Who or What is the Bethel Independent Party? Questions Abound.

Report by Paula Antolini, November 5, 2019, 9:00AM EDT

Will the real Independent Party logo please stand up.

Never assume something is legal.

We have so many questions about the “Bethel Independent Party” (or what everyone assumes is that) regarding their legality and modus operandi in this year’s Bethel municipal election. What makes matters worse is that no one is forthcoming with official registration papers or is answering our questions sufficiently or at all. This includes the Bethel Independent Party (if there is such a thing) and on up, to the Connecticut Secretary of State’s office and everything in between.

The problem is, there is this “little detail” of rules and regulations and CT State Statutes regarding political parties that perhaps some local “parties” think no one is paying attention to except those individuals being taken advantage of. You can read all about the CT statutes here, regarding nominations, political parties and cross-endorsing, etc..

An Independent Town Committee is a local organization that affiliates with the State-Central Executive Board. According to bylaws of 2010, they must consist of a Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Secretary, and Treasurer, but must also be approved by Mike Telesca, the present Chairman of the Independent Party of Connecticut – State Central, which is out of Waterbury CT.

According to Ballotpedia, “The Independent Party of Connecticut is a qualified statewide minor political party “dedicated to ensuring open, honest government with realistic objectives.” The group first gained ballot access in Connecticut in 2008. The party’s 2008 presidential candidate, Ralph Nader, earned over one percent of the vote and allowed the party to maintain ballot access. According to the Connecticut secretary of state, the Independent Party of Connecticut was the state’s largest third party in 2014 with 17,000 registered voters.”

The Independent Party of Connecticut – State Central website clearly states, under Section 9 Existing Town Committees:
“Any Independent Party Town Committees that have been formed and have filed Independent Party Town Committee By-Laws with the CT Secretary of the State office for their towns or cities before these Independent Party State by-laws are filed with the CT Secretary of the State will be accepted by the Independent Party State Central Committee without any further review and will be the accepted Town Committee for that Town or City. Any changes or updates or any new town committees must be presented to the State Central committee for review and approval before going to the CT Secretary of the State for filing.”

Chairman Mike Telesca said, when asked about the Bethel Independent Party on September 3, 2019, “They are aligned with Danbury’s Independent Party which refuses to accept the 2019 decision of the Supreme Court of CT that the Independent Party of CT 2010 Bylaws are in fact the ruling bylaws of the Independent Party of CT. Among other things, the 2010 bylaws do not allow members of other Political Parties to vote in our caucuses, Danbury’s so called bylaws to which the Courts have said are not the bylaws of the Independent Party of CT. On a local level, this year Bethel’s so-called Independent Party has adopted Danbury’s bylaws as their local town committee bylaws, thereby thumbing their nose at the Independent Party Leadership based in Waterbury.  The SOTS [Secretary of the State] refuses to take a stand on this issue but in my opinion if Bethel refuses to follow the 2010 Independent Party bylaws then they cannot claim our status as a State wide Party to cross endorse candidates on a local ballot. Which means all of those Republicans cross endorsements on the local Bethel ballot this year are not valid.” 

We spoke to Cynthia McCorkindale at length yesterday, who admits she is using the bylaws same as Danbury, from 2006.

However, when we contacted Gabe Rosenberg, Communications Director of the Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill on October 1, 2019, inquiring about official paperwork for the Bethel Independent Party, he said in an email, The only relevant bylaws that we have on file for the Independent Party are the 2010 bylaws filed by the Independent Party from Waterbury (attached to this email) – Michael Telesca’s group.”

We also asked McCorkindale for official paperwork to prove the legitimacy of her “party” and she only gave us a link to the Telesca court case, we are not sure why, because it shows that Mike Telesca won.

McCorkindale also refused to give us an explanation, saying she didn’t want us to quote her because she might explain it in error, and to contact Mike Duff, who was the past Chairman for many years. We were unable to contact Mike Duff so far, but we will. We also questioned Bryan Terzian, the Chairman of the Bethel Republican Town Committee, as to what’s what, since all his candidates are cross endorsed by the “Bethel Independent Town Committee.” He was not very cooperative, and told us to contact Mike Duff too. We will bring you Duff’s comments in an update, if possible, but for now it is important to share the information we do have, with Bethel voters.

Mike Telesca fought his case in court and won, he said, and according to a CT Mirror article from August 22, 2018 entitled, “Waterbury Faction Wins Control of Independent Party Line,” Telesca’s “Independent Party of Connecticut – State Central” has sole control. It reads, “A judge has given the Waterbury faction of the Independent Party sole control of valuable political real estate: A line on the 2018 ballot that allows it to cross-endorse major-party candidates or choose its own nominees for statewide offices, including governor. The competing Danbury faction plans to appeal.” … “In her decision, Peck rejected the Danbury group’s request for an injunction blocking Waterbury from nominating candidates for statewide office and concluded that Michael Telesca and Rocco Frank Jr., the Waterbury leaders, had properly filed bylaws in 2010 that establish its faction as a statewide party.”“The trial court directed Secretary of the State Denise Merrill to accept statewide nominations only from the Waterbury-based group, the Independent Party of Connecticut.

The CT Mirror stated, “Cross-endorsements have been pivotal in some races, giving candidates two places on the ballot.” You might ask why isn’t the Democratic party jumping on this issue? Well in their case, the “Working Families Party” line helps to get THEIR candidates elected, financed by unions, it had cross-endorsed Ned Lamont, the Democratic nominee for governor, for instance, and, “Without the votes cast for Dannel P. Malloy on the Working Families Party line in 2010, the Democratic nominee would not have been elected governor,” the CT Mirror says.

To clarify the “mess” there are actually two “parties” in question, operating under “The Bethel Connecticut Independent Town Committee” and “The Independent Party of Danbury.” Both are “factions” of one another and/or of the Independent Party of Connecticut – State Central, stated Cynthia McCorkindale, who is presently the Chairwoman of the Bethel Independent Town Committee (BITC) and who is cross-endorsing Bethel Republican candidates in this year’s municipal election. How is this possible? And also, the Bethel Party appears on the 2019 Municipal Ballot simply under “Independent” Party.

Also stated in the Connecticut Law Review dated September 04, 2018, “Waterbury Faction Wins Control of State’s Independent Party but Opponents Promise to Appeal, The Danbury and Waterbury factions of the Connecticut Independent Party have battled for years over who controls the party. A judge has given round one to Waterbury.”

An August 30, 2019 article from CT news Junkie entitled, “Independent Party Heads Back to Court,” reads, “In a motion filed Thursday, attorneys for the party were calling for the Secretary of the State’s office to comply with the order that gave their party control of the ballot line.”“The Waterbury faction of the Independent Party, which won the ballot line through a court order in 2018, is back in court this week.” … “Despite the explicit language of this Court’s order, the Secretary of the State’s office has repeatedly accepted applications for nominating petition forms for municipal races for the Independent Party ballot line from groups not affiliated with the Independent Party and from candidates who were not endorsed pursuant to its bylaws,” William Bloss, an attorney for the Independent Party, wrote.”

Potential cross-endorsement of municipal candidates is at issue, the article states: “These supposed nominations — most of which are cross-endorsements of Republican candidates — have been filed without any evidence that they were made in compliance with either the 2010 bylaws or this Court’s order — which they were not,” Bloss added.” … reads CT news Junkie.

Gabe Rosenberg, a spokesman for Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, said that the state doesn’t put candidates on the ballot in municipal years. He said that’s the responsibility of town clerks. “We can’t improperly put people on the ballot because we are not the town clerk,” Rosenberg said, according to reads CT news Junkie.

We checked with the Bethel Town Clerk Lisa Bergh for any official papers about the Bethel Independent Town Committee or bethel Independent Party and any copies of bylaws they were using, and she did not have any and said it is not her responsibility it is CT state’s. We also checked with the Bethel Registrar’s office and spoke to Nancy J Ryan, Bethel Democratic Registrar, who claimed to know nothing about it and also said it was CT state’s responsibility.

So to what does the Town of Bethel refer, to put information on the 2019 Bethel Municipal ballot? GOOD QUESTION! Is the 2019 Bethel Municipal Election legitimate? Time will tell.

The CT news Junkie article further states, “Bloss argued that the nominations of candidates in the towns “are inconsistent with this Court’s order that the Secretary of the State must accept “only the nominations and endorsements of the Independent Party . . . made pursuant to the 2010 bylaws.” …“In some cases, the outside groups are claiming the name “Independent Party” on local ballots, “but because the Independent Party is already a recognized statewide party, there cannot be new local parties created using that name, and so these applications should not be accepted.”“Further, and separately, it does not appear that the Connecticut election statutes permit cross-endorsements in municipal elections,” Bloss said.

There is a Facebook page for the “Bethel Independent Town Committee” created on August 12, 2019 showing officers Cynthia J. McCorkindale, Chairman; Michael Duff, Treasurer; James Roden, Secretary.

There is a Facebook page for the “Independent Party of Danbury” created on September 30, 2019. No information on officers.

The question is, McCorkindale was saying this was a NEW party recently, but now changed her story and is saying it is the “old” party that was under Mike Duff.

Whom do we believe?

Is this confusing enough yet? Are you following this so far?

What is going on here?

Gabe Rosenberg, a spokesman for Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, is supposed to respond to us yet again, after we asked him why the State of CT is not enforcing the rules.

Updates coming as we receive more information.