This story has been updated.
PITTSFIELD — The husband of Pittsfield Mayor Linda M. Tyer believes her rival in the 2019 election should pay for suggesting he tampered with ballots, an allegation investigated and found baseless by the state Elections Division.
In a lawsuit filed Sept. 8 in Berkshire Superior Court, Barry Clairmont claims Melissa Mazzeo, Tyer's opponent in the Nov. 5, 2019, election, engaged in defamation and should be ordered to compensate him for causing damage to his reputation as a certified public accountant.
Around the time of the election, which she lost by 528 votes, Mazzeo put out statements claiming that an "individual closely related to the Tyer Campaign" had "unauthorized direct access to ballots inside City Hall." She later named Clairmont, according to the suit, saying: "It was Barry Clairmont."
Mazzeo said early Friday she had not yet been served with court papers.
"I know nothing about this at all," she said. "I'm completely shocked right now."
Later Friday, Mazzeo confirmed that she had received official notice of the suit and planned to discuss it with her legal counsel. Until she has had time to do that, she said she could not address specifics in the complaint.
After the election, Mazzeo said a recount was needed because of "significant concerns my campaign has about the integrity of the election here in Pittsfield."
That recount affirmed the result.
In a press release cited in the suit, Mazzeo said that as a candidate and voter, she was acting "to ensure that issues like this are brought to light and never happen again. Until we are provided answers to these issues, I will continue to pursue every avenue necessary to ensure that the people of Pittsfield can be certain that their votes are protected and counted properly."
At the time, Clairmont, who served as Tyer's campaign treasurer, denied doing anything wrong. "At no time during this election did I have any unauthorized access to ballots," he told The Eagle.
On Oct. 29, roughly a week before the election, Mazzeo filed a complaint with the Elections Division concerning Clairmont's presence in the Registrar of Voters office.
The state Elections Division investigated. It concluded that though Clairmont had been in City Hall at a time when voters were completing absentee ballots, he had no access to ballots. The division said it was informed by City Clerk Michele Benjamin that Clairmont had come to an office to pick up a document and waited in an area amid voters.
"Ms. Benjamin directed him to go into her office so she could give him the requested record, which would avoid him remaining within the area where voting was occurring," the Elections Division said in its finding. "Upon receipt of the requested record, [Clairmont] promptly left the office. At no time did he interact with or interfere with voters or have access to ballots or other election materials."
The suit says Clairmont requested that Mazzeo clear the air of the allegation and apologize to him publicly. It says she did not respond to those requests.
In seeking "significant and substantial damages," the suit claims the allegations of voting fraud hurt Clairmont's reputation.
"The false attacks against Mr. Clairmont were particularly damaging given his profession a vocation where professional ethics must be perceived to be beyond reproach," the suit says.
"Ms. Mazzeo refused to accept the results of the election," it claims. "Instead, she looked to lash out and blame others. She also sought to undermine the results of the election so as to undermine Mayor Tyer's victory."
Larry Parnass can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-588-8341.