NORWALK, Conn. – City Clerk Donna King said Thursday that Warren Peña’s accusation that she orchestrated his “removal” from his Norwalk Democratic Town Committee District D seat is off base, as are suggestions that Mayor Harry Rilling had anything to do with it.
King, who was elected co-chairwoman of the district Tuesday night just before Peña’s seat was declared vacant, pointed to the rules accessible on the DTC website as the reason Peña’s seat was declared vacant, something not denied Friday night in an email exchange with former district Chairman Vinny Mangiacopra.
Peña, who supported Mangiacopra’s bid for mayor in the 2013 Democratic primary ultimately won by Harry Rilling, moved out of District D and into District B to challenge incumbent State Rep. Bruce Morris (D-140) in last summer’s primary. When Peña registered to vote in District B, he automatically gave up his seat in District D, according to Democratic Registrar of Voters Stuart Wells.
Peña lost to Morris in the Aug. 12 primary and moved back to District D.
Wells sent an email dated May 7 to Peña, Mangiacopra and DTC Chairman Ed Camacho informing them of that fact, King said Thursday night. Friday, Wells provided a copy of that email:
From: Wells, Stuart
Sent: Wednesday, May 07, 2014 1:40 PM
To: ‘Vinny Mangiacopra’
Cc: ‘Edwin Camacho’; Peña, Warren A.
Subject: Warren Peña – residence changed
As you know, Warren has changed his voting address 24 Allview Avenue. This is in District B, not in Council District D and so he will have to be replaced on the DTC. The basic procedure is in the DTC rules. The registrar’s office is not involved, except for this official notice of the registration change.
Per DTC rules, Warren automatically becomes a voting member of District B. His status as a convention delegate is unchanged, as all these positions are chosen city-wide even though allocated to the various districts (and he was not a delegate in his old house district 142.)
(David Watts has moved within District A, so his DTC and Common Council eligibility is unchanged.)
Stuart Wells, Registrar
King said that, despite Wells’ email, Mangiacopra took no action.
“Vinny was asked to do something about it but he just said ‘not now,’ and months went by,” King said. “I didn’t give it a second thought at the time. To me it wasn’t important, but other people were stirring the pot.”
Mangiacopra said Friday that there was another seat open at the time and he was working to fill that vacancy.
“In May, the district declared the vacancy left by Krysten White (who had moved), who was a past supporter of mine and outpaced Joe Tamburri by a single vote for the last DTC spot at January caucuses.” Mangiacopra said in his email. “At that meeting, Joe Tamburri expressed interest verbally in prospectively filling her seat. Sometime between May and our June meeting, I reached out to Mr. Tamburri multiple times, including a voice message on his work line at SNEW. Other people had reached out to me to express their interest in the vacancy as well. I wanted to confirm Joe’s interest and make a smooth outcome for the party’s sake.”
The Democratic Party, he pointed out, had been through what he termed a “pretty contentious primary” and had, in March, elected a new DTC chairman, Camacho, on an 18-17 vote.
Tamburri “never got back to me and did not show up to the June meeting,” he said. “I started our action item to fill the vacancy by expressing to the committee that I had reached out to Mr. Tamburri multiple times and did not hear back from him but was aware that he was circulating for support. I expressed my disappointment with this and nominated our treasurer Pat Marshock, who had expressed to me her interest (and to the committee as a whole in writing). Joe’s name was put into nomination” and had the votes to win White’s former seat.
That left District D one member short. Mangiacopra did not say in his why both candidates were not added to fill the two openings.
“In July and August, there were no meetings due to summer vacations, which is not uncommon,” Mangiacopra said. “As is custom every year, September and October meetings are working sessions at party headquarters to help our candidates (this year being Governor Malloy, Congressman Himes, Senator Duff, and so on) contact and identify voters. … From a party standpoint, that’s a priority facing a tough election. That’s just my opinion.
“After the November election I decided to step down as Chairman of District D after serving in that role for four years,” he said.
Tamburri was vice chairman at the time and became interim chairman until there could be a vote for a new chairman, King said.
Tamburri was talking with others about the Peña seat and “started beating the drum” to fill it, she said. “I heard about it after the December meeting. Joe said it was something we have to do – it’s in the rules.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, Tamburri and King were voted district co-chairmen, and, immediately afterward, Peña’s seat was declared vacant.
“The point at issue now is that the vacancy was declared on Tuesday (uncontested),” Mangiacopra said. “Our rules say that once a vacancy is declared, the chair of the district ‘automatically’ assumes the seat if they are not already a member of the town committee.”
Because Tamburri was already a member of the committee, he said, that meant King automatically filled Peña’s seat – a move Peña said Wednesday that King had been angling for.
King, however, said she immediately declined the seat Tuesday night.
“In my opinion, automatic is automatic,” Mangiacopra said. “Donna helped write these rules, as you have probably inferred. At Monday’s DTC meeting, she should be sat as filling the vacancy left by Warren. She has every right to resign after that if she so chooses.”
Should that happen, it would open a seat, and Peña – and any other interested District D Democrat – could be elected to fill it.
The current committee:
Joe Tamburri, co-chairman
Donna King, co-chairwoman
Dr. Lynne Moore