Rep. Cara Pavalock-D'Amato in 2019
State Rep. Cara Pavalock-D’Amato on the House floor in 2019. Credit: Christine Stuart / CTNewsJunkie

State election regulators ruled last week in favor of Rep. Cara Pavalock-D’Amato by dismissing a complaint which claimed the Bristol Republican did not live in the district she represents.

The State Election Enforcement Commission voted unanimously to dismiss a claim by Morris Patton, Bristol’s Democratic Town Committee chairman. 

The complaint, which Patton filed in March, alleged that Pavalock-D’Amato resided with her family in a section of Bristol outside of the 77th House district and not in a small apartment above an empty pawn shop as she claimed in reelection paperwork.

During a July 6 meeting, William Smith, a staff attorney with the commission’s enforcement unit, said investigators concluded Pavalock-D’Amato had not made a false statement when she registered her candidate committee with the commission.

“Rep. Cara C. Pavalock-D’Amato had enough elements of intent and took the time to register to vote and showed, in the course of investigation, documentary evidence — everything from leases to payments, to utility bills, to the voter registration that she had made — that she did intend to reside within the 77th district for purposes of voting in that district and that would satisfy our residence standard and therefore the commission finds no violation,” Smith said. 

Connecticut’s constitution requires that state legislators reside in the districts they represent. The commission’s decision effectively settles the issue in part because changes to the boundaries of state House districts made through the once in a decade redistricting process will result in both residences falling within the 77th district this year’s election.

Reached by phone Thursday, Pavalock-D’Amato said she was glad to have the issue resolved quickly. 

“Obviously, I was very happy [to see the complaint dismissed] but the whole time I knew the facts were on my side so I wasn’t concerned with ultimately decide,” she said. “I was glad to not have a hearing and have them dismiss it based on applicable law.”

In his complaint, Patton argued that Pavalock-D’Amato had been pretending to live at the 250 square foot apartment located on Farmington Avenue, which is within the 77th District. Patton claimed she actually lived in a home owned by her family on Perkins Street, which was located in the 78th District. 

“I have checked the parking lot of 467 Farmington Ave, and Representative Pavalock-D’Amato is clearly not living there, apart from her young son,” Patton wrote in the complaint. “For at least three months, her car has not been observed parked at the apartment complex on Farmington Avenue, but it has been observed regularly at 1960 Perkins St.” 

Reached by phone on Thursday, Patton said the panel’s decision was unfortunate but not surprising. Politics favor the wealthy, he said. 

“Their decision sends a very clear message that if you can afford multiple properties you can pick and choose where you want to run,” Patton said. “There’s no one in their right mind that would believe that a Georgetown Law graduate who has a private practice and is also a state legislator sleeps in a 250-square-foot apartment while her husband lives in an $850,000 home two miles away with their young child.” 

Pavalock-D’Amato argued the home was a three-bedroom Cape, not a mansion. She said she began renting the apartment in an effort to comply with state law.

“I took an oath and I wanted to fulfill that oath. That’s why I got the apartment, because we’d sold our house,” Pavalock-D’Amato said. “It’s not that complicated. I wanted to abide by the law. I could’ve said, ‘Hey, I’m going to use my in-law’s address,’ but I didn’t. I wanted to do what was right.”