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Norwalk political notes: Brinton registers as Republican, FOI tiff

South Norwalk activist Ernie Dumas thanks fellow Democrats on Wednesday for electing him to the Common Council.

Updated, 6:17 a.m., 6:43 a.m.: copy edits, information added, revised headline

NORWALK, Conn. – Here are your latest Norwalk political items of note:

  • Cavallo hopes Brinton aims for 2019 Republican Mayoral candidate
  • Dumas chosen to replace Bowman
  • Melendez new Dem vice chair; Roberts falls short
  • Asmani’s tenure brief – he’s flying the coop
  • Burney to two critics: ‘No wonder people don’t talk to you’

Brinton registers as Republican

Lisa Brinton, who ran for Mayor last year as an unaffiliated candidate, on Monday switched her party affiliation to Republican, GOP Registrar Karen Doyle Lyons said.

“I want to vote in the Republican state primaries,” Brinton wrote to NancyOnNorwalk, rebuffing speculation that the change foretells a second run for Mayor in 2019.

“It is too early to talk about a mayoral campaign in 2019,” Brinton wrote. “The city has more pressing issues today, with regard to the current mayor’s reorganization, his POKO debacle, the giving away of more taxpayer money for land use with the ‘Innovation District’ and the boondoggle Walk Bridge.”

“The Republican Party has open arms for anyone who would like to join,” Republican Town Committee Chairman Mark Suda said. “All walks of life, all different ages, and anybody who, such as Lisa, who wants to join, would be a great addition to our Party.”

Pressed a little about next year’s Mayoral election, Suda said, “We are continually building our team. From within our team, we have RTC members, we have associate members and we have registered Republicans that are coming out of the woodwork right now to get involved. They see the energy that is going on and within this team that we are attracting, we will be ready to run successful campaigns next year, as far as the city elections.”

In October 2017, then-Common Council candidate Suda praised Brinton in a press release issued by her campaign.  Asked at the time whether his praise constituted an endorsement of the unaffiliated Brinton over the Republican candidate, Andy Conroy, Suda declined to comment.

Former RTC Chairman Victor Cavallo, who has historically been critical of Brinton in many comments on this web site, had a sharper response to her new party affiliation.  Cavallo wrote in a late Wednesday email:

“While I welcome Lisa to the Republican Party with open arms, in my opinion she registered as a Republican only to cynically pose as a proxy for the Democrats to influence the outcome of the Republican primary by bolstering the vote count of the weakest candidates to help undermine the prospects for Republicans this November. Other than for that purpose, I can’t explain her epiphany.

“She, suddenly, having registered as a Republican and expressing a desire to vote for Republican candidates makes no sense. She has never previously registered as a Republican, she has no demonstrated affinity for the party and its principles,  and, in fact, her platform during the last mayoral run eschewed, in all respects, all party affiliations. She held the view that political parties are the root of all evil, and her voter base was built on that view. So why register with a party now?”

Democratic Registrar Stuart Wells provided Brinton’s history:

  • 2-13-08 U to D   (In time for the 2008 Pres. Primary and Congressional Primary (Himes vs. Lee Whitnum)
  • 5-22-09 D to U
  • 4-11-16 U to D   (In time for the 2016 Pres. Primary)
  • 5-23-16 D to U
  • 6-25-18 U to R (In time for the 2018 State/Fed Primary on August 14, 2018)

 

Cavallo continued:

“If Lisa had registered as a Republican in advance of the 2017 Norwalk Republican convention- as many on the RTC encouraged her to do, including me- she would have likely been the Republican mayoral nominee.

“Based upon her party registration history in 2008 and 2016, Lisa will likely switch back to unaffiliated immediately after she does her deed in the primaries. However, I hope I’m proven wrong and hope Lisa vies for the Republican mayoral nomination in 2019.”

 

Dumas elected to Common Council

Norwalk Democrats on Wednesday elected Ernie Dumas to take Faye Bowman’s seat on the Common Council.

Bowman resigned effective June 1, saying she is leaving Norwalk. She had previously said that she was buying a home, and that Norwalk real estate is too expensive.

Manny Langella had sought her seat, but District B voted overwhelmingly to recommend Dumas. That vote was nonbinding, but Dumas faced no opposition Wednesday.

“He is a very committed individual to the city of Norwalk and to the South Norwalk community. I think he will be an outstanding job. I think he is one of the most deserving people in our district for this position,” Darlene Young said, nominating Dumas. “…It’s a learning process but I think South Norwalk will wrap their arms around him.”

“I am more than glad to be here,” Dumas said. “I thank all of the people who voted for me from District B, and have put their trust in me in what I am doing, for the simple reason is I want to see South Norwalk grow. I am going to help everywhere I can help. I will be knocking on doors and talking to people in our district.”

 

Melendez adds DTC Vice Chair to her list

Also on the DTC agenda Wednesday was the election of a new DTC vice chairperson following Bill Pappa’s resignation due to a job-related relocation.

In a rematch of the last election cycle, Common Council member Eloisa Melendez (D-District A) fended off a challenge from Kadeem Roberts.

Roberts challenged Democratic Party-endorsed Common Council candidates Melendez and Chris Yerindes last summer, gaining 158 votes to 174 for Yerinides and 197 for Melendez.

Tina Duryea nominated Melendez, saying, “Eloisa inspired me to get more involved in local politics.”

“This has been a tough week to be a Democrat in the United States,” Duryea said. “One of the things that I really appreciate most about Eloisa is that at the end of the day she knows how important it is for Democrats to stick together. She is always looking for ways to do that, even when we disagree on certain things.”

“She is usually politically savvy and knows everybody, both in her district and elsewhere, which I think is an asset,” Andres J. Bermudez-Hallstrom said. “She is the kind of public servant many of us hope to be and she is the kind of young lady who I hope my daughter grows up to be someday.”

“Eloisa is plainly busy all the time and we obviously appreciate her work but I am going to nominate Kadeem Roberts because he has shown an interest in being involved in what’s going on in the city of Norwalk,” Darnell Crosland said. “… He is legally trained, he has master’s degree. He is very well capable of assisting the chair in any kind of duties that may come his way.”
“Kadeem came in a little strong, but it was a breath of fresh air,” Nicole Ayers said. “We have not always agreed but he has always been very true, very professional in his interactions at the district level.”

“I want to be a part of bringing our party together, making us as strong as possible,” Melendez said.

“This is something I always wanted to do, this is a lovely committee,” Roberts said.

The vote was 31 to 17 in favor of Melendez, who is in her third Common Council term.

 

(See video below)

 

Norwalk needs a new budget director

They come, they go – Lunda Paul Asmani began work as Norwalk’s Director of Management and Budgets on Aug. 15 and has already found a job in a neighboring community.

“I recently accepted the position of Budget Director for the Town of New Canaan, the position offers opportunities for personal and professional growth that I could not let pass,” Asmani wrote to the Board of Estimate and Taxation last week. “I would like to give a special thank you to Bob Barron who has been a consummate professional and mentor to me, the City of Norwalk is fortunate to have him.”

Mayor Harry Rilling has commented that it’s difficult to keep department heads, as some wealthier neighboring communities view Norwalk as a training ground from which to scoop up talent.

Asmani replaced Barron, after Barron was promoted to Finance Director. The position had been vacant for a year. Asmani had relocated to Norwalk from Newton, Kansas, where he has been the assistant city manager for budget and finance since 2010, according to his resume.

“Lunda’s last day is July 3rd as he has taken a job with the Town of New Canaan,” Barron wrote to NancyOnNorwalk on Monday. “I appreciated the experience that Lunda brought to Norwalk and I’m sure that this and the experience that he gained in Norwalk will serve him well in his new job with New Canaan.”

“I will remain a resident of Norwalk, a place my family and I have grown to love and enjoy and I will likely continue to see many of you as we go about the business of the community,” Asmani wrote to the BET.

 

 

Lauricella admonishes Burney

A conversation about the Freedom of Information Act on Wednesday led to a brief encounter in a City Hall hallway.

Deb Goldstein made her presence known at the Common Council Ad Hoc Committee meeting on the proposed reorganization of city government, reading from state statute to Committee members and challenging the validity of their planned executive session under the Freedom of Information Act, claiming it didn’t concern confidential personnel matters. Committee Chairman John Kydes (D-District C) said some items would be discussed in private but not all, and the Committee voted four to one – Doug Hempstead again in opposition – to authorize an executive session.

Norwalk Director of Personnel and Labor Relations Ray Burney, left, listens to Diane Lauricella’s complaints Wednesday in City Hall.

Diane Lauricella, for years an activist and member of the Coalition of Norwalk Neighborhood Associations (CNNA) along with Goldstein, observed the proceeding. Sent out of the room along with reporters, the pair sat in the hallway, chatting about the “proper” process for going into an executive session and which Norwalk staff member oversees FOI.

Director of Personnel and Labor Relations Ray Burney had been standing nearby, and walked over and said, “This is why people don’t talk to you. I am standing right here and you’re talking behind my back.”

The conversation was brief, with Goldstein asserting that she was just repeating what he said, and asking, “Did you not say that the Ad Hoc Committee does not have staff?”

“I have nothing to say to either one of you,” Burney replied, walking away.

Lauricella didn’t let it go, getting up after a brief pause to engage Burney for another minute or two.

“Quite frankly, your comment was not welcome and I am going to have to speak with Harry,” Lauricella said to Burney. “I just don’t understand why you are hostile to me, or to Debra, or to anyone. We are trying to help the city and you are staff…. You have a job to do.”

“Thank you for your input,” he replied.

Lauricella sat down and said to NancyOnNorwalk, “It’s no wonder why people don’t come to these meetings, when they are harassed by staff and others.”

4 comments

Diane Lauricella June 28, 2018 at 7:45 am

Thankyou for reporting the FOIA dustup, NON. Wanted to clarify what was said so that this process can be improved going forward.

Mr. Burney interrupted a civil discussion Ms. Goldstein and I were having about FOI with his hostile comments. I offered my opinion to Ms. Goldstein about FOI process based upon my experience studying ways City could improve FOI process almost 10 years ago when I helped LWV hold FOIA training open to citizens and officials. During that time, I spoke to Asst. Corp. Counsel Jeff Spahr about ensuring layman Council members were trained and whether he, as the FOIA officer for City, had regular training sessions and a manual for elected and appointed city officials to read. Last night, I reiterated in hallway that it appears more training was needed.

I repeated that idea to Mr. Burney. I got up to speak to him because he had no right to behave so unprofessionally to citizens that volunteered their time that evening to observe our Council’s deliberations about reorganization.

I stated that it appeared more training was needed, that the staff should help the Council members properly handle this process (although, thinking back, all members of this Ad hoc Committee are incumbents and should already know) and that the staff are paid to do things like this, we citizens voluntarily gave our time and knowledge in order to help.

Lastly, my reference at end as to why citizens do not attend City meetings was related to a general sense that unfortunately the public is not really welcome at certain proceedings for fear of retaliation and our input is often ignored afterwards. Kind of a “check the box” attitude that some (not all) officials deem to have.

This incident reminded me more of a “kill the messenger” attitude. I hope the Council and City Administration will do a bit more introspection about how they and staff could welcome citizen input in ways that count.

For clarification, I have not witnessed this Ad hoc Reorganization Committee become verbally hostile to citizen observers. The public cannot speak to present their suggestions at all and that’s a bummer.

Chairman and Council President Kydes has yet to hold a public hearing to seek citizens input about the Reorg. That might be helpful to our Council as well and go a long way in welcoming citizen input!

PIBerman June 28, 2018 at 12:29 pm

Once again Mayor Rilling will secure a Budget Director by posting the position. Not using Prof. Search to secure Top Talent to govern our City. It’s how Norwalk does business. When is the last time a major City hired away senior City officials ? Top Talent seeks more responsible positions, not moving to small towns.

Debora Goldstein June 28, 2018 at 3:58 pm

Unfortunately, some of the action took place before most of the meeting attendees (including both reporters) had arrived. I had a rather confrontational conversation with Mr. Burney about the FOI issue, which included clarifying who was staff to the Ad Hoc, who was Chair, and who had prepared the agenda. Mr. Burney was respectful, if not forthcoming; but I can see where he may have considered my side of the conversation rude.

Later in the hallway, he was in a position to overhear a brief remark of mine about my dislike of another staff member (who shall remain nameless). Without context, Mr. Burney could not understand how thoroughly and universally poor the public opinion of this staffer is because of this person’s hostility and obstructive approach to members of the public.

So, taken together, at the point when I was relaying my earlier conversation with Mr. Burney, I can understand that he may have been frustrated with what he perceived to be a less than respectful attitude towards staff.

Last night was not my finest moment, for which I am publicly apologizing to Mr. Burney.

However, I stand by my hallway recounting of the earlier dialog with Mr. Burney.

Diane Lauricella should not have been included in his opinion of my actions. She had not said anything about Mr. Burney at any point. I was the only one discussing his actions last evening.

I also stand by my position that the agenda was deficient; that the motion to go into Executive Session was deficient; and that none of the subject matter of the meeting could properly be discussed under Executive Session. FOI is not a nicety, it’s the law.

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