State representative Minnie Gonzalez must resign before the Connecticut General Assembly starts it 2014 session. She should not appeal her political death sentence, meted out by the Connecticut Appellate Court on September 10, 2013.
The people of the third legislative district have suffered long enough. What our deeply flawed electoral system failed to do the state Appellate Court did: rule that one of Hartford’s great political mafia bosses knowingly broke the law.
While the appellate court does not say she is unfit for office, the inference is clear. The violations of law may even have criminal repercussions, as the State Elections Enforcement Commission may refer the case to the state’s attorney’s office.
In humble defeat, Minnie the matriarch must step aside. Elections are not like college sports, where if the football team gets caught cheating, all of its wins from that particular season are erased. We cannot erase Minnie’s bad votes or poor constituent service.
We cannot take back seven years of “leadership” (and I use the term loosely) and governance from under a dark cloud.
On November 1, 2006, Hartford resident Michael Barry filed a complaint with the State Elections Enforcement Commission “alleging that on the previous day, while completing an absentee ballot at the clerk’s office in city hall in Hartford, he observed [Minnie Gonzalez], who was seeking re-election, talking to four people in Spanish while at least three of them were completing their absentee ballots.”
That recitation of facts comes from Judge Robinson’s decision in the Appellate Court, which walks through this sordid tale of election law violations with all its twists and turns.
First, let’s consider that in November 2006, she ran unopposed. Minnie had beaten Frank Dejesus in the primary, handily, 1,032 to 406.
So she had no contest in November 2006. She did not even have to be in the clerk’s office that day. She was representing her Spanish-speaking constituents, she would argue. Now, she would probably argue that she was only helping those people learn how to vote.
The problem is that she knew it was illegal to help people fill out absentee ballots. That’s what campaign volunteers are for. Minnie is not so dumb as to have forgotten poor Barnaby Horton.
In a moment of poor judgment, the Working Families Party endorsed her in the general. Maybe Minnie was okay on some working class issues. But corruption of the political class is what harms the working man the most in this day and age.
The SEEC did not hold hearings on her 2006 violation until the summer of 2009.
Who says underfunding the SEEC doesn’t harm the democratic process? The slow SEEC bureaucracy allowed Minnie to run unopposed in 2008 for another two-year term – and win because the Hartford democratic party establishment is so conducive to corruption. All under the clouds of this debacle.
No one can say they didn’t know about Minnie’s propensity for pushing the line. Did she do it again and we didn’t see it? Why did it take an individual citizen in the city clerk’s office to report this violation, and not anyone in the city clerk’s office who witnessed it as well?
The late City Clerk Dan Carey testified he saw Minnie that day, but had no knowledge of her presence during the execution of the ballots. How often does this kind of thing happen and we don’t know?
The SEEC hearing officer, Stephen F. Cashman, finally found against Minnie in December 2009 (allowing her another election after her grievous misconduct) and fined her $4,500 for four violations.
As is her right under due process and the law, she appealed the administrative decision to the Superior Court in New Britain. This allowed Minnie to run and win in 2010.
So dominant was her hold that despite these allegations of absentee ballot tampering, no one primaried her in 2010. No one challenged her in the general.
In New Britain, Judge Schuman upheld two of the counts against her and overturned two of the counts. Minnie then appealed, allowing her an opportunity to trample Vic Luna in a primary in August 2012. She beat him 778-251.
That’s 778 people willing to forgive more than I am. In the general, unopposed, Minnie got more than 4,000 votes. Is it an uninformed electorate that allows this? Or just a loyal Democratic base that overlooks flaws and illegalities?
For six years, rather than admit wrongdoing, Minnie bullied forward. Power is more than an aphrodisiac. It’s a delusional tonic that makes people think they can violate the very laws they help create.
And the Democrats in Hartford accepted this from a state representative. Actually, several. This explains why Minnie would never call for Hector Robles’ resignation. Or Kelvin Roldan’s.
Minnie enjoyed the perks of office, like getting her felon son a cush job with MDC.
And it’s not like a Republican would win the seat. The GOP hasn’t quite figured out how to sell its racially-divisive rich-people policies to the poor in Minnie’s district. But because of Minnie’s reputation for gangsterism and threatening, only fearless few like Vic Luna would step forward.
It’s pathetic. And it took an appellate court decision to knock her down. And how hard did Judge Robinson hit her? He overturned the Superior Court’s ruling that found for Minnie on two counts, and reinstated the full SEEC indictment against Minnie. That doesn’t bode well for Minnie’s future.
Now, she still has 20 days from September 10, 2013 to file an appeal to the state supreme court. But even if she does, I do not imagine that the CT Supremes will grant certiorari to hear her claims, especially after such a forceful decision from Judge Robinson.
Minnie based her appeal on constitutional due process grounds, that Cashman prejudged her case, that since he investigated it, he couldn’t sit in judgment, a potential violation of Connecticut General Statute Sec. 4-176e. Robinson disagreed. Why? Cashman didn’t investigate. Plus, at the October 7, 2007 SEEC meeting, “five commissioners for the [SEEC], including Cashman, voted to find that there was reason to believe that [Gonzalez] had violated” absentee ballot law.
Even if Cashman abstained, the SEEC still had unanimity. And for years after that, Minnie continued her crusade against Cashman. Hey, you gotta hang your hat somewhere when you’re trying to hang on to power.
Minnie looked for every procedural nook or cranny to allow her to continue to ride the Third District Gravy Train. Where she claimed an evidentiary ruling went against her, Judge Robinson noted she had hired a private investigator.
Minnie understood the stakes: her position was in jeopardy. Where she claimed bias, the Judge found fairness. Again, rather than admit wrong-doing, she persevered. So here we are today.
The Democratic Party in her district is so depleted, we may end up with Court of Common Council member Raul DeJesus as the next state representative from that district. There isn't a deep bench because Minnie didn't mentor, she Machiavelli'ed.
Who would? Minnie’s politics means putting a bumpersticker on her forehead to support Robert Cotto in his fight against charter schools in Hartford. She’s crazy enough to do anything, people think. But not do the right thing.
Seven years ago, as the Charter trend grew, Minnie could have shown leadership and pushed to help local schools. Instead, she shows herself and all of us the fool for going along with her games, and all we have is adhesive gum on our faces.