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Watts to Serasis: Let’s make a deal

Norwalk Councilman David Watts (D-District A), left, and former Councilman Steve Serasis disagree at a May meeting in City Hall.

Norwalk Councilman David Watts (D-District A), left, and former Councilman Steve Serasis disagree at a May meeting in City Hall.

NORWALK, Conn. – David Watts and Steve Serasis are both showing around a conversation they had by text.

Watts, a Common Councilman and Democratic District A chairman, showed NancyOnNorwalk the conversation 11 days ago, saying he would go public with it but not right then. Serasis asked the reporter to take out a camera and take photos of the conversation after District A voted to recommend candidates last Wednesday, saying that it caught Watts in a lie. He expressed surprise to hear that Watts had also shown the conversation.

Watts, as the July 22 District A meeting began, said, “I haven’t called a single person here and asked you to vote one way or another. It’s not my role.”

Watts, in a July 7 text message conversation via phone (not a phone call), tries to make a deal with Serasis, saying that he would support Serasis as one of two in-district Common Council candidates if Serasis was OK with incumbent Eloisa Melendez not being on the ticket. Serasis could run as Jalin Sead’s running mate, Watts said. If he did, he could have the endorsement.

Again, Watts was showing the conversation on July 16. On July 22, Serasis nominated Melendez to be a candidate. Both won the district vote overwhelmingly, but neither were endorsed by the Democratic Town Committee on July 23.

District members earn the right to vote by attending at least three district meetings. DTC members are elected. District members vote to recommend candidates to the DTC, a non-binding vote that is generally followed by the DTC. The seven DTC members who live in District A vote to endorse the in-district candidates; voting for Jalin Sead and the previously unheard-of Rhonda Teel were Watts, Dwayne Omar King, Carolyn Fuller, Rosa Murray and Matt Miklave – via his proxy, Watts’ wife. The five also voted for Murray favorite Nicole Ayers over the district-recommended Yvel Crevecoeur for the Board of Education endorsement.

The July 7 conversation between Watts and Serasis, with misspellings and typos corrected:

Watts: “Would you accept the nomination if Melendez didn’t get it? I know she will accept (it if) you don’t get it. Would you run with Jalin?”

Serasis: “I haven’t made a thought of that at this point, as Andy (Garfunkel) is confusing the issue. I don’t know Jalin at all, as well. So that in itself would make support difficult. I’m not a phony and don’t want to be perceived as such by the public. Nancy would crucify me. My only decision so far is to put in my letter for in-district and not wait for Andy to make up his mind. I’m too busy volunteering over 30 hours a week to the city, my work and a P/T job, to think further ahead right now.”

Watts: “You will get the endorsement if you want to run with Jalin. You’re a good man.

Serasis: “Are you blackmailing me? And then sugarcoating it with I’m a good man?”

Watts: “No, I am supporting Jalin and would support you to run for Council.”

Serasis: “But I told you that I didn’t know him. How could you possibly arrive to asking me to support him? And we don’t know what Andy is doing as well….”

Watts: “Let me know which seat you want to run for in district or at large.”

Serasis: “At Home Depot now…Let me text when I get home and I’m not driving or in a store please thank you”

Watts: “OK”

“I told him that I am supporting Jalin and I would support him at large or in district,” Watts said in a Saturday morning text message to NoN. “… Steve is a candidate and wanted to run for office and I asked him would you run with Jalin (if they both got endorsed). I was nice to him and he insulted me. This is known as polling voting members.”

That last part was a reference to why Serasis did not get the endorsement.

Watts’ full quote from the July 22 District A meeting:

“Under Connecticut state law, only those who are appointed or elected, in the case of our membership, have the right to endorse candidates. The DTC has an unwritten rule where candidates from different districts often weigh in. District A has always been one person, one vote, whether you vote here or you vote on the DTC, but it’s always been one person, one vote. I haven’t called a single person here and asked you to vote one way or another. It’s not my role. But what I did say that we all should try to work, we all have our preferences on candidates, and I am hoping tonight that when the final outcome, I expect there to be some primaries and that’s good, that gives our candidates an opportunity to go out there and do what they want to do if this process doesn’t end here, doesn’t end tomorrow night, it ends on the night of a primary box if you feel that the vote didn’t go one way or another.”

Sent the transcription on Saturday and asked for a response, Watts replied, “I don’t recall saying that only appointed or elected officials can run for office.”

Serasis, asked to clarify the significance of the conversation, explained the history of District A.

In 2006, the “power group of NDTC & A members” approached him, he said. “They seduced me by telling me that I’m doing so much good with all the youth/young adult/anti-gang involvement I had, that I could do even more for the city,” he said.

There were only eight people attending District A meetings and Serasis, the newbie, became the seventh district DTC member because one of those eight wasn’t interested, he said.

“In other words there wasn’t any ‘Body.’ ‘One person one vote’ is a load of BS that David has carefully crafted to fit his agenda, as the body grew,” Serasis said.

Back then, “the old guard” tied the First Taxing District into the DTC group to get more people involved, in an effort to grow the district body, Serasis said. “Over the years we expanded a little bit,” Serasis said.

“When it came time to pick candidates it was easy to decide because we were few in numbers, and we could hash it out. Rarely did it come down to the seven votes nomination night,” Serasis said.

But now the dream has become reality and there is a large District A body, Serasis said, calling the 43 votes cast in the January 2014 election to choose seven DTC members from 10 candidates “good.”

“This in itself made the District into what it should be,” Serasis said.

“The people, choosing who represents them from an overcrowded field,” Serasis said. “By virtue of this scenario alone, DTC members are ethically bound to represent the will of the people who gave them the privilege to cast a vote on their behalf.”

He then referred to a petition gathered by former Town Clerk Andy Garfunkel two weeks ago, with 66 percent of the District A members asked that they be allowed to vote to recommend candidates, and have the DTC members honor their wishes as has been the custom.

“This is how we evolve to a better democratically powered body representing our district,” Serasis continued. “The people of District A took it one step further, because they believe in our ‘Democratic Principles.’ They officially petitioned to vote on candidates, and have their recommendations heard by their representative DTC members. Not to recognize 66 percentage of the voting members (percentage of voting members who signed the petition) is a complete disregard of our basic democratic principles, and a slap in the face of their constituents. This is what those before me were striving for, a better governing body. Where the needs of the many, are represented, not the few, or the one. I respect these principles, as the core element in free society, and will always vote the recommendation of the many I represent. I’m grateful, and humbled to be given the honor to cast a vote for the people I represent.”

6 comments

cc-rider July 27, 2015 at 7:32 am

How difficult is it to get elected as a Independent in Norwalk? It seems hard to imagine why more people do not take that route after reading countless articles like this one.

Ace22 July 27, 2015 at 9:05 am

Leave it to Nancy et al. to get to the bottom of it. In sum, get your ducks in a row now if you don’t want to be exposed later!

EveT July 27, 2015 at 9:43 am

@cc-rider: It is pretty darn difficult to get elected as an independent. Not having a party organization means it is entirely up to the individual to find supporters to help knock on doors and make phone calls. Lots of voters won’t vote for someone they don’t know, and more so when the name isn’t on a party line on the ballot.
Ask the two who formed their own party to run for Board of Ed in 2013.
Forsaking party politics sounds nice in the abstract, but the reality is that elections are all about group process.
And guess what, so is governing.

Steve Colarossi July 28, 2015 at 11:19 am

@ cc-rider . . . It is challenging to run as an independent. The easiest part is getting your required signatures to appear on the ballot. The tough part is getting voters to look to the fourth row to find your name.

The state has an institutional bias against new third party candidates. For instance, I outpolled any one who appeared on the Working Family line in 2013, but that still would not allow our third party to take the third ballot line reserved for the Working Families Party.

Independents can find a party that is the lesser of two evils (or flip a coin), join, waste several nights a year going to meetings to make the attendance quota and then trying to join with like-minded people to make a difference. Or they can just wait to see who the major parties nominate and take a chance that their voices will be heard.

I live in District A and I’m limited to selecting the Common Council candidate a bunch of Democrat insiders picked or the candidate a bunch of Republican insiders picked. Unless I register as a Democrat, I have no way of supporting Eloisa Melendez, who has done a great job for District A and deserves to be re-elected.

been there done that July 28, 2015 at 8:21 pm

Please david for the sake of the Democratic Party don’t run for anything as a Democrat! Give Pete Torrano a call and see what you can do for the RTC

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