A Superior Court judge has given the Waterbury faction of the Connecticut Independent Party control of the party, allowing it to cross-endorse major party candidates or to choose its own nominees for statewide office. But the Danbury faction, which lost in the latest court round, promises to appeal.
The two factions had been fighting for several years on which would control the state’s Independent Party, which has about 25,000 registered voters, making it Connecticut’s third-largest political party after the Democrats and Republicans.
In her Aug. 21 ruling, Hartford Superior Court Trial Referee A. Susan Peck said the Waterbury faction, led by Michael Telesca and Rocco Frank Jr., had properly filed bylaws in 2010 that made its faction a statewide party. The Danbury faction had argued the bylaws were not valid.
In her ruling, Peck wrote: “The court finds that by their actions and/or inactions, the plaintiffs [Danbury faction] have waived any right they may have to challenge the validity of the 2010 bylaws, because they actively participated, without objection, in the process which created and adopted those bylaws, and used … the 2010 bylaws to nominate and endorse candidates for statewide and municipal offices in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014.”
The ruling, pending an appeal, means Telesca is the party’s chairman and Frank, its treasurer, or second in charge.
Bill Bloss, attorney for the Waterbury faction, told the Connecticut Law Tribune Tuesday that Peck’s ruling “was deeply fact-intensive.”
“Judge Peck made specific findings based on the evidence perhaps, most significant of which, was that all sides used the 2010 democratically adopted bylaws for several election cycles after their adoption,” Bloss said. “Their [Danbury's] main contention was that the 2006 bylaws were never replaced and that the 2010 bylaws were not valid. But they signed off on the 2010 bylaws for that year’s election and future elections.”
Bloss, a partner with Bridgeport’s Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder who worked on the case along with his colleague Emily Rock, said the Danbury faction was known to be more aligned with the state Republican Party than the Waterbury faction.
The Danbury faction was represented by Brookfield solo practitioner Matt Grimes, who told the Connecticut Law Tribune Tuesday that the Danbury faction’s appellate team would be filing an appeal before the Sept. 10 deadline to do so.
“It will be appealed. This [ruling] turns over years and years of case law. The case was not decided by law,” Grimes said. “Previously, [Superior Court] Judge Mark Taylor said the 2010 bylaws were not valid and they were not applicable.” That, Grimes said, will be the position of the attorneys handling the appeal to the Connecticut Appellate Court. Grimes declined to name the attorneys handling the appeal for the city of Danbury.
About a week ago the Independent Party, under the leadership of the Waterbury faction, endorsed Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski in his race against Democrat Ned Lamont and others.
The secretary of the state’s office was named a party in the suit, but it did not take a position on which faction should control the party. The attorney representing the secretary of state’s office was Maura Murphy Osborne, who works for the Connecticut attorney general. Jaclyn Severance, a spokesperson for the Connecticut Attorney General’s Office, said the office would have no comment.