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Complaint alleges Groton Town Council candidate lives in Waterford

Groton — A complaint has been filed with the State Elections Enforcement Commission alleging that a Groton Town Council candidate with a Mystic address actually lives in Waterford.

Town Clerk Betsy Moukawsher said her office received an anonymous phone call last week from an individual alleging that Town Council candidate David Preka lives at 16 Susan Terrace in Waterford, not 61 W. Main St. in Mystic as listed on election forms. She said she forwarded the complaint to the State Elections Enforcement Commission in accordance with state statutes.

According to Waterford property records, Preka is listed as the owner of the house at 16 Susan Terrace in Waterford.

The town's charter states that "no person shall be eligible for election to any office in the town government who is not at the time of the election a resident elector of said Town, and any person ceasing to be a resident or elector of said Town shall thereupon cease to hold elected office in Town."

Preka, an independent candidate endorsed by the Republican Town Committee, is the owner of Advanced Group, a builder/general contractor based at 61 W. Main St., Mystic.

An office manager told The Day on the phone and in person at Advanced Group that Preka was busy Wednesday and to email questions. No one answered the door at 16 Susan Terrace in Waterford on Wednesday evening.

“I’m sorry that my residency has become such an issue, I have been registered to vote in Groton for several years," Preka said in an emailed statement. "I feel that this issue was a partisan attack, and I’m working to resolve it at this time.”

SEEC spokesman Joshua Foley confirmed the commission received the referral on Wednesday but said he could not comment on the specific matter. The commission is next scheduled to meet Nov. 6 — the day after the election. He said complaints are first brought before the commission and that the commission then decides whether they warrant an investigation.  

Groton Republican Registrar of Voters Kristen Venditti said the town is awaiting direction from the state.

According to the letter from Moukawsher to the SEEC, town Tax Assessor Mary Gardner and representatives of Chelsea Groton Bank, which owns the building in Mystic, did a full inspection of the building.

"Their findings prove there are no living quarters," the letter states.

Preka has been registered to vote at 61 W. Main St. since 2012, according to the Connecticut Voter Registration System.

Generally speaking, if a violation is found, the State Elections Enforcement Commission has the power to levy fines of up to $2,000, Foley said. He noted that the commission doesn't have the authority or power to remove a candidate from the ballot or to remove a candidate from office subsequent to an election.

RTC Chairman Ken Richards said in an emailed statement on Wednesday: "We are deeply troubled that the Democratic Town Clerk would pursue such a glaringly political objective to undermine an endorsed candidate of an opposing party on Town of Groton time and using Town of Groton resources. For this reason, the Republican Town Committee has filed two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with the Town Clerk to determine whether the impetus for this action taken on town time was politically motivated." Richards is running for Groton Town Council but said he was speaking in his capacity as RTC chairman.

"This unfortunate episode underscores the concerns of many residents about the hyper-partisan nature of the current all-Democratic council," he added. "Once again the Town Clerk and the council have put their party and politics before results for the people of Groton."

Moukawsher said she was surprised that he took that tone regarding her position as town clerk.

"I have and always will follow the prescribed State Statutes and Town Charter doctrine as these laws pertain to my duties as Town Clerk," she said by email.

k.drelich@theday.com

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