State to probe Democrats’ rent
FAIRFIELD — Just one week before a special Board of Selectmen election, Republican Town Committee Chairman James Millington sent out a press release announcing an elections complaint against Democrats and rent paid for their party headquarters.
Millington, who said he filed the complaint in April, said the State Elections Enforcement Commission has begun an investigation into the complaint, which alleges the Democratic Town Committee, and several of the party’s candidates, received illegal in-kind contributions from the building’s owner, Penczer Associates, LLC. The managing partner is Peter Penczer, long involved with local Democrats.
Joshua Foley, attorney and spokesman for the SEEC, confirmed the complaint has been accepted for investigation. He said the SEEC made a “necessary to investigate determination” at its May 17 meeting. Foley said such a determination doesn’t reflect on the merits of an individual complaint, but simply means that if proven true, it would be considered an election law violation.
According to Millington, a Shelton cop and a local real estate agent, his calculations show the DTC should have paid about $60,000 in rent for the 338 Commerce Drive space.
Instead, Millington said, financing statements only show one rental/utilities payment of $2,450.
“If proven true, this is one of the most flagrant violations of campaign finance law I have ever seen in my twenty-six years in Fairfield politics,” Millington said.
DTC Chairman Steven Sheinberg said they have responded to the complaint, which he called baseless.
“Under the term of the agreement, the utilities were paid by the DCT, as was the use and occupancy that was reasonable given that the premises were then empty,” Sheinberg said, “and the landlord reserved the right to remove the DTC promptly shoudl they find a tenant willing to pay more.”
Sheinberg aid they look forward to resolution of the complaint.
In his complaint, Millington said, “They knowingly accepted the use of a valuable commercial space from a friendly business owner, which was an illegal contribution from a business entity. It is inconceivable that such seasoned politicians did not know that they had to pay for the use of a commercial headquarters and report the same. The obvious conclusion is that the campaigns decided to eliminate a large portion of their budgets by accepting free rent so that their money could be spent on additional mailings and campaign activities.”
Millington said he began to look into the rental when the DTC did not close its headquarters following the most recent state election. The complaint also names state Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey, and former state candidates Phil Dwyer, Dru Georgiades, Fred Garrity.