HARTFORD, CT — A Hartford City Councilor was informed by Hartford Clerk John Bazzano that she had resigned her position on the City Council when she switched her party affiliation in January.
Cynthia Jennings, an attorney and a member of the Working Families Party, switched her party affiliation to Democrat and has been helping Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim with his gubernatorial petition drive as a volunteer. The decision cost Jennings her job and possibly her benefits.
Reached Tuesday by cellphone Jennings said she didn’t have anything to say and would hold a press conference Wednesday, but none has been scheduled.
Switching her party affiliation violated the rules of minority representation on the nine member Hartford City Council and upset the balance of power in violation of the city’s charter.
In a sharply worded letter Tuesday, Bazzano told Jennings that all of her votes on the council over the past few months would be invalidated.
The city charter states: “With the exception of the final (3) months of the term of office, a member of council who changes political party registration and thereby alters the party composition of council shall be deemed to have resigned.”
Bazzano said that means effective Jan. 26, 2018 Jennings resigned when she joined the Democratic Party.
“Therefore, my office will take the necessary steps to make note of the fact that all your votes on matters before the Council or its various Committees since January 26, 2018 were null and void,” Bazzano wrote.
Jennings had changed her party affiliation from the Working Families Party to unaffiliated in October 2017 and to the Democratic Party in January 2018. She recently changed it back to unaffiliated on June 1, 2018, according to her voter registration history.
Bazzano added that what’s not clear based on the charter is whether Jennings vacancy should be filled by a member of the Working Families Party.
Lindsay Farrell, state director of the Connecticut Working Families Party, said Tuesday that it absolutely needs to be filled by a member of the Working Families Party.
She said the remaining members of the council, who will be required to vote to fill the vacancy, must choose a member of the Working Families Party.
Jennings was elected in 2015 as a member of the Working Families Party.
“Jennings earned the nomination of the Working Families Party and was elected by the voters of Hartford as a City Councilwoman,” Farrell said. “Given that the voters elected a WFP nominee, we plan to honor their votes by looking into our local membership to fill the vacancy. We hope for a process free of political vengeance and maneuvering.”
Hartford Council Minority Leader Wildaliz Bermudez said she was “completely taken by surprise.”
But she’s moving forward and reviewing the list of Working Families Party members who might be able to fill the position.
“We want to make sure we have the best individual filling that role,” Bermudez said. “They would have to be someone with the Working Families Party and someone who has been active and involved in the community.”
Bermudez said when they have selected a person they will present them to the full council for a vote.
The Democratic Party is also going through a similar process to fill Julio Concepcion’s seat. Concepcion won a special election to fill a state House of Representatives seat on Monday.