HARTFORD, CT — New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart paid a $500 fine to the State Elections Enforcement Commission last month for sending out a “promotional” brochure with a 2017 tax bill less than three months before her re-election.
New Britain Town Democratic Chairman Bill Shortell said the fine doesn’t make up for “the thousands of dollars of city funds” that were used for the promotion of the mayor.
Shortell said it’s just one example of how Stewart used the office to improve her image for her statewide run for governor and then lieutenant governor. Stewart lost the Republican primary for lieutenant governor to Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southington, in August of this year.
Stewart agreed to pay the fine and settle the case with the State Elections Enforcement Commission, but says it was simply unfortunate timing related to the state budget. In 2017, the bipartisan budget was signed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Oct. 31. The bills went out in September.
“It’s unfortunate the State of Connecticut Legislature didn’t pass a budget on time in 2017, which forced the tax mailer to be delivered later than usual,” Stewart said. “With that said — I’m not going to stop providing necessary and prudent information to our citizens. They have a right to communication with their leaders.”
Connecticut’s election law says “No incumbent holding office shall, during the three months preceding an election in which he is a candidate for re-election or election to another office, use public funds to mail or print flyers or other promotional materials intended to bring about his election or re-election.”
The brochure contained official tax and revenue information for the 2017-2018 budget. The second side contained a “Mayor’s Message 2017” from Stewart describing policies and positions that was entitled “New Britain: Leading the Way.”
The SEEC also found that the brochure touts Stewart’s accomplishments, “successes,” how “proud” she is about her “budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year,” and states that “it is an honor to serve as your Mayor.”
The SEEC found that the tri-fold brochure supported Stewart for re-election, “in that it references her accomplishments and record as Mayor and makes favorable references to the improvements to New Britain based on her record. The Commission concludes therefore that the brochure was promotional.”
Stewart said she likes to keep taxpayers informed about what’s happening.
“In the name of transparency a number of elected officials send out a message from the mayor’s desk, along with tax bills,” Stewart said. “Like my mailer, and those of my predecessors, these brochures inform taxpayers where their money is going and the return on investment they are receiving from their local government.”
Stewart signed the settlement agreement on Nov. 8 and it was adopted by the commission on Nov. 13.