CTNJ file photo
State Elections Enforcement Commission Executive Director Michael Brandi (CTNJ file photo)

A week before the start of a trial that pits state election regulators against the Connecticut Democratic Party, the state’s top election regulator has refused to be questioned.

State Elections Enforcement Commission Executive Director Michael Brandi had initially planned to show up for a deposition on Monday. But according to court documents, he decided not to appear because he was concerned the Democratic Party “might seek to inquire into privileged areas” and might “reveal information embarrassing to the witnesses or the Commission.”

In an affidavit, Brandi said the discovery request made by attorneys for the party “would likely disclose potential confidential sources, expose witness and law enforcement personnel, and undermine safeguards of privacy of individuals involved in an SEEC investigation.”

Brandi said he is claiming privilege because he has not had time to review all the documents the Democratic State Central Committee has requested as part of its discovery for the case, which is scheduled to go to trial Oct. 27

“Ironically, it appears it is the DSCC that is insisting on investigating the SEEC and its officials while at the same time it stonewalls a legitimate agency investigation into its conduct and the conduct of its officers and candidates. This Court should not condone such tactics and should issue a protective order preventing depositions until such time as the DSCC has been able to demonstrate a need for testimony from SEEC personnel that is both relevant to this action and likely to produce non-privileged testimony or documents,” attorneys representing Brandi and the SEEC wrote in their motion to quash Brandi’s testimony.

Attorneys for the state regulators note that the requests for the depositions and compliance with subpoenas “impose a burden on the petitioner based upon the timing selected by the DSCC in noticing them — three days before the petitioner’s brief is due and one week before a hearing in this matter.”

State election regulators argue that it’s just another delay tactic by the Democratic Party.

However, David Golub, the attorney for the Democratic Party, said in court documents that the depositions would have only taken a day.

“Counsel for respondent made clear that respondent did not seek to conduct exhaustive discovery, but rather sought to proceed with the depositions in a limited and expedited manner (in one business day),” Golub wrote in his motion.

As far as questioning Brandi and the other two SEEC attorneys, Golub wrote that they could “fully protect its witnesses from any perceived harassment if any questioning went beyond the issues in this case.”

At the center of the case is the state regulators’ request for information about 2014 campaign mailings featuring Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. The mailings were paid for from the Democratic Party’s federal account and, as a publicly financed candidate, Malloy agreed not to accept any state contractor funds.

State contractors are allowed to contribute to the party’s federal account, but Golub argues they had to use the federal funds to pay for the mailings because they included a Get-Out-The-Vote message. The party also argues state contractor funds are segregated within the federal account, but there’s been no information shared with state regulators during their investigation to explain how that was accomplished.

The SEEC filed a lawsuit against the Democratic Party this summer when it refused to comply with its investigatory subpoena involving the mailings.