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Kimmel promises to push Norwalk Council to go public with private thoughts about bullying

Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large)

Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large), left, and Councilman Glenn Iannaccone (R-At Large) listen to the public on Sept. 23.

NORWALK, Conn. – The Norwalk Common Council appears set to finally take action on a proposed anti-bullying resolution Tuesday and Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) is not backing down.

Problem for Kimmel: Councilman David McCarthy (R-District E) and Councilman David Watts (D-District A) are listed as being among the sponsors of the resolution.

“I’ve already said on several occasions that it should be changed so the entire Council is listed as sponsors of the resolution,” Kimmel said in an email. “Now it’s time for other Council members to address this blatant hypocrisy and offer an amendment. If that does not happen, I will vote against the resolution. A large majority of the Council agrees with me privately; let’s see what happens in full public view.”

The resolution is also sponsored by Councilman John Kydes (D-District C), Councilwoman Michelle Maggio (R-District C) and Minority Leader Travis Simms (D-District B). The resolution has been tabled three times.

It reads:

Whereas, Bullying is a pervasive problem that can have negative consequences for the climate and for the right of children and adults to exist in a safe environment without fear, and one that can have negative lifelong consequences, both for those who bully and for their targets; and

Whereas, Bullying is comprised of direct behaviors such as teasing, taunting, threatening, hitting, intimidating and stealing that are initiated by one or more people against a target, as well as indirect behaviors such as spreading rumors and acting in other ways to cause a person to be socially isolated through intentional exclusion, with such behaviors, direct or indirect, amounting to physical or psychological intimidation occurring repeatedly over time to create an ongoing pattern of harassment and abuse; and

Whereas, Bullying others and being the target of bullies are considered risk factors for violence by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other relevant organizations, and bullies whose behavior goes unchallenged risk ending up escalating, engaging in domestic violence and child abuse; and

Whereas, Bullying for too long has gone unchallenged, with parents and others, who are often unaware of the bullying problem in school and in the community, neglecting to talk about it with their children; with targets feeling that outside intervention is infrequent and ineffective and will only bring more harassment from bullies; and with many viewing bullying as a harmless rite of passage that is best ignored; and

Whereas, Those who stand by passively watching or actively encouraging bullying are also affected by these hostile acts; they encourage bullying by creating an audience, they may become desensitized to cruelty, they may learn to imitate bullying behavior and become bullies themselves, and/or they may be fearful for their own safety, adding to their own insecurity; therefore be it

Resolved, That Common Council of the City of Norwalk supports policies and programs that address the prevention, intervention, and elimination of bullying; and

Resolved, That Common Council of the City of Norwalk shall endeavor, via all means available and appropriate to bring about an atmosphere of zero tolerance for bullying behavior, and an attitude that bullying behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in homes, schools, playgrounds, buses, school activities, city events and meeting, nor in the community in general; and be it further

Resolved, That Common Council of the City of Norwalk work with the appropriate agencies of the city and state, as well as any national organizations, to inform the general public about the risks and cost of bullying for both the bully and the target, as well as those who witness bullying, and bring about a change in societal attitudes toward bullying.

Kimmel is not the only person to publicly object to the bullying resolution in the context of who is sponsoring it.

At the three previous meetings that had the resolution on the agenda, Diane Lauricella has spoken against it.

The first time she said she “thought it ironic and sad in that a party has been seen as being a bully to many of us, especially myself” is listed as a sponsor. She said the second paragraph of the resolution was relevant to that issue.

On Nov. 18 the local newspaper published an op-ed written by McCarthy that attacked Lauricella without naming her, beginning with the phrase “irresponsible actions on the part of a local activist.”

“The thing is that people like me have been really hurt by this happening from our elected and appointed officials,” Lauricella said to the Council on Sept. 23. She asked that the Ordinance Committee come up with an ordinance that would include censuring for a Council member who bullies. The Human Relations Council could perhaps train the Council about bullying, she said.

“The last thing I wanted to say about this because I am on record with some thoughts about censuring members that do bully after this resolution is passed, and I hope it is passed, I would like to see the entire group be listed as the sponsors,” Lauricella said on Oct. 14. “That is something that I heard would occur. Because some of the people who have drafted this have displayed bullying activity and I am hoping we can all go forward and they can be held accountable.”

b

Councilman David Watts (D-District A) reacts to Diane Lauricella at the last Council meeting.

Watts looked angry. “Mayor, I am going to object to that,” he said. Mayor Harry Rilling nodded and held up his hand to stop Watts.

“Excuse me Mr. Watts,” Lauricella said, continuing on to another topic.

A related matter is not on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting.  Kimmel said in late September that he was not participating in the Republican caucus because of McCarthy’s “political intimidation tactics” and bullying of caucus members.  Kimmel said he would not join the Democratic caucus because Watts had destroyed it.  Watts “conducts personal vendettas, and he cannot be trusted,” Kimmel said.

At the last Council meeting Watts and Simms asserted that Kimmel had left the Republican caucus, moving to change the balance of power to a 7-Republican, 7-Democrat and 1-unaffiliated split.  Kimmel said he had not officially left the Republican caucus, and had rejoined it that evening.

“Under FOI, when caucus members make a public declaration that they are leaving can they go return under FOI?” Watts asked, referring to the Freedom of Information Act. “I would like to get a  legal opinion on that but I think that is pretty sufficient evidence that he has claimed he will no longer caucus with the Republican party and we should investigate under FOI can he return or can he make those statements and then decide they can go back,” Watts said. “… If he can return then it’s all moot and we go back to business as usual. If he cannot return then that leaves the Council at 7-7-1, where it’s seven Republicans, seven Democrats and one independent or unaffiliated, whatever he would be. That would basically put the caucus as – we would now have two majority leaders because the Democrats would no longer be in the minority.”

The matter was tabled so that Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola could look into it.

“I don’t know why it is not on the agenda,” Kimmel said in a Sunday email. “My guess is that everyone now considers the point moot, though I could be wrong.”

Kimmel said he called FOI Commission public information officer Tom Hennick early last week.

“He told me that technically I never left the Republican caucus simply because I was not allowed to under FOI rules,” Kimmel wrote. “Elected officials in Connecticut are allowed one caucus change per term and, according to Hennick, I used my caucus change when I submitted paperwork to the City Clerk right after the 2013 elections indicating I, as a Democrat, would be caucusing with the Republicans. My affiliation was what counted, not the fact that I ran on the Republican ticket. Irrespective of what I do or don’t do for the remainder of the term, I am a member of that caucus for the rest of the term.

“Hennick also said the composition of legislative bodies are not determined by FOI, but by the municipality’s past practice,” Kimmel continued. “In Norwalk, as far as I can remember, our past practice is to divide the committees, as best we can, according to the ratio of Democrats and Republicans on the Council. However, the elected Council president has been the member who decides who chairs those committees. Thus, even though the body is currently split 8 to 7, Doug Hempstead decided that all of the chairs were from the majority caucus. That seems to be our past practice.”

23 comments

Suzanne October 27, 2014 at 8:38 am

Of all the things the Council could be focusing their attention on – school children and neighborhood behavior and the hypocritical acts of a bunch of people acting like children who, yet again must they all be reminded, should be focusing in the service of Norwalk taxpayers.

Honestly! I don’t expect this Council to get anywhere important or informed on behalf of taxpayers but this distraction, a resolution on bullying?, belies the fact that they are SUPPOSED to be examining major development and tax issues, for example, on behalf of Norwalk.

I know, let’s act like we’re doing something and spend a council meeting on this resolution, rightly handled by neighborhoods and schools and, instead, create our own private agreement in the Council to act like grownups, then decide to examine real issues that might materially help Norwalk citizens.

This resolution is about Council members talking to themselves. The sponsors make any value it might contain the height of hypocrisy.

EveT October 27, 2014 at 9:39 am

@Suzanne, well said. Couldn’t agree more. We need the Council to address substantial problems and issues confronting the city. It seems they are more interested in personal tiffs.

Bruce Kimmel October 27, 2014 at 9:51 am

Suzanne: I couldn’t agree more. I had no idea this would spin out of control and be such a distraction.

Nancy: Neither I nor anyone else said McCarthy had bullied caucus members; that was never an issue. It was his actions outside of the caucus; actions that were directed at a relatively long list of people I consider my friends and who happen to be Democrats.

Kathleen Montgomery October 27, 2014 at 11:09 am

I think there should be a resolution on bullying, but this one misses the mark by a mile. Bullying in the workplace is an entirely different issue than bullying on the playgrounds. The resolution should be about adult workplace bullying only and everyone working on this resolution should inform themselves about the definition of workplace bullying, its characteristics, and what to do about it. Many of the NON articles have blatant examples of bullying at meetings. This is a pervasive problem that deserves an informed view if Norwalk committees are to move forward as they should. Please read:

The Bully-free Workplace: Stop Jerks, Weasels, and Snakes From Killing Your Organization (2011) By Gary Namie, PhD & Ruth Namie, PhD. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons

independent voice October 27, 2014 at 11:31 am

What a travesty. This should be a mark of embarrassment and shame on Norwalk’s city council. It’s no wonder the city it far behind adjacent municipalities with sup par school ratings, high taxes, zoning a mess and property values that have yet to recover. If something remotely similar to transpired in the private sector all would be fired.

Whosereallythebully October 27, 2014 at 11:50 am

Harry Rilling and the NPD are the biggest bullies of all…but there are only 3 Councilmembers that are actually afraid of him, fortunately…

This is a form of bullying on Kimmel’s part if you ask me. How afraid can he be or how bullied can he be if he came out with an article like this. From experience, it’s the person he is not mentioning that is the real bully.

Suzanne October 27, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Kathleen, I don’t why these Council Members couldn’t read the article you reference, have a private meeting, and call it a day. Mutual respect should be a given.

Joe October 27, 2014 at 4:52 pm

This Kydes’ whereas -resolved resolution thing is so weird…I’m embarrassed to be from here.

I think all these guys are looking at their belly-buttons too much.

Let’s get back to roads and bridges and spending too much money, OK?

John Hamlin October 27, 2014 at 7:47 pm

Maybe instead of a useless resolution they could just respect the opinions and positions of others and treat everyone with respect. The Common Council is so dysfunctional it’s an embarrassment.

Non partisan October 27, 2014 at 7:59 pm

….bullying behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in homes,……

Dear city council et. al., you have no business in my home.

Please spend your time productively and mind your own business.

Concerned October 27, 2014 at 8:51 pm

This entire ‘thing’ is so silly – as if some council resolution will have any impact on the issue of bullying. Please people, our children are watching this imbecilic behavior. Oh, dear, oh, dear.

Piberman October 27, 2014 at 11:15 pm

Will Councilman Kimmel, head of the Finance Committee, now turn his energies to getting the City’s budget under control ? Maybe those of us concerned about City finances and taxes have been misguided. Maybe the real impediment to Norwalk is just “bullying” !

Kathleen Montgomery October 28, 2014 at 12:13 am

I agree Suzanne. After informing themselves, they should have to view the videos of their own meetings and own their demeaning behaviors. Then have a private meeting to lay out a serious plan for respectful discourse. Not rehashing why everyone is wrong but them, but a PLAN.

At present, some Council members will continue to act like buffoons, and they need to be removed. BTW, the victims of adult bullies are people who are competent people who others admire. The bullies demean them because they, for a variety of reasons, prefer that approach rather than put their nose to the grindstone and learn how to do their jobs (this resolution is demeaning itself and an example of not knowing how to do your job).

The seriousness of bullying in the workplace has caused other countries (without a free-speech amendment like ours) to add bullying to their legal harassment policies). Productivity depends on civility and honest work. It all comes down to economics. And taxpayers are most definitely not getting their money’s worth out of many of the groups who “run” Norwalk.

LWitherspoon October 28, 2014 at 9:20 am

BREAKING NEWS! The Common Council, at its next meeting, will consider the following highly controversial non-binding resolution. I have obtained a copy at great peril to my personal safety through methods that I shall not reveal, lest I be prosecuted, resign from commenting on this news site, and start my own. Here is the resolution’s text:

WHEREAS we like good things to happen, and not bad things

WHEREAS we like sunny days, and not cloudy ones

WHEREAS we like smiles, and not frowns

WHEREAS we like rainbows, and not thunderclouds

WHEREAS we like shiny things, and not dull ones

WHEREAS we like Care Bears, and not Grizzly Bears

WHEREAS we like gum drops, and not lima beans; therefore be it

RESOLVED that nothing bad will ever happen again, ever.

Concerned October 28, 2014 at 10:11 am

BRAVO – Lwitherspoon. Couldn’t have thought of a better way to portray this useless, timeconsuming, money wasting, hypocritical, embarrassing farce.

I think the big problem is that elected officials STILL THINK that the public holds them in esteem. Nothing could be farther from the truth. They evidently live in a ‘back-slapping vacuum’ with no sense of reality. Oh, dear.

Suzanne October 28, 2014 at 2:49 pm

L. Witherspoon, I don’t know how long it took you to think of it but it was worth it. Terrific! Suzanne

Kevin Di Mauro October 28, 2014 at 9:50 pm

@Concerned,

I agree with your thoughts that ” the big problem is that the elected officials STILL THINK that the public holds them in esteem”.

I definitely DON’T hold them in esteem. Please be careful, however as your WORDS describing “this useless, time consuming, money wasting, hypocritical, EMBARRASSING FARCE” might classify you as a bully in the mind of Bruce Kimmel.

I think he’s the Leader of the Farce.

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