Democratic Registrar of Voters Matthew Waggner told a Superior Court judge on Monday that his Republican counterpart, Roger Autuori, is a bully who had turned their shared office in old Town Hall into a hostile environment.
This after Judge Richard Arnold granted the 61-year-old Autuori accelerated rehabilitation, a special probation program, for allegedly choking Waggner last October as they prepared for municipal elections in November.
Autuori denies laying a hand on Waggner and claims the Democrat has not been following proper procedure in the registrars' office.
"The first thing Mr. Autuori said after strangling me on Oct. 18, to a room full of people looking at the finger marks on my neck, was, "Nobody saw it." The next was, "Get out of here before I kill you," Waggner told Arnold during a hearing Monday at Superior Court in Bridgeport. "This, in a few moments, encapsulates years of workplace experience with this man. He engages in a pattern of abusive and bullying behavior toward those around him, disassociates himself from what he has done, and then goes right back to delivering abuse."
On Oct. 18, Waggner was putting voting machine scanners into a bin when angry Autuori ran into the room at the Senior Center, where the devices were stored, because he thought Waggner was doing it improperly, Waggner told police.
He grabbed Waggner about the neck and began yelling, "What are you doing?" as Waggner cried for help, according to the police report. Autuori then hit Waggner in the right cheek with his open hand while shoving him, police said.
Autuori, a stone mason and former reporter for the Bridgeport Telegram and Fairfield Citizen, told police that Waggner had been purposely working in a manner that would slow everyone down.
Autuori was charged with breach of peace after the incident.
Over the objections by Waggner, Arnold granted Autuori accelerated rehabilitation, a program for first-time offenders. Autuori did not plead guilty, but was placed on two years of probation by the judge. If he commits no other crimes during that probation, the charge against him will be dismissed.
"He has shown no remorse, no acknowledgement of what he has done, and has certainly not apologized for his actions," Waggner said.
"Having his record reflect a breach of the peace -- as opposed to the assault, strangulation and threatening, which it should -- is the very definition of a slap on the wrist. Granting accelerated rehab is adding insult to injury."
"This was a fair and reasonable way to resolve the matter," Autuori's lawyer, William Varese, said later as he stood with his client outside the courtroom. "Roger was merely doing his job, the complainant was not following through with the procedure he was supposed to do and wouldn't allow two of Roger's deputies to enter an area for the storage of the election scanners," Varese said. "There were issues with the scanners that the complainant didn't want to deal with."
Questioned about that, Waggner responded: "I'm not terribly concerned about what he has to say."
In the aftermath of the dispute, town officials assigned the registrars separate offices on different floors of old Town Hall.