Photo: Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media
BRIDGEPORT — Although Republican Board of Education member Christopher Taylor is juggling a handful of controversies, he has no plans to step down from his elected position.
“Quitters never win and winners never quit,” Taylor said Wednesday. “I am not leaving the board or politics.”
And GOP Chairman Michael Garrett on Wednesday was not prepared to call for Taylor’s resignation.
The state Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) is investigating whether Taylor lives full time in a Bridgeport or with his mother and fiancee in Fairfield.
Meanwhile, the Zoning and Fire Marshal’s departments recently determined that Taylor’s apartment at his dormant recycling business on Davenport Street is an illegal dwelling.
And on top of that, Taylor on Tuesday posted a $2 million bond for his father, 75-year-old James Taylor, who is accused of fatally shooting his ex-wife in Fairfield in February and trying to kill her adult son. The elder Taylor was ordered into house arrest at Christopher Taylor’s home … in Fairfield.
Taylor is the rare Republican elected official in dark blue Democrat Bridgeport.
“Let’s see what the SEEC comes up with,” Garrett said. “Until then, you’re innocent until proven guilty. … He says his legal residence is Davenport Street. And you know what? The proper authority is the SEEC.”
As for Davenport Street being an illegal apartment, Garrett said, “you could go to many homes in Bridgeport and find building code violations and zoning violations.”
And, the Republican chairman added, the situation with Taylor’s father has no bearing on his elected position.
“That’s a tragedy. He shouldn’t be judged on that whatsoever,” Garrett said. “The sins of the father — the son doesn’t inherit that.”
Taylor’s residency troubles were prompted by a complaint that Maria Pereira, a Democrat on the school board, filed in April with state elections watchdogs. Pereira produced plenty of evidence that Taylor, who ran from mayor in 2015 and was elected to the Board of Education in 2017, lives on Bronson Road in Fairfield.
Taylor, in response, showed a Hearst reporter and photographer his stove-less first floor kitchen and the second floor living room, bedroom and bathroom in what was supposed to be the business offices for his never-opened Davenport Street recycling operation.
Based on additional information Pereira supplied and Hearst corroborated, city officials admitted the apartment appeared to be illegal, but said they required complaints to act. So Pereira filed them, resulting in zoning and Fire Marshal inspections that concluded he should not be living at the Davenport Street property.
Republican in name only?
Hearst on Tuesday obtained a copy of a cease-and-desist order from the Zoning Department to Taylor dated May 7.
Taylor on Wednesday said he had not received it, but was already working to address issues with the Fire Marshal, like installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
“All I want to do is comply,” Taylor said. “If I can’t, I’ll purchase a home somewhere else in Bridgeport or move into one of my rental properties.”
Taylor has maintained that he spends a lot of time with his mother at the Bronson Road home and uses it as a business address for mail. He has declined to talk about the fiancee, who lives there and who greeted a Hearst reporter at the property on Tuesday. Pereira also brought up the fiancee in her complaint to the state, alleging it was further proof Taylor resided in Fairfield.
Garrett said that Pereira seems intent on “taking him (Taylor) out,” but their dispute is hardly Democrat versus Republican.
Pereira is a vocal critic of Democratic Mayor Joe Ganim and of the Democratic Town Committee, run by Mario Testa.
And Taylor is hardly a die-hard Republican. Three years ago he was registered as a Democrat, then joined the Green Party, then became an unaffiliated voter. In summer 2017, as he prepared to run for the school board, Taylor registered as a Republican.
He ousted Howard Gardner, a Democrat endorsed by the Working Families, a third party Testa once considered a greater threat to Bridgeport Democrats than the GOP. On the school board Taylor tends to fall in line with the majority who are aligned with Ganim, and he contributed to the mayor’s failed 2018 gubernatorial campaign.
“I haven’t known him for a long time,” said Garrett. “I haven’t seen any evidence he’s working against the (Republican) party.”
Ganim’s office did not respond Wednesday when asked if the mayor thought Taylor should resign from the school board. Ganim, whose own Bridgeport home address has changed a few times in recent years, has been accused by critics of living outside of town.
Taylor is also close to his City Council representative — Democrat Ernie Newton. A few years ago they submitted a bid to take over operation of the city’s dump.
“I know how quick it is for people to call for people’s resignation when they make mistakes,” said Newton, who as a state senator was convicted of corruption and spent over four years in federal prison. “I believe he lives in Bridgeport. That’s what he’s told me.”
Newton also said Taylor is not a “party-line” kind of guy and “votes his conscience.”
Garrett did state Wednesday that if Taylor’s issues become a distraction, he may want to temporarily step aside from school board.
Taylor attended a school board meeting on Tuesday for a few minutes at which the topic was the search for a new superintendent, and then abruptly left.
“He’s been elected fair and square. And he has a job to do,” Garrett said. “If he feels he’s having difficulty doing the job, he might want to consider that (a leave of absence). … That would be up to him.”