NORWALK, Conn. – Leaders of South Norwalk’s embattled anti-poverty agency say they reached out three times to a Norwalk Democratic mayoral candidate who harshly criticized them Wednesday for what he said was a lack of communication.
Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) interim CEO and President Pat Wilson Pheanious used the term “hot air” as she waited for Wednesday evening’s NEON Community Town Hall to begin, in response to a comments made by District D Chairman Vinny Mangiacopra, calling for leadership to be replaced.
Mangiacopra had released a statement Wednesday afternoon regarding the forum:
“We received no invitation or information from NEON about tonight’s forum,” he said. “Once we learned about the forum Monday afternoon from a reporter call, we immediately called NEON to ask for information as we were eager to participate and discuss the pressing issues facing South Norwalk including affordable housing, police relations with the community, and the achievement gap. Unfortunately, our multiple calls and messages have not been returned.”
Wilson said Mangiacopra, who arrived an hour late, had been sent three emails about the event.
“If he heard about it, why isn’t he here?” she asked. “To use it as an opportunity to spout off a bunch of hot air about something that is not even related to the issue,” she said. “The issue is coming here to talk to the public.”
After he arrived, Mangiacopra said the possibility of not making it was the reason his campaign had released the statement.
“It definitely caught us off guard,” Mangiacopra said after the event. “We would have this on our calendar. We would have prepared for it. We take these things very seriously. That’s why we felt the need to make sure we put that statement out, because I knew that my calendar was going to be packed up to a certain time, and I wasn’t going to be sure that I was going to make it. But I was glad that I did.”
What about the three emails?
“I’ve checked the NEON website,” he said. “I’ve checked the social media. I’ve talked to our Better South Norwalk team, I talked to our town chairwoman. Nobody was aware of it.”
Pheanious said she knew of no phone calls to NEON from the Mangiacopra camp.
“No message was left,” Pheanious said.
NEON Communications Director Scott Harris said invitations were sent to all mayoral candidates on May 31, and again to those who hadn’t responded on July 3rd.
“We received responses from all candidates with the exception of Andy Garfunkel and Vinny Mangiacopra,” he said in an email. “Specifically, two email invitations were sent to Mr. Mangiacopra via the communications portal on his official campaign website.”
He provided the content of those emails, but said he could not provide a time stamp because they had been left on a website.
“I can assure you we did not deliberately attempt to exclude candidate Mangiacopra, or anyone else from NEON’s Community Town Hall meeting,” he said. “We’re sorry that emails were lost, but were gratified that Chairman Mangiacopra was able to attend tonight’s community gathering.”