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October 27, 2023

Bridgeport Housing Authority sues mayoral candidate John Gomes

ANDY BROWN / CT MIRROR Bridgeport Democratic mayoral candidate John Gomes at a press conference on Monday, Sept. 18, 2023, days after his primary loss to Mayor Joe Ganim.

The Bridgeport Housing Authority filed a lawsuit Thursday against Bridgeport mayoral candidate John Gomes in the expectation of pursuing a potential defamation case against him.

The housing authority, which manages thousands of public housing units in Connecticut’s largest city, asked a judge to allow it to subpoena Gomes for documents and to depose Gomes under oath about statements he made following his primary challenge against Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim.

The housing authority asked for those steps to be taken so that it can potentially sue Gomes for defaming the public organization.

“The plaintiff has a potential cause of action for defamation that may be supported by the discovery it seeks,” wrote David Hoopes, the outside attorney who is representing the housing authority.

The Housing Authority pointed to a broadcast report and a single news article published by FOX61 to claim that Gomes defamed the organization.

That news story included allegations by Gomes that the Ganim campaign worked with the managers at the Bridgeport Housing Authority, also known as Park City Communities, to keep Gomes campaign staff out of the facilities.

Gomes is quoted in the story saying: “In some instances, those who were elected and on the slate with the other team, worked out with the managers of those facilities and purposely did not allow us to have access whatsoever.”

The attorneys for the housing authority argued in their brief that those comments were “deeply harmful” the housing authority.

“The above statements made by the defendant are deeply harmful to the plaintiff as they insinuate that plaintiff, a public authority, corruptly and anti-democratically used its control of its housing developments to discriminate against the defendant’s campaign,” Hoopes wrote in the legal filing.

Officials with the Bridgeport Housing Authority did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment on Thursday.

Gomes, who is currently challenging the results of the Democratic primary that he lost by 251 votes, did not respond to a phone call either. His campaign staff directed questions about the lawsuit to their attorney, Bill Bloss.

Bloss, who is already representing Gomes in the ongoing lawsuit challenging the primary, said the housing authority’s legal filing was a purely political move ahead of the upcoming general election where Gomes and Ganim will be facing off again on Nov. 7.

“It’s just profoundly silly,” Bloss said. “It’s a political stunt, which, when the election is over, will go away.”

Bloss said it would be exceedingly difficult for the housing authority to prove that they were injured in some way by the statements made by Gomes.

“Does anyone think less of the Bridgeport Housing Authority than before Gomes made his comments? Call me skeptical,” Bloss said.

In the legal filing, the lawyers for the housing authority argued that Ganim had no power over the organization, which receives federal funding for its operations.

“The plaintiff is independent of the city,” they wrote. “It is not a department or agency of the city. It is not subject to, nor does it take direction from, the mayor’s office or any other city official.”

Ganim does, however, get to appoint the board members for the housing authority.

The Connecticut Mirror reached out to Ganim’s campaign for comment for this story.

Rowena White, a spokeswoman for the campaign, said the questions about the lawsuit were better directed to the mayor’s office and the city’s communication staff.

Tia Josef, the director of communications for the city, provided a statement when asked about the lawsuit:

“Mayor Ganim and his administration support the Housing Authority, Park City Communities, and every effort that they make, and actions taken to ensure safety and security, as well as improved quality of life conditions that benefit and impact the thousands of residents that live at Park City Community Properties,” the statement reads.

The lawsuit against Gomes is not the only action against a political candidate that the housing authority has taken recently.

The Connecticut Post also reported this week that the housing authority sent Maria Pereira, a city councilwoman and Ganim opponent, a letter informing her that she was not allowed to enter any of its housing developments.

In the letter, the housing authority accused Pereira of harassing residents in the public housing units about voting via absentee ballot.

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