Five days after federal authorities accused him of corruption, Rep. Michael DiMassa resigned from the legislature. On Wednesday, the state’s Republican Party chairman called on Sen. Dennis Bradley to follow suit, more than five months after he was charged with campaign finance crimes.
Both men stand accused but not convicted of crimes related to their positions as public servants. In DiMassa’s case, the alleged misconduct hews closer to his job as an administrative assistant in West Haven’s town government. Last week, investigators claimed he defrauded the town of more than $630,000 in COVID relief funds. DiMassa, a Democrat, has also resigned his job with the city.
In Bradley’s case, the feds have accused him of a conspiracy related to his successful 2018 campaign for the state Senate. In May, Bradley and his campaign treasurer pleaded not guilty to charges they conspired to defraud Connecticut’s Citizen’s Election Fund by attempting to obtain around $180,000 in public grants while misreporting his campaign’s finances to election regulators. Bradley is awaiting trial, which is scheduled for early December.
During an interview Wednesday, Ben Proto, chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party, suggested Bradley should follow DiMassa’s lead and step down. Bradley is a Democrat who represents Bridgeport and part of Stratford.
“In my opinion, there’s no difference. Dennis Bradley should resign. Period. End of discussion,” Proto said.
Proto, who lives outside of Bradley’s district in Stratford, said the district no longer receives full representation. Immediately after Bradley’s arrest, Senate President Martin Looney removed him from his legislative committee assignments. Proto also pointed to news last week that a former volunteer of Bradley’s campaign had pleaded guilty to related charges and was cooperating with investigators.
“The general feeling [in Stratford] is this is probably not going to end well for Dennis. He should step down and do what he has to do to defend himself and allow somebody else to represent the people of the 23rd District,” Proto said. “They deserve representation. Full representation.”
In an interview Wednesday, Bradley said he is innocent of the charges against him. He called on critics, including Proto, to let the legal system run its course before casting judgment.
“I hope and pray that the constitutionalists, the people who believe in America, will honor the promise of America — that people are innocent until the government proves them guilty,” Bradley said. “Anybody who requests anyone to resign from any party, be it myself or President Donald Trump or any person who’s elected prior to having their fair day in court, I think it’s a tragedy that happens when we ignore the process.”
Bradley rejected the assertion his removal from legislative committees amounted to inadequate representation of his district. He urged Proto or anyone critical of his track record as a senator to spend a day with him in Bridgeport.
“I very much identify myself as a freedom fighter, much more than just simply an elected official. Before anybody says what I do or don’t do for my constituents, or the causes I fight for, ride with me. Sit alongside. See what I do,” Bradley said. “Then, after you’ve had that experience, report back as to whether or not I serve with great vigor and humility the people of the 23rd District.”
Proto put it a different way, saying Bradley’s legislative contributions recently amounted to “sitting in his office and pushing a button on his computer to vote.”
“A cloud hangs over him,” Proto said. He called for high-ranking Democrats, including Gov. Ned Lamont and Looney, to seek Bradley’s resignation.
In a statement, Looney pointed to the action he had already taken. Much will depend on the outcome of court proceedings, he said.
“There is a trial expected this December where a verdict or plea will determine his future in the State Senate. Whether Senator Bradley resigns prior to that is his decision,” Looney said.
Following DiMassa’s resignation this week, the governor released a statement saying the West Haven representative had no choice but to resign if the allegations against him were true.
Asked if he would make the same argument in Bradley’s case, Lamont said, “It makes sense to me but I don’t know the specifics of that case, so I gotta beg off a little bit there. I think you hold people accountable. I hold public servants to the highest level of accountability. You know, the public trust is so key to keeping government working and people listening to us. So I take that to heart.”
Asked about parallels between his case and that of DiMassa, Bradley said he was unfamiliar with the specifics of DiMassa’s case or what led to his resignation from office.
“All I can say about my former colleague out of West Haven is that my prayers are with him and his family,” Bradley said. “But I can tell you in my case, I am anxiously awaiting my fair day in court and I am unequivocally standing on that I am innocent of any of the charges that have been brought against me.”