December 4, 2023

EAST HAMPTON — Lori Wilcox is seeking reelection next week as the town’s Republican registrar of voters as she faces a felony charge for allegedly vandalizing a woman’s car with spray paint, according to a police incident report.

Wilcox, 65, was charged with first-degree criminal mischief on Aug. 28. Wilcox was released that same day on a non-surety bond and has not yet entered a plea to the charge. She is scheduled to appear Nov. 30 in state Superior Court in Middletown.

Wilcox’s attorney, John D. Maxwell, of Brown Paindiris & Scott, declined to comment about the case. Wilcox has not returned calls seeking comment. 

In next week’s election, Wilcox is running against incumbent Democrat registrar Terry Latimer and Green Party candidate Brian Gay, according to the town’s sample ballot from the Office of Secretary of the State. State law stipulates that each municipality should have two registrars of voters from two separate parties. 

East Hampton Town Manager David E. Cox said Wilcox remains the Republican registrar. Aside from the police department’s investigation, “there is no current investigation ongoing regarding the incident or Ms. Wilcox nor has she faced any disciplinary action from the town,” Cox said in an email.

After receiving a tip about the arrest, Hearst Connecticut Media Group obtained an East Hampton Police Department incident report that shows officers responded to a local home around 10:20 p.m. on Aug. 27 for the reported vandalism. A New York woman said she was attending a birthday party for a 90-year-old family member that night and discovered her car was vandalized with spray paint when she left the gathering, according to the incident report. 

The copper-brown paint streaked across the white vehicle’s passenger side, the rear and the driver’s side, according to the incident report and photos Hearst Connecticut Media obtained from police. The vehicle’s owner said her driver’s side window, mirror, cameras and license plate were “fully covered,” making the car dangerous to drive.

The vehicle had been parked on the corner of the street near Wilcox’s driveway, the police report said.

In an interview with Hearst Connecticut Media, the vehicle owner said she couldn’t find a spot near the party without blocking other cars, so she parked on the street near Wilcox’s house. The woman, a New York resident who did not want to be identified, said the car was not blocking Wilcox’s driveway and was parked legally. 

Police said they found a neighbor with security cameras facing the area where the car was parked. Police also collected a blonde hair that was stuck to the fresh brown spray paint as evidence, according to the incident report. Police noted in the report that Wilcox has blonde hair.

In an interview with police, “Wilcox seemed surprised” when the officer mentioned the vandalized car, the report stated. Wilcox told police she did not know anything about the incident and had not left her home in two days, the report stated.

In the video footage, officers saw Wilcox walk from the back of her house to the vehicle around 9:55 p.m. that night, the report stated. Wilcox stopped for a brief moment behind the car, walked back inside her home and, two minutes later, walked toward the car, according to the incident report. 

“Wilcox was then seen on video on the passenger side, rear of the vehicle, and on the driver’s side of the vehicle,” police wrote in the report. 

Police said they returned to Wilcox’s home and knocked on her doors and windows for about five minutes before she came outside. The officers asked Wilcox if anyone else was inside the home and she said it was just her and her cats, the report stated.

Wilcox was arrested and continued to deny she was involved in the vandalism, police said.

“I didn’t do anything,” she said, according to the report.

The New York woman said she and a family member tried to clean the paint off the windows and mirrors so she could get home safely. The woman claimed police pulled her over several times on her way home because the spray paint on the license plate is a common tactic used by car thieves. The woman said she had to explain and prove her car had been vandalized.

The New York woman said the vandalism was unprovoked and cost $14,000 and a month to repair.

“I’ve never met her, I don’t know her,” the New York woman said. “There was no reason.” 

East Hampton Police Chief Dennis Woessner said this was the first time his officers responded to Wilcox’s home for a reported incident.

Deborah Cunningham, chair of the East Hampton Republican Town Committee, could not be reached for comment.

The Office of the Secretary of State declined to comment about Wilcox’s arrest. 

Since the registrar of voters is an elected position, the Office of the Secretary of the State can temporarily relieve or remove an official from their office through referrals to the State Elections Enforcement Commission. However, the agency can only conduct these referrals if the official engaged in misconduct or incompetence in their official role, according to state law.

The law states the Secretary of the State can temporarily relieve an official of their duties if they are “the subject of an investigation of any matter related to the duties of such registrar’s office resulting from a statement filed with the State Elections Enforcement Commission by the Secretary of the State.”

The Secretary of the State can only initiate the removal of a registrar of voters if they have “engaged in misconduct, wilful and material neglect of duty or incompetence in the conduct of such registrar’s office,” according to state law. The Secretary of the State would then have to file a statement with the SEEC, which would investigate the matter and determine whether it needs to be investigated further by the Attorney General. 

Liz Hardaway may be reached at [email protected]


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