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Sunday, March 29 News

SEEC rules against two former Fairfield officials over residency

FAIRFIELD — The State Elections Enforcement Commission has found two former town officials guilty of voting fraud after it confirmed they held public office and voted in Fairfield when they lived in Bridgeport.

Jennifer Hochberg-Toller and John Tyson Toller, a married couple and registered Democrats, were each fined $250 — waived because the two were unable to pay the fee — for violating voting law, according to a ruling from the SEEC.

A complaint was filed against the two in October 2017 by former Republican Town Committee Chairman James Millington. He alleged the two were not bona fide residents at the Church Hill Road address where they were registered to vote, but instead lived in Bridgeport while continuing to vote and hold office in Fairfield.

Andrew Bowman, the lawyer representing Hochberg-Toller and Toller, when asked for a comment, cited the portion of the SEEC document that said the couple was cooperating with the commission.

The document also said the two had been renting an Anton Street residence in Bridgeport since Sept. 1, 2014, after they were asked to move out of Hochberg-Toller’s parents’ home.

The two told the commission they planned to move back to Fairfield as soon as it was possible to do so.

“In the interim, it was their understanding that, since they still had access to the property at Church Hill Road, they could maintain certain legal ties to Fairfield, including remaining as registered voters and participants in Fairfield elections,” the commission said.

The commission said casting ballots from an address where a person does not maintain a residence is a serious matter but that there did not appear to be any bad faith at play.

“However, Mrs. Hochberg-Toller’s experience as a party official and as an elected representative creates a greater level of expectation that she and her husband should have known that casting ballots and holding office in a municipality in which they did not reside was not permitted,” the SEEC document said.

Millington said he was pleased that the SEEC found his complaint valid but that the commission should have referred the matter to the state attorney’s office for prosecution.

“However, I am shocked that the SEEC decided to send the message that if you commit voter fraud in the state of Connecticut, a crime, the consequence is a verbal warning,” Millington said.

According to the commission, Jennifer Hochberg-Toller served as a Representative Town Meeting member from District 4 from 2011-17. She was in the process of running for reelection when the compliant against her was filed and, as a result, withdrew her candidacy.

John Tyson Toller was a Justice of the Peace appointed by the DTC from 2013 until 2017, when the complaint was filed.

joshua.labella@hearstmediact.com

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