Pelto Files Election Complaint Against PAC Supporting Yes Vote On Charter Question

Government watchdog Jonathan Pelto has filed a complaint with the State Elections Enforcement Commission against Residents For A Better Bridgeport, the political action committee financing the effort to win a yes vote for the November 6 ballot question that if approved by voters will empower the mayor to appoint members to the Board of Education. See Pelto’s commentary below:

There are some who seem to think they are above the law.

And then there are those who act like they are above the law, and then attempt to claim they didn’t know they were doing something wrong when they are caught.

We’ll soon find out which strategy the education reform forces in Bridgeport will be taking.

Not satisfied with intentionally manipulating the wording of Bridgeport’s upcoming charter revision vote in order to confuse voters into supporting the change that will take away their own democratic rights and give Bridgeport’s mayor the power to appoint his own board of education, the proponents of the referendum appear to be ducking their legal obligations under Connecticut’s campaign finance law.

Residents for a Better Bridgeport, the political action committee formed to support Mayor Finch’s effort to eliminate a democratically elected Board of Education, and replace it with one under his control, has filed a report that is so misleading that an official complaint has now been filed with the State Elections Enforcement Commission.

Connecticut law requires that every campaign treasurer and deputy treasurer must follow the state’s campaign finance laws.

Ignorance of the law is not a defense.

And as the law states;

“Any person who violates any provision of Connecticut’s campaign finance laws is subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $2,000 or twice the amount of the improper contribution or payment, whichever is greater.

Those who break the law on purpose face even stiffer fines. The law goes on to read;

“Any person who “knowingly and willfully” violates any provision of Connecticut’s campaign finance laws is subject to criminal penalties of up to $5,000 in fines, or five years imprisonment, or both.

Last week, the political action committee known as Residents for a Better Bridgeport filed their October 10th campaign finance report with Bridgeport’s Town Clerk. The Committee claimed that they raised $572 during the period, on top of the $100 that they had already raised.

Their report also claimed that they did not make any expenditure, whatsoever, to promote their cause.

But of course, Residents for a Better Bridgeport spent or encumbered tens of thousands of dollars in their ongoing campaign to pass the charter revision.

Just ask anyone who has received one of their three glossy mailings or has seen one of their new videos or even clicked on their website:

Connecticut campaign finance law is based on the fact that voters have a fundamental right to know what candidates and political action committees are spending their money on.

Failure to disclose that information is one of the most serious offenses under Connecticut’s campaign finance laws.

And the law is particularly clear.

The campaign treasurer and deputy treasurer have the legal obligation to submit campaign finance reports that not only reveal any expenditures the committee has made, but they must also reveal any expenses that has been incurred but have not yet been paid.

Every few months, candidate committees and political action committees, like Residents for a Better Bridgeport, must submit a report of their activities.

There is even a whole section, “Section S,” that is included for the purpose of listing expenses incurred but not paid.

The directions for this legal document read, “The obligation to report expenses incurred arises when the committee enters into a written contract, promise or agreement to make expenditure.”

The State Election Enforcement Commission guide goes on to say, “For example, if a political committee purchases mailers that it distributes in June but is not billed for them until August, the committee would report the expense in Section S … If a committee incurs an expense but will not know the actual cost until it receives an invoice at a later date, it should still report the expenditure incurred in Section S in the period in which it was incurred and provide a good faith estimate of the amount.”

But Residents for a Better Bridgeport, which is the vehicle being used to support Mayor Finch’s initiative failed to report any expenditures or any agreement to make expenditures.

That is a huge violation, and now, the Treasurer for Residents for a Better Bridgeport, Lillian Wade and the Deputy Treasurer, Steve Stafstrom, are facing serious legal repercussions.

The committee failed to report any expenditures or plans to spend money for a website, yet they have a website which can be seen at

There also appears to be illegal in-kind corporate contributions from Achievement First, Inc., the charter school management company that runs Achievement First Bridgeport.

The video includes people who it implies are Bridgeport teachers. However they are teachers employed by Achievement First. Also, the videos are filmed in classrooms. If those classrooms are in Bridgeport schools, it is an illegal use of municipal resources. If the classrooms are in the Achievement First–Bridgeport School then it may very well be an illegal in-kind contribution of space.

Each of these violations carries significant penalties.

Together they paint a disturbing picture of a group of individuals who have joined together in an attempt to take away the democratic rights of Bridgeport citizens …

They call themselves, Citizens for a Better Bridgeport, but their alleged illegal activities have now earned them a full-fledged campaign finance complaint.

I know, because I submitted the complaint and the corresponding evidence to the State Elections Enforcement Commission earlier today.



  1. These idiots can’t even spell Superintendent correctly on their website link to end of year Vallas Report under the tired banner of “Expect Great Things!”

    More like Great Unexpectations!

    Pelto can really Follow the Money.

  2. The question on the upcoming ballot to vote Yes is confusing. The voters have to be aware of “GIVING AWAY THEIR VOTING RIGHTS” if they vote yes on this question.
    I will try to campaign to get the word out to the voters of Bridgeport to vote “NO” on this question.
    The Mayor will do a lot of harm if he has this much control and the citizens of Bridgeport cannot do anything about his appointees to the board and make important decisions affecting our schools and students.
    VOTE NO, VOTE NO ON THIS ballot question.

  3. Bravo Pelto! What day is Finch going to be held accountable for his constant, consistent and flagrant dishonesty? He and his roving band of thugs and toadies need to go. The arrogance of these self-appointed arbiters of democracy is nauseating. It’s a wonder they haven’t burst at the seams with all that self-righteousness.

  4. Good job, Mr. Pelto. Excel Bridgeport is most likely doing the same. I checked the eCRIS system and did a search for both Excel Bridgeport and Residents for a Better Bridgeport and got not hits as if they weren’t registered. About two weeks ago the Green Ad for Excel Bridgeport on the top of the OIB main page for a week did not have the attribution (Paid for by …). I again checked eCRIS and no records found again. I called Lennie Grimaldi to inquire about this to see if it was an error made by Lennie or Ray (they forgot). Lennie didn’t get back to me for a few days. Lennie called Excel and asked them about this and he told me the person he spoke with was oblivious of this requirement and wasn’t sure but they will. Lennie and Excel agreed it’s better to be safe than sorry and added the attribution you now see under the Excel Ad. I’d like to ask every OIB reader who support the NO side to save all and any form of literature mailed or given to you by Excel Bridgeport, Residents for a Better Bridgeport or any other group or individual. Save them and keep a written record of how you got it. Also, if you know of any fundraising events by the above groups or anyone pushing the YES answer to the ballot question, mail it to me or post it here on OIB so those of us who know how to monitor and what to look for can get a better picture of what’s happening. Lennie, you can now tell us about your phone conversation regarding Excel’s attribution inquiry.

  5. I just found out this complaint came about from my inquiry. I spoke with a person who shall remain anonymous about what I was noticing. This person had been trying to contact me to team me up with Pelto. Paging Pelto. Call me at 203-345-9597. Good job!

    Anyone with information of any impropriety or suspicious violations should NOT post them here on OIB. Let’s not give anyone an opportunity to cover their tracks or run to file an amendment to their reports.

  6. I attended a Citywide NRZ Leadership meeting last evening and was part of a distribution of material promoting a YES vote. I was surprised, but took advantage of the opportunity to INFORM those folks of the Mayor’s failure to provide additional necessary funds for several years, failure to have more than 25% of members and commissioners on City Boards serving an unexpired term, 50% failure in accountability on monthly City budget reports. Not a good track record to allow another $300 million of taxpayer money flow through his chokehold. Checks and balances only work where they are part of the structure, play a genuine role, are monitored and are enforced.

    Joel and Lennie, as an individual expressing my opinion that NO is an appropriate vote, as I prepare material for others to consider, what do I need to do if I am working with my own funds? What needs to go on the material distributed? Your help is appreciated. Time will tell.

    1. I posted the rules and guidelines. I believe an individual working alone (whatever that means) can spend $1000 of their own money to promote the defeat or the passage of a school board referendum question. I’m not sure of a lot of other things. For example, we have heard there are 70 questions (am I right?). Let’s hope they are careful in promoting the defeat or passage of any other question with literature on the BOE question just to protect yourself. They don’t care about any of the other questions. Why didn’t they put the BOE question on let’s say number 19? JML I know you care about the financial portions of the referendum and I just want to protect you, my dear OIB.

  7. Pelto didn’t have to write all that. This is just the surface of the SEEC guidelines. These folks are trying to educate and inform us about what’s going on with our schools yet they don’t know what they are doing. Let’s give them a little help here and make sure they have no excuses for their ignorance. Click on the link and learn all you need to know about the SEEC rules.

  8. While Mayor Finch and his group of arrogant cowards keep pushing for a Yes vote on the BOE question, I cannot stress enough how this takes my rights to select who governs my grandchildren’s education. If this motion wins what other voting rights do they plan on taking away?
    I suggest Mayor Finch and his group of cowards and members of Excel and the gutless charter revision committee walk across the street from the annex and look at the war memorials that are there. I know a few of the heroes from Bridgeport who died for us and for our freedoms. They did not die so petty politicians could take our right to vote away from us. I did not serve so this can happen.
    Let me remind these liberal assholes this is AMERICA, not a socialist country.

    1. By the looks of your spelling and grammatical mistakes it seems you should be supporting education reform in this city! Also your use of the word socialism in the context of your sentence implies a totalitarian regime where no one votes on anything, something liberals in the context of your sentence would not be supportive of. So ridiculing them for wanting it makes no sense because they wouldn’t want it in the first place. Get it? My suggestion to you: Stop getting your news from FOX NEWS, pick up a newspaper and make up your own mind instead of spewing the misinformed ideas of others.

      1. Thanks, just what I need is an English teacher. Any time a total population’s right to vote is threatened it is socialism. I happen to watch a cross-section of cable news from Fox to MSNBC. I find both interesting. I also read four newspapers a day and get my information from there also. My suggestion to you is stop reading the Times and other biased publications. BridgeportBooster, great name; how have you helped Bridgeport other than being the spell checker?

  9. Here is the problem with the SEEC. They do nothing but collect paper. They see a report that shows no money collected, no money spent no funds committed and they file the stupid report.
    They know damned well some is playing a game but they just don’t care. If a member of the public does not complain they do not look at the report again.

  10. Oh and by the way “and the Deputy Treasurer, Steve Stafstrom, are facing serious legal repercussions,” is this Steve Stafstrom the same Stafstrom who is John Stafstrom’s nephew?
    John Stafstrom who pretends to be a great liberal leader in the city and state who is actively pushing to eliminate an elected BOE? Must think an appointed board would better understand the intricacies of bonding.
    The only thing liberal about this phoney is his liberal legal opinions he issues when the city is looking to use funds in an unauthorized manner.


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