A bitter personal dispute over a city’s deficit in Connecticut devolved into a challenge between a city councilman and a Board of Education member to take drug tests and publicly post the results.
The latest fight between Bridgeport city councilman Ernie Newton and Board of Education member Maria Pereira – the two Democrats have long tangled over the city’s finances – appeared to be sparked by a discussion about pay increases for the mayor and non-union city positions.
“Please remember to take your meds,” Newton wrote on a local blog on April 13 after Pereira pushed back on his assertion about the city deficit in 2015.
“I promise I will continue to take any and all prescribed medicine. In turn, please ensure you take anything you need that may have to be swallowed, snorted, inhaled or injected,” Pereira replied.
Newton publicly admitted in 1997 that he had kicked a four-year addiction to cocaine with a stint in rehab, according to the News-Times of Danbury. He was sent to prison for after pleading guilty in 2005 to corruption charges that included accepting a $5,000 bribe and using campaign donations for personal expenses, according to the Connecticut newspaper.
“Stop taking drugs. It is killing the few remaining brain cells you have left,” Pereira wrote.
Two days later, Newton appeared to accuse Pereira of overdosing on medication and referred to her as a “psycho” in the comments.
That prompted Pereira to challenge Newton to take a drug test that she would pay for, so long as the results were posted to the blog, Only in Bridgeport.
Newton accepted and took the drug test that same day. Pereira took her drug test the day after Newton and provided her paperwork to Only in Bridgeport three days later.
The two tested negative for the same 10 substances, including marijuana, cocaine and opiates, according to the results published on the blog and provided to CNN.
Newton told CNN on Tuesday he’s been clean for 24 years and agreed to take the drug test to “stand up to the bully.”
Asked if she regrets her posts, Pereira replied, “I think he deserved it,” adding, “It’s clear that currently he’s not on drugs.”
Newton also didn’t express regret over how the conversation turned.
“I wanted to give her a taste of her own medicine because people that live in glass houses should not throw stones,” Newton said.
So did the test settle their argument?
“I’m past it. I’m not a person that holds grudges,” Newton told CNN Tuesday. “Once I say what I got to say, I move on … I didn’t tell her to take a drug test. She challenged me.”
Pereira said she had worked with Newton as recently as last year and “would not be opposed” to doing so again “whenever there’s something that needs to be done in this city or community that requires us to work together.”
Later on Tuesday, days after their results were posted online and after speaking to CNN, the two continued to trade barbs on the blog over a news story about Newton’s unpaid bill for sidewalk repairs.