NEW HAVEN, CT – A Superior Court Judge upheld East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo, Jr.’s re-election Tuesday after his challenger questioned the results and asked for a recount.
Maturo’s Democratic challenger, Salvatore Maltese, filed a lawsuit challenging the results and alleging improprieties by local officials, including Maturo.
But after two days of testimony, Superior Court Judge Sheila Ozalis issued a ruling late Tuesday afternoon in Maturo’s favor.
“This court finds that plaintiff Maltese has failed to carry his burden of establishing that there were substantial errors in the rulings of an election official or substantial discrepancies or mistakes that would affect the results of the November 7, 2017, Mayoral election, such that would render the reliability of the result of the election, as reported by the election officials seriously in doubt,” Ozalis’ ruling states.
She said there is not a “sufficient reason” to order Maltese’s request for a recount.
Maturo was happy he won, but unhappy with Maltese.
“While I am certainly glad the Town prevailed in the frivolous lawsuit brought by Mr. Maltese, I am saddened and angered by the costs he forced the Town to incur and the angst he caused both the residents and the officials he named in the complaint,” Maturo said.
“It speaks volumes about the complaint and about him personally that he brought this action and did not even have the decency or courage to appear in the court room for the entire second day of the hearing,” the mayor said. “It is unfortunate that someone can make such outlandish allegations without any documentation, fail to prove any of those allegations, and then leave the Town and the taxpayers on the hook for the bill.”
Maturo won the election by 105 votes, 3,648 votes to 3,543 for Maltese, a margin of slightly more than 1 percent. State law mandates a recount if the outcome is within half of 1 percent of the vote – or – when a discrepancy is found in the voting.
In his closing argument Monday, Maltese’s attorney, Edward Marcus, who is the former state Democratic Party chairman, said there is nothing to be lost by having a recount.
“Mayor Maturo is responding in such a way that leads me to believe that a recount will change the result of the election,” Marcus said.
The primary claim in the complaint is the rejection of absentee ballots by Republican Town Clerk Stacy Gravino.
The battery of lawyers defending Maturo and the other defendants in the case disputed Marcus’ claim that there would be nobody hurt by having a recount.
“There has been no evidence entered whatsoever that anyone was not allowed to vote,” Maturo’s personal lawyer Lawrence C. Sgrignari told the judge. “Additionally there has been no evidence entered that a recount would result in a different outcome in anyway.”
To allow a candidate to ask for a recount just because the election was close, but not within the state law for a mandatory recount, would set a dangerous precedent that other losing candidates could follow, Maturo’s lawyers argued.
And election night moderator Donna DeLeone, who is a Democrat like Maltese, testified she didn’t believe there were any discrepancies that warranted a recount.
The lawsuit claims there were 596 applications for absentee ballots and that “an unknown number were rejected by her (Gravino). The reasons for the rejection of the ballots have not been publicly expressed,” the complaint states.
The complaint goes onto claim there were few if any witnesses to the counting of absentee ballots.
“The tallying of absentee ballots occurred without the moderator or Registrar of the Democratic Party, nor was a recount offered,” the complaint states. “The discrepancies in the number of absentee ballots results in additional votes for the Defendant Maturo which affect the results of the election in his favor.”
Gravino herself won re-election in the Town Clerk’s race, but also by a close margin of about 200 votes.
Over the weekend, Maturo was sworn into his ninth term as the longest serving New Haven area chief executive in the area in front of family, friends and supporters.