Crosland, Cafero differ over Norwalk League’s upcoming ‘Pie & Politics’

Attorney Darnell Crosland, right, leads the 2017 League of Women Voters of Norwalk Pie & Politics event in Norwalk Police headquarters. (Harold Cobin)

Attorney Larry Cafero, former State Representative for District 142. (File photo)

NORWALK, Conn. — The first shots have been fired in Norwalk’s probate judge race, Darnell Crosland said Wednesday.

Crosland was set to moderate the upcoming League of Women Voters’ Pie & Politics event, but Attorney Larry Cafero, who like Crosland has announced an intention to run for probate judge, told League members that they may have a perception issue in that choice.

“When the person moderating it is a declared Democratic candidate, I think it does speak to, it gives out a certain perception and certainly not one the League prides itself in, of being unbiased, and nonpartisan,” said Cafero, a Republican, in a phone call with NancyOnNorwalk.

“I am so disappointed to learn that Larry Cafero a candidate for The Judge of Probate has decided to put politics before the pie,” Crosland wrote in a text message.

“All this is is our annual Pie & Politics, where the state reps answer questions from the audience,” said League member Lisa Brinton Thomson.

Brinton Thomson said she has not been involved with the League since announcing a campaign for mayor, but is simply organizing an event.

When Cafero raised the issue, “I emailed him that Darnell had moderated in years past and that I didn’t personally  think it was conflict of interest, as the meeting was focused around state issues, but that the League would review his position and get back to him,” Brinton Thomson wrote.

“I also informed him that everyone is invited to attend,” she wrote. “Just to be clear, this is NOT and never has been a candidate forum.  It is a bi-partisan, state rep update on matters involving the state, which the League has been hosting for the public for years.  Larry would have attended as a panelist when he was a state representative.”

Cafero said that the original email he got from Brinton Thomson about the event planned for April 7, which caused him to object, was “vague,” and although he was aware of Pie & Politics, he didn’t know if probate judge candidates would be on the panel.

He then spoke to League member Mary Oster, who understood his assertion that there could be a misperception, and the next thing you know Crosland was texting him, he said.

Oster was not available for comment.

“I have no bone to pick with him at all, I understand he has done that in the past, quite appropriately and quite well,” Cafero said. “…I have no beef with Darnell. He was invited, he can certainly accept. I was more concerned about the League.”

“I just think this should be known as an ambush tactic to try to strip me from what I have been doing for four years as a paying (League) member,” Crosland said.

“He is only afraid that I may look good in my community and may garner a vote if I decide to run,” Crosland wrote in a text message. “While he was away I have been serving the community in many ways, not only with the League, but as NAACP President for many years, and many years on the board of Connecticut Counseling Centers.  Since he has been back he has worked with Mall of America and getting richer, while I have been serving.  I refuse to allow him to ambush me and push me off the stage.  The League must stand up to bullies.  We will not be silenced.”

Cafero represented GGP in its successful effort to get approval for The SoNo Collection, the mall now under construction on West Avenue.

Crosland provided the text message exchange he had with Cafero.

“I have no issue with you,” Cafero wrote. “I had an issue with the League having a declared candidate for office in a contested race, moderate a political forum for an organization that purports to be non partisan. I understand that you’ve moderated before and have done a good job. Now you are a declared Democratic candidate. Your objectivity as well of that of the Leagues could be {called} into question. That being said, what I feel about it is irrelevant. It is up to the League and yourself.”

Crosland told NoN that he’s not a declared candidate, as the nominations aren’t made until May.

“That doesn’t matter,” Cafero said to NoN. “If he is familiar with the judicial code, once you are a declared candidate, which I believe he is, you are a candidate. That doesn’t mean you have to be nominated. He is not a nominated candidate, but he is a candidate, as I am for probate judge.”

Pie & Politics has always been moderated by a League member who is not running for office, he said.

Whether or not probate judge issues are discussed is “missing the point,” because, “It’s a political event. It’s called Pie & Politics,” Cafero said.

“This maneuver fails and is void of logic,” Crosland wrote. “Albeit I have always had an interest in the local probate office, this event is on State issues, and I offer zero opinions, instead the bi-partisan panel answers the questions of the people.”

Crosland wrote:

“Four years ago I ran a dignified race, both Judge {DePanfilis} and I ran a dignified race.  I can only hope that these types of childish political maneuvers stop.  The Trump effect need not influence Norwalk.  We are a dignified community, let’s conduct ourselves as such.

“I am a paid member of the League, I am respected by both the Republicans and Democrats on the panel every year, and my integrity has never been called into question by anyone.  This candidate has raised these ‘objectivity’ issues solely for political gain.”


Above the fray March 8, 2018 at 7:28 am

If having a declared candidate serve as moderator wasn’t an issue when Larry Cafero first raised the question, it certainly is now after this unseemly back and forth between those vying for a position that calls for discretion and sensitivity.

Peter Torrano March 8, 2018 at 8:27 am

This is clearly a perception problem, and Cafero is correct. From Crossland’s over the top response, referring to “bullying” and then launching into his campaign speech he has confirmed Cafero’s fears that Crossland would use this event to, as Crossland is quoted as saying, look good and garner some votes. Crossland should do the proper thing and step aside and let another, non-candidate moderate. The mere fact that many would see this as bias should be enough to have Crossland step away

Isabelle Hargrove March 8, 2018 at 8:45 am

How can anyone disagree with the following statement from Mr. Cafero?

“I had an issue with the League having a declared candidate for office in a contested race, moderate a political forum for an organization that purports to be non-partisan. I understand that you’ve moderated before and have done a good job. Now you are a declared Democratic candidate. Your objectivity as well of that of the Leagues could be {called} into question…”

I am very surprised that Mses. Oster and Thompson did not realize what poor optic this situation would create. They ought to rethink their decision.

The League of Women’s Voter has a responsibility to remain non-partisan and to avoid any appearance of partisanship. I have seen this organization struggle to maintain neutrality both locally and nationally. The LWV plays an important part in our political process and it would be a shame if they were to lose their standing to be downgraded to political hack.

Finally, did I read correctly that this candidate is a PAID member of the league? Could someone clarify that point? Thank you.

Rick March 8, 2018 at 10:13 am

wow a guy who sold the city a mall is defended by whom? Norwalks republican party has let the city down for years as long as there something in it for them they go thru elections scamming.

Hacks is what Norwalk has had for years look at the city from a distance , nothing is right everything is wrong and the voter turnout shows no party wants change ,

To even suggest the League of Women Voters are in the dark is disgusting.

Cafero did a lot of damage to families while working with Norwalk schools taking in a good check for the damage that was done , it was Crossland who came to the defense of many kids and families while they were targets.just ask Morris him and Cafero made a good team.

Figures the word hack and Norwalk especially in the state house , but the current topic seems to host a handful of hacks and its what?

There are some reps who do a great job but Norwalk has its share of hacks picked by each party like it or not.

Maybe if others stepped away from the republican party maybe Norwalk would of been a great city nows there nothing left to build on the city is a mess.

maybe someday people will be elected on merit and not party affiliation.

GGP is still hovering around bamkruptcy numbers again today I doubt if any party in Norwalk would understand what Cafero did for himself and not the city.

Like changing parties in Norwalk would do any good at this point the city has been poisoned just read NON at least there you have a choice to be an independent . Great coverage and news breaking, taking the trash out today was news breaking everyone else had it hours later.

Now if we could focus on the political trash with the help we get from NON maybe Peter would understand what the real issues are and the work that needs to be done.

Donna Smirniotopoulos March 8, 2018 at 10:30 am

The perception alone of influence and conflict of interest should be enough to motivate the LWV to rethink their choice of Darnell Crossland to moderate. And that’s not even taking into account some of the things he’s quoted as saying above, which certainly look pretty partisan.

Norwalk has a Conflict of Interest problem seemingly embedded in its DNA. This would be a great occasion for the League to lead the charge for COI disclosures and resolutions. Then maybe their example can be transferred to every board and commission in the City.

U.S. Blues March 8, 2018 at 10:48 am

Me thinks Darnell doth protest too much.

I think HE feels threatened by his reference to Trump and not focusing on the issue at hand. He missed the point completely.

Wow, is that someone who we want as probate judge? Someone who doesn’t comprehend the issue at hand?


Victor Cavallo March 8, 2018 at 11:05 am

The LWV needs to re-learn the meaning of non-partisanship and be mindful of “optics” and perceptions. Case in point is the article above and the organization’s failure to recognize the perception of bias in favor of Mr. Crosland. Just a brief perusal of the Norwalk LWV Facebook page reveals that the organization has dog-whistled politically charged liberal causes such as gun control, sexual assault and Obamacare- which have little to do with promoting voter rights for women; this along with publicizing pure photo-ops staged by democratic office holders serving Thanksgiving dinner. Allowing Mr. Crosland to moderate a political forum gives one more democrat politician a photo-op that will no doubt be touted on the League’s Facebook page. It’s disappointing but this controversy leaves little doubt as to which way the LWV leans politically. An examination of the party registration among its leading members might prove my point.

Donna Smirniotopoulos March 8, 2018 at 11:35 am

Darnell Crosland moderated this forum in the past before he became a Candidate for Probate Judge. This isn’t a campaign event, nor is this event relevant to matters of probate or particularly well attended.

On reflection, it’s impossible to dismiss the possibility that Larry Cafero is worried about the probate election. Mr. Cafero knows exactly what kind of event this is because he was a state rep for more many years. Perhaps Mr. Cafero can remind the public of how many times a candidate for Probate Judge has ever appeared at Pie & Politics.

While we are on the subject, how much does the Judge of Probate make? Seems like both candidates are deeply invested in winning a guaranteed $185k salary until age 70. On our dime. This article has deeper implications for salaried elected official than it has for the Norwalk LWV. Is it too late for me to announce my run for Probate Judge?

Rick March 8, 2018 at 2:01 pm

What was everyone thinking when they said mall? Larry sold a bag of ,,,,,, those who bought it should be proud now lets wait see what happens to the rest of the city, If it goes according to plan no place that serves food will be safe from closing in the city.


We are a dignified community, let’s conduct ourselves as such.

Why not lean towards the Democrats they at least have a pulse, its the back stabbing among their own that needs to be addressed but not right away its great entertainment.

Giving any advice to the LWV is funny ,shame no one could tell us who would make the best choice, compassion or greed .

Piberman March 8, 2018 at 8:13 pm

Has any other community in CT ever elected a criminal defense attorney from a major CT City as a Probate Judge dealing with the most sensitive times most of us experience. Maybe Norwalk is indeed “CT’s Greatest City” as our Mayor suggests.

Niz March 9, 2018 at 2:21 am

I know they, LWV Norwalk, try their best to be mindful and avoid Any conflict. As the League is bipartisan… Let’s try to be kind and forgiving, mix up happen?

U.S. Blues March 9, 2018 at 8:17 am

Why the typical “ever-so-angry” man Darnell “we will not be silenced” stop making it an “us against them” forum when it wasn’t THAT at all.

OMG, focus…

Now it’s for certain he is completely biased and can not be a moderator in this forum.

Rick March 9, 2018 at 12:06 pm

sent this the article out to a few friends then then I received some surprising feedback

baseed on the article and pictures from the site racism seems to be the theme from outsiders looking at Norwalk from a distance.

take the population and break it down then look at the boards city hall and septs in the city for a 100,000 and what would anyone think,

Lets be clear Im not saying anyone posting here and anyone living here is racist but I wonder how the court officials stand with diversity.

to suggest a bipartisan city when fractions run the city that exclude their own party members is somewhat hilarious.

Then take into consideration the democratic party what goes on within its ranks

Lets not forget how Ct acts as a state we have a great candidate for Ct Supreme court and whats going on there?

Ct seems to have a long ways to go before it steps into the next century so this issue with Darnell seems to be normal not only in Norwalk but Ct.


Mark from the Mirror pt it in simple termsConnecticut has seen political fights over previous judicial nominations, but none matching the deepening conflict over McDonald

This also is a sad chapter in politics in Ct, no reason McDonald should not be picked, but as always Ct has its own way of showing the country its dirty laundry thru politics.

Jerry March 12, 2018 at 6:10 pm

It’s a shame that every issue has to be politicized. Mr Crossland has done a wonderful job in the past in the same capacity,I wonder why diehard republicans are on the offense in this case. I believe we should focus more on the issues instead of personalities or context of will. I think the integrity of the so called whistle blowers are in question and Norwalkans knows better. The era of political posturing and fake news is gone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>