Republican registrar charged after dispute with Democratic counterpart
The town's political community was buzzing Monday as news spread of a dispute between the Registrars of Voters, which police said turned physical as they were preparing voting equipment for the Nov. 5 municipal election.
Republican Registrar Roger V. Autuori was charged with breach of peace in the aftermath of the altercation Friday evening. Democratic Town Committee Chairman Ellery Plotkin said Monday that Autuori should resign, but James Millington, head of the Republican Town Committee, said due process should be allowed to take its course.
Although police would not release the name of the person allegedly slapped by Autuori, 61, sources indicate it was Democratic Registrar Matthew Waggner.
The incident took place about 5:44 p.m. Friday in a part of the Senior Center complex on Mona Terrace, where town voting equipment is kept in storage.
The confrontation took place when Autuori started yelling at Waggner while Waggner was putting election ballot-scanning devices into a bin, according to the police report.
Autuori grabbed Waggner by the neck, yelling at him and then slapped him across the face with an open hand during the dispute, the report states without publicly identifying Waggner.
Waggner declined to comment. Neither man was in the registrar's office at old Town Hall on Monday morning, and Autuori did not return calls for comments.
"I think it's outrageous that any town official would put their hands on another town official," Plotkin said. He said the town has a zero tolerance policy on workplace violence. "Zero tolerance on violence in the workplace should mean just that, regardless of party or political view."
Millington, who works as a police officer in Shelton, called the situation was unfortunate, especially with elections just weeks away. "We're going to see how it plays out," he said. "They're due their due process."
He said tensions in the registrars' office "have been high for several years," but said the registrar staff needs to focus on the Nov. 5 election. "They need to put their personal disagreements aside."
At a League of Women Voters candidate forum Monday night, several local politicians said they had heard few details of the incident.
"I haven't spoken to anyone about it," said Hal Schwartz, the Democratic minority leader for the Representative Town Meeting. "I'd be very interested to see what's going on."
He said it was unfortunate that such an incident would happen, particularly just before an election. "I feel bad for Roger, I like him. If this did happen, it's unfortunate. These two guys are going to have to work together."
Selectman Kevin Kiley, a Republican, said he did not know all of the details about the incident.
"This is a difficult situation for everyone involved," Kiley said, " and it's important we get all the facts and information before casting judgment."
Kiley said it is important that a safe workplace be provided for all employees. "It is also important that the registrars' office be operated in an efficient manner for the town of Fairfield," he said.
Autuori, who lives on Melville Avenue, was released on a promise to appear Oct. 28 in Bridgeport Superior Court.
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