender asked me if they were part of my group. I said no. Once I saw they were ignoring the bartender I called the police. They left to the parking lot.



  1. I guess the Bridgeport RTC has no intention of trying to ever appeal to anyone with melanin in their body. What sense does it make to hold a public meeting at a private club?

  2. Eric, you hold this meeting at a private club to dictate who can or can’t come. Dishon Francis learned a valuable lesson, just because you register as a Republican doesn’t mean that the Bridgeport Republican party will accept you as one of their own. It’s no longer the party of Lincoln, it’s now the party of 45, divisive and anti- black.

  3. As I explained in more detail in the Herbst article, Dishon as a candidate was allowed to attend the meeting but not with his entourage. I as a candidate was allowed to attend the meeting but without my Treasurer. There was absolutely nothing of racial animus about the standard applied by Chairman Garrett!

    1. “There was absolutely nothing of racial animus about the standard applied by Chairman Garrett!”

      Really Ethan? REALLY?! The GOP is no longer the party of Abraham Lincoln. He freed African-Americans from indentured servitude; Michael Garrett wants to put them back in chains.

  4. Oh let’s face the facts here, Dishon would have been allowed in if he came by himself, Ethan himself stated he wasn’t able to bring his team in either, end of story… Tim Herbst is grandstanding,feigning “outrage” over this, fact is he regularly controlled who can and who couldn’t participate in meetings when he was selectman in Trumbull. Herbst seems to always be pissed at someone/something,add this to the list. On election night, Herbst will be at Testos celebrating a Democratic win with Mario,…And if you want to talk reality, Ethan & Dishon don’t have a chance at winning this election.
    Mario will rev up his absentee operation in the fall, and most likely produce more absentee ballots for Joe, than the votes Ethan & Dishon get combined.. This is how it’s done in Bpt.

    1. Harvey, the accumulating excesses of the Democrat monopoly have made Democrat candidates vulnerable. A good platform of a good candidate of the loyal opposition can win in November.

    1. Yeah, right. Under the current Democratic administration the local economy is bubbling under. How do you propose making it robust? We need creation of long term jobs that pay living wages not housekeeping and fast food gigs that pay $10.25 an hour. we also need to increase the tax base so that homeowners in Brooklawn, Black Rock and the North End are not footing the bill to pay for the raises Ganim bequeathed to himself and his cronies. And we need adequate funding for public education so that the local high schools produce more than teen moms and juvenile delinquents. Can you do all of that, Ethan? I know it’s a tall order that requires the long view.

      1. Derek, I can do it with the help of the people. Our last two Mayors have been Bill Finch and Joe Ganim. They have been overwhelmingly compromised with interest groups, such that the individuals and groups that compromise that segment can never reach the majority of the populace. That doesn’t compute. That has resulted in political padding of the budget, sharply increasing taxes (three record tax increases under those two Mayors) and for the padding, inefficient government and lacking moral. This has resulted in an epidemic of deliberate indifference. See my Facebook posting of yesterday regarding very flawed attention by Police Chief Perez to a glaring issue of a wrongful murder conviction resulting from reckless and possible willful errors of responding police officers. I have also encountered defective transfer of city tax liens by the City Attorney without the full requirement of concurrences stipulated by the City Council in its authorizations for such transfers and city council members who are allowed to utilize the stipend allowances without presenting a statement of compliance or of giving supporting documentation. For our current Mayor, there are the issues of bridging of his employment and cashing out on “unused” vacation pay. All these issues demoralize the fabric of city government and become reflected in the general malaise of the community. I have developed a plan of putting the City financial house in order while steps are taken to redirect the City ethical rudder. Some of that is discussed in my Candidate Statement which was published here at OIB on June 13th. I take this opportunity also to reassert what I’ve presented before the City Council, the Board of Education and other forums the problem of “the secularization of government”, that process of several decades of some trying to remove God from public schools. In 2012, several months before the Sandy Hook shooting, I wrote an article entitled “The Secularization of Government” (found at my website, a link in the second paragraph of the home page). It discusses changes in our society such as of violence, divorce, unwed mothers, crime, and educational achievement with marked spikes of deterioration beginning in the early 1960’s when the Supreme Court prohibited Bible reading and prayer in public schools. People have asked me if what I want is to return to those practices. That might be complicated but certainly there should not be a prohibition of posting the Ten Commandments in the hallways of schools and other public buildings. Even if students don’t read them in their entirety every time they pass them, they will likely have read them at some point and will be aware of them when they go by them. This would not be mandating a religion which is prohibited by the 1st Amendment. Rather it would be a spiritual reference of guidelines for life, that presented to our youths at a time that their young minds are developing. Without being exposed to positive guidelines for life, the young minds will more likely be developed in a void with many of the wrong things to fill them. The existing trend over decades has also adversely impacted the ethical framework of our educational, trades, business and political leaders. In my small transportation business, I consider how often I am told that a job will cost so much, discounted if I pay cash. My practice is to pay by check with the sales tax included (though when it comes to tax time, I argue all the deductions that I can legally declare). My goal is that my standards would be an example for both city government and the community. I don’t say that I’m perfect. But I can sure say that I can do better than the City has seen recently.

        This said, what you seek must also include cooperation with state government. This morning, I attended the annual Legislative Wrap-Up sponsored by the Bridgeport Regional Business Council and held at Housatonic Community College. Present were state legislators from both major parties [Sen. Tony Hwang (R), Rep. Joe Gresko (D), Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey (D), Rep. Ben McGorty (R), Rep. Dave Rutigliano (R), Rep. Steve Stafstrom (D), Rep. Laura Devlin (R), Sen. Dennis Bradley (D)]. There was much discussion about the recently quickly approved Democrat majority state budget, that which has become one of three record high budget increases in eight years. I learned more about how that budget will result in regressive tax increases, benefiting the wealthy while hurting the middle and lower income groups (with hot food tax, laundry tax, tax on interior decoration, etc), also more about the political pork included in the budget. The matter event was essentially a debate, a respectful but frank debate, between the Democrat legislators and the Republican legislators. Overall, the Republican legislators won the debate.

        Senator Hwang pointed out that he was shocked when he learned that 8,000 businesses closed or moved out of the state in one year, that because of the high taxes, lack of good services and education. Rep. Ruttigliano said that, in his view, the best action done by the General Assembly this year was to adjourn, because by adjourning, it couldn’t do any more harm. I must also acknowledge that Senator Bradley made a good point that the real issue for the state is not taxes but smart spending (I believe that’s part of the issue).

        I invite you to review my Campaign Statement which reflects how I intend to redirect the City’s financial and ethical rudders, that to reduce the City budget, reduce city taxes, increase spending on education, all to encourage business investment for stimulating the economy and adding more and better jobs, all with the help of the public and our state legislature. Will you join me?


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