Updated 8:04 p.m. Tuesday with copy of resignation email.
NORWALK, Conn. — Embattled Norwalk Board of Education member Jack Chiaramonte has resigned from the Board of Education.
The resignation comes a week after comments the outspoken former BOE chairman made on his private Facebook page became public after they were sent by one of Chiaramonte’s Facebook “friends” to NancyOnNorwalk.
In an email sent late Monday night to Republican Town Committee Chairman Peter Torroano, BOE Chairman Mike Lyons, and The Hour, and forwarded to NancyOnNorwalk by Lyons, Chiaramonte wrote, “… given the events that have unfolded this past week, and after consulting with RTC Chairman Peter Torrano and Board of Education Chairman Mike Lyons, I have decided to resign immediately.”
At Monday night’s Democratic Town Committee meeting, members said Chiaramonte should resign and the Republican Town Committee should condemn his words. DTC members voted unanimously to write a letter to that effect.
The move at the DTC’s regular monthly meeting was begun by Brenda Penn-Williams, who went on to say that BoE member Shirley Mosby does have evidence to support the complaint she made back in June that there is racial discrimination on the Board. The vote came over the cautious words of DTC Chairman Ed Camacho, who said the RTC has been itching for this fight as part of the fall campaign, and would push for the evidence to come forward.
“Shirley – and I happen to know because I was at time the co-chair for the legal redress (committee) for the NAACP, I happen to know this, Carolyn Fuller, too – she does have evidence because I saw it. I saw it,” Penn-Williams said. “However, she asked to meet with (BoE Chairman) Mike Lyons and he refused. He refused. So he should have given her the opportunity to meet. He refused. Then he started saying ‘you don’t have evidence, well, let’s see the evidence.’”
Lyons, in a late-night email, denied that claim.
“Shirley Mosby has never asked to meet with me on this; the statement is simply untrue,” Lyons wrote. “Shirley is the one who has consistently refused to meet, as the mayor has repeatedly confirmed, not me. It’s March of 2015; for the first time since July of 2014 we suddenly hear about an offer to meet supposedly made eight months ago but NEVER mentioned before now? By one of the most talkative people ever to serve in Norwalk’s government? To say that this assertion strains credulity is putting it mildly.”
As for the call for a resignation, Lyons said, “The DTC motion regarding Jack is pure political theater, and I won’t dignify it with a response.”
“Are they censuring Miss Mosby along with Jack Chiarmonte for her actions, of eight months, the Democratic Town Committee, the Democratic chairmanship has failed to act upon?” RTC Chairman Pete Torrano asked. “Or are they just interested in censuring a Republican?”
Chiaramonte did not respond to a request for comment.
Penn-Williams began the conversation at the DTC meeting by saying that she is very upset about the comments Chiaramonte made last week on his private Facebook page that was emailed to NancyOnNorwalk by one of Chiaramonte’s “Facebook friends.” She said she is organizing a rally to be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall to call for Chiaramonte’s resignation.
Chiaramonte’s Facebook rant was a response to a viral video showing a group of African-American teenagers following and one them beating a white teenager and her little brother.
“Where’s Sharpton? Where’s the race fueling media? Where’s our idiot President or that dimwit Eric Holder? Black racist pull this crap and no one says anything? Not anymore,” Chiaramonte wrote. “The stank perp’s name and info is posted. I called the Indianapolis Police Dept. and as soon as I mention a video I saw on Face Book, they already said they are investigating it. I hope the media picks this up and shoves in Obama, Holder and Shatptons [sic] faces and ask these racist scum why they don’t have anything to say.”
That was followed by a stream of scatalogical and anatomical invective directed at the Rev. Al Sharpton.
The DTC should write a letter calling for Chiaramonte to resign, Penn-Williams said, calling him “an embarrassment to our system.”
“I think enough of something is enough,” Penn-Williams said. “We didn’t do anything when he said to Shirley ‘the girl who cried black.’ For me, if you continue and people don’t say anything, what is that doing? That’s allowing them to continue with this type of thing, this behavior. When we didn’t say anything about the girl who cried black, now here he is again. We are empowering people to do what they want to do.”
“I am very concerned that some leaders in our DTC have made well-known comments about the Board of Ed, but when it came to Mr. Chiaramonte, silence. I felt that was very unfortunate and not fair to members of our caucus,” Diane Lauricella said. The tone of Chiaramonte’s comments about President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder was “really offensive,” she said.
Rob Frazier pushed for a “middle ground.”
“The censure should be the way this group should express its outrage,” he said. “… The removal is business of the Board. The outrage and the expression of our concern is the business of this group.”
Frazier said this is more widespread than Chiaramonte. “It’s a national problem. That’s why I think it is important for this group to go on record on this issue. … It’s racism,” Frazier said.
“We can’t really say to him ‘you’re out’ … but the people of this city can make it known that they don’t want him there. We are going to do that,” Carolyn Fuller said.
“I am a child of south in the ’50s and ’60s. What I saw and what I heard, it’s scary. May not be to the gold coast Fairfield County people but it’s scary, it’s very scary. And just like you said, it’s not just him, but it’s also not just him in Norwalk,” Fuller said.
“The Republican Party said we don’t condone it,” Ron Kowalski said. “Which to me is unbelievable, because that’s like saying well we don’t agree but we’re not going to touch it.”
The letter should have three parts, Kowalski said – the call for resignation, the censure and “call on the Republican Party to condemn what he said and if they won’t then put him in bed with them.”
“Perhaps because members of the media are here, perhaps this is a conversation we might want to have offline before we have a decision on this,” Camacho said.
“No,” Penn-Williams said.
“We have been under a tremendous amount of pressure over the course of the last few weeks now,” Camacho said. “The executive board of the Republican Town Committee has been asking for there to be a resolution on the claims of race discrimination made by Ms. Mosby, Ms. Rivas, and I’m not sure if Ms. Murray was a part of that.”
BoE member Rosa Murray was present but said nothing.
“Those claims are still hanging out there and people are still asking for evidence,” Camacho said. “People are still asking for emails, anything they might have to support those claims. If we go down this path of coming out publicly, and I think appropriately, against Mr. Chiaramonte’s comments, then I think we need to expect there is going to be an effort on the part of Republican Town Committee to have this mayor or someone address the issue of race discrimination that are hanging in the air and the Republican Town Committee is aching to make it an issue in this campaign.”
“I saw her evidence and she does have it,” Penn-Williams said. “I don’t blame her. She wanted to meet with him, he refused.”
“There will be calls for that evidence to come out,” Camacho said.
“We see the evidence, the evidence is right there with Jack Chiaramonte,” Penn-Williams said.
“I think Republican Town Committee will do what the Republican Town Committee will do and we have no control over that,” Galen Wells said. “They continue to attack Shirley and I think we have to ignore that. I think we need to say that what Jack Chiaramonte has said is unacceptable.”
Lynne Moore called the question.
“As far as I am concerned they are going to be all over us no matter what, so we either stand up and be counted or we run around hiding under our desks because we are so afraid of X,Y and Z,” Moore said.
No one voted against it. “I couldn’t believe the article when I read it. The thing that is unbelievable is that he doesn’t see what he says,” Wells said.
A committee was formed to write a letter – Wells, Kowalski, Penn-Williams and Councilwoman Phaedrel “Faye” Bowman (D-District B).
Discussion was limited to DTC members, but Camacho allowed Norwalk Branch NAACP President Darnell Crosland to speak.
“The essence of the complaint was that there was a hostile environment on the Board of Ed,” Crosland said. “In terms of you directing this to a body to resolve this and the other side saying you need evidence, I think that’s a farce because there is nobody trying to hear evidence or see evidence, so if they throw that out there that’s just an end run around the issue. So obviously there is a hostile environment on the board. It’s coming from Jack Chiaramonte and those on the Board who condone that.”
“‘Hostile environment’ is a term that MEANS something; simply making the accusation doesn’t magically make it true,” Lyons wrote in his email. “You still need facts to back it up, which they don’t have (unless merely disagreeing with someone constitutes a ‘hostile environment,’ in which case I could make the same claim against Shirley!).”
Crosland said he had watched the viral video that inspired Chiaramonte’s rage.
“There is nothing at all in that fight that indicated race,” Crosland said. “So if a black person and a white person have a fight that doesn’t make it racial at all. Now when Obama and Eric Holder and the rest of the country went to Ferguson it was because there was a pandemic of black individuals being killed by white cops that makes it a racial issue. … He is so far off base saying they should have run out there and protested. I don’t think he represents the city well. The will of the people will follow this voice and they can get him off. He can get himself off.”
Right wing media report that racial comments were made in the fight, and, by the assailant on Facebook: “what did the White b*tch expect walkin right in front of us like dat?” A screen capture is not provided.
After the meeting, Penn-Williams called Lyons a liar. “Shirley wanted to meet with him. He refused,” she said.
Penn-Williams said she is considering a run for the Board of Ed. She lives in District C, which means she would oppose Lyons should he run for re-election.
“Chiaramonte is making me run, if I run,” she said. “I want to do for all children. I would never, ever be on social media talking racist like he did.”