BRISTOL - Two postcards calling out Mayor Ken Cockayne over his alleged inappropriate behavior with a city employee, along with other accusations against the mayor, were mailed to residents over the weekend by an unknown source.
The first postcard appeared in residents’ mailboxes on Friday. The front of the card has a Photoshopped, image of the mayor’s head on another man’s nearly naked body, surrounded by words such as “braggart, fraud and bully,” conveying allegations that he is “covering up corruption” and alleging the city’s personnel director, Diane Ferguson, “destroyed evidence.” There is a black box covering the lower half of the male’s body with a message that reads in part: “Dear Attractive Female City Employees: Your engaged but single Mayor would like to meet you.”
The back of the postcard references claims of retaliation and sexual misconduct by former legal secretary for the city’s Corporation Counsel Noelle Bates, against the mayor. “Cockayne should resign for corruption,” and “is covering up and using taxpayer funds,” the message reads.
Bates previously filed claims of sexual harassment and retaliation against Cockayne that went as far back as 2011. The claims were investigated by attorney Michael Rose, whose report concluded a lack of evidence, but City Council still censured the mayor based on that report in September of last year.
Despite that, Bates filed another complaint this past June that is being handled in Superior Court in New Britain. Bates alleged that she was scrutinized for making the claims and was forced to go on medical leave because of a hostile work environment created by the defendants: the mayor, Ferguson, Edward Krawiecki of the city’s Corporation Counsel and the mayor’s sister, Cindy Cockayne Lamarre.
The number of postcards sent out referencing this information is unknown, though, each had a sticker with the typed address and name of the recipient, but no return address or endorsement. The postcards met mailing standards, however according to Connecticut state law, campaign and political flyers must be endorsed or state who paid for them. The cards were postmarked and mailed through Hartford.
Democratic candidate for mayor, Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, responded on Friday with a post on her Facebook page: “To all our campaign supporters, there is an anonymously mailed (thus illegal) postcard of unknown quantity at the Bristol Post Office right now. It is an extremely offensive piece targeting Ken Cockayne that has no place in a campaign where there are plenty of city issues and different viewpoints to focus upon. If any of you receive it, I urge you to throw it out. It has no place on social media or anywhere else and is a distraction to all of us.”
The postcards also sparked a reaction on Facebook from the Bristol Democratic Town Committee on Friday, who wrote, “We have learned that a postcard, graphically portraying Mr. Cockayne in a negative light, has been delivered to Bristol residents today. The Bristol DTC and its endorsed candidates do not endorse or support this postcard. We encourage everyone to take the high road. Please do NOT share any images of the postcard on social media.”
Residents found a second unflattering postcard in their mailboxes on Saturday with an arrival address and name, but no return address or endorsement. “Time for Mayor Ken Cockayne to resign for corruption and abuse of power,” was written in white letters on an orange background.
Photos of both postcards appeared in the Facebook private group, “Bristol Talks,” sporadically over the weekend, but were quickly removed because residents and members of the group expressed that it was inappropriate.
Police on Monday said they received a formal complaint from a resident on Saturday about receiving one of the postcards. An officer responded to the resident’s home and inspected the piece of mail. After having a supervisor also look at it, it was decided that it was not a police matter.
“We found nothing criminal about it,” police Lt. Richard Guerrera said, after reviewing the report filed by the investigating officer. “As of right now, it’s not going anywhere.”
The complaint made on Saturday was the only one Guerrera was aware of.
“It’s possible other people called and we told them over the phone that we already looked into it and that there isn’t anything we could do,” he said, adding that those calls would not reflect additional reports in the police department’s computer system.
On Monday, Zoppo-Sassu told The Press that when she became aware of the postcards on Friday, she informed Cockayne by email but never received a response.
“I figured he should know so he can see what his options are. It’s inappropriate that somebody would wade into Bristol politics like this. I don’t think it was the Democrats or Republicans. It has no place in politics and all sides should condemn it,” Zoppo-Sassu said. “This type of politics keeps good people from getting involved. It’s unacceptable; no one should go through what happened.”
Cockayne told The Press on Monday that he was aware of the mailings and said, “It’s very deeply disappointing, but once again we have seen my opponents and those who don’t support me use these campaign tactics against me. Regardless of their blatant hatred, I will continue to run a positive campaign focusing solely on my record of many accomplishments.” He went on to cite taxes, job growth and the groundbreaking on Centre Square as some of his accomplishments.
The postcard blitz mirrors a similar negative campaign from August, 2013, when the city’s former Economic Development Director Jonathan Rosenthal apparently authored comic books lashing out at Art Ward, the Democratic mayor at the time, and the then mayoral candidate who was Cockayne.
The Press reported that copies of two comic books were authored by Rosenthal, who retired under pressure in the winter of the same year. Electronic versions of the comics named “Mad Dog Unmasked” and “Angry Ward Duck,” were then put on CDs and mailed to dozens of city officials.
One of the CDs reportedly contained a version of the anti-Cockayne comic with Rosenthal listed as its author in the “properties” tab on the file. Rosenthal did not comment on the comics or deny writing them, though he noted that it was “too bad” if critics felt the heat from an unknown source.
Justin Muszynski contributed to this article.
Lorenzo Burgio can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 860-973-5088.