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Norwalk RTC leader alleges perception of ‘pay to play’

Norwalk Republican Town Committee Chairman Mark Suda speaks to Common Council members and citizens attending the Ordinance Committee public hearing Monday in City Hall.

Updated 10:30 p.m.: Comment from Mayor Harry Rilling; 5:35 a.m.: Copy edits, information added

NORWALK, Conn. — There’s a feeling that in Norwalk, you have to “pay to play,” Republican Town Committee Chairman Mark Suda said Monday at a public hearing in City Hall.

Suda, a Norwalk Police officer, made the allegation when speaking to Common Council members at the Ordinance Committee’s public hearing on the proposed Innovation District in the Council chambers, with about 50 people in attendance.

“Perception on street right now, I am not scared to say it, I am going to look you all in the eye,” Suda said. “This is the perception among contractors in this City that are not being used by all of you guys, by City Hall: there’s a perception that to play here, you have to pay. That’s just what the word on the street is.”

NancyOnNorwalk emailed Ordinance Committee members Thursday evening for comment on Suda’s remark.

“I was disturbed by that comment,” Council member Tom Livingston (D-District E) replied. “It’s easy to throw around statements like that. But these are serious allegations and if he has any real facts, he should bring them forward, particularly as a police officer.”

Suda has not replied to a Wednesday email from NancyOnNorwalk or a Thursday evening phone call and email, asking about the comments.

Mayor Harry Rilling, a Democrat, on Thursday promised to look into the remark.  Rilling did not attend the hearing because he had just returned from a week’s vacation, he said Monday.

On Thursday, he said, “No comment on that right now. I want to know exactly what was said and if there is, obviously, even a hint of an impropriety on anybody in my staff, that will be totally unacceptable and we will be looking into this.”

NancyOnNorwalk also asked Common Council President John Kydes (D-District C), who was not at the hearing, for a response. Kydes wrote back, “I’m proud to be serving with council members who make their decisions based on the facts.”

A duty roster contained in the Norwalk Police Department’s 2016 Annual Report lists Suda as a member of the Special Services Unit.  According to the document he was appointed to the Norwalk Police Department in 1993.

On Friday afternoon, Rilling said he’d spoken to Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik about the matter, explaining, “He’s going to look at it and together we will determine what the facts are and whether or not there should be a criminal investigation into these allegations.”

23 comments

Dave McCarthy September 7, 2018 at 7:31 am

Like Captain Renault in Casablanca, they are shocked that this is going on. Shocked that after 80% of Harry’s $1000 donations come from people immediately linked to one Staten Island based Russian developer, who had an easy time of it, people think this. Shocked, I tell you…that when Jason Milligan, who oddly doesn’t give our mayor money, tries to accomplish something without taxpayer dollars, he’s sued. Shocked to hear the rumors about mayoral vacations to Europe over the years and who those travel companions were and who owned the houses. Shocked to hear such a thing when a poor attempt to line up $15M to benefit one development, that’s already planned without incentives, results in citizens getting upset.

Like Donald Trump, I feel that our mayor insists that it’s fake news if you see it, smell it, taste and touch it, but don’t have signed confessions from the transgressors.

V September 7, 2018 at 8:32 am

Whether there is actual truth the ‘Pay for Play’ statement is something only insiders would know. But Mr Suda is not wrong by stating – “word on the street is” because it’s a pretty common thing to hear.

Tysen Canevari September 7, 2018 at 9:09 am

Seems to me that this is the pot calling the kettle black. Last time i looked none of the police pay full price at Dunkin Donuts or Paulies bagels. Is this not pay for play? Goes on everyday in society. Its amazing how the game of politics makes people feel immune.

Lisa Brinton Thomson September 7, 2018 at 9:38 am

Perhaps the best way to lay this ‘rumor’ to rest would be for the mayor to decline any future campaign donations from developers or friends of developers – assuming of course that he is going to run again 🙂

JOHN C ROMANO September 7, 2018 at 11:12 am

My hat is off to Mark Suda for speaking up about the 900 lb gorilla in the room. These rumors have been floating a round in polite circles for some time. So all he did was state a reality. He drew no conclusions other then to also state what the council people (unless they live under a rock) have heard before, so no one should be in shock. I guess to a degree most people are trying to figure out why Norwalk is going down the path of apartment over building, which has of yet not added real money, net money to our tax base once you factor the costs of infrastructure given and paid for by tax payers, schooling for the inhabitants, etc etc etc it is a net loss to the city for years to come. So maybe this is why people are talking and drawing conclusions right or wrong.

John S September 7, 2018 at 3:10 pm

Political theatrics at its worse.

“Word on the street” is that the Republican party in Norwalk is desperate for qualified individuals…starting at the top.

The only competitive edge they hold is that the incumbent Mayor isn’t running for re-election!

Rick September 7, 2018 at 3:12 pm

Just read the news every day a parking lot a street curbing all done by whom? Today it was Woodward ave guess who is replacing side walks and drains along with new curbing one company is doing street signs what is our own Norwalk DPW sign truck doing with welders and stock?

The very same people who are working for the city are those in trouble with zoning.

Kydes wrote back, “I’m proud to be serving with council members who make their decisions based on the facts.”

This is appalling , you have to have all the facts most of the time the gallery provides the facts whats wrong with that picture by then its too late the fix is in’

This is not defensive position Mr Kydes you were not appointed you were elected , it was the taxpayers who sent you there start acting like they count not just the ones who you receive well.

This meadow st fact sheet is out of control we have zoning giving out info given to the health board that doesn’t exist, now the race is who gets the info first the taxpayer or the departments.

Wake up the people running the city needs facts not fiction.

I would suggest to read NON more often the work here is what we expect from city hall , here questions are asked council chambers questions are ignored or not generated as an abundance of generated facts.

Hugh Sling September 7, 2018 at 6:49 pm

How did Rilling utilize the $100,000+ campaign contributions? Signs? TV spots? New suits? Was the unused portion returned to the donors? Who’s making out on this deal anyway? Im just shocked that there could’ve been impropiety.

Tysen Canevari September 7, 2018 at 8:29 pm

3. distributed surplus funds (if any) to a 501(c)(3) charitable organization or to a
501(c)(19) veterans organization or to the Citizens’ Election Fund

This is what is required by law for excess political campaign funds.

Sid welker September 7, 2018 at 10:40 pm

Ken you are spot on. Lisa you are a politician at the end of the day. Someone screen save this. Don’t kid yourself. That comment alone is validating your political career.

Lisa Brinton Thomson September 8, 2018 at 1:11 am

Ken and Sid,
I’ll tell you what and who I am … a pissed off Norwalk resident and homeowner, who is tired of having my town sold off for ten cents on the dollar by two bit politicians, willing to sell it for $1000 a pop. All while taxes go through the roof and we still can’t fund the school system. I’ve put my own money where my mouth is and publish under my own name, spending a fraction of what the mayor did -demonstrating the extra $100k in his campaign coffers went for what exactly? As for developers, I say, bring your ideas and business plans – no need for campaign money or holiday homes.

Newsflash! People are leaving. This state is financially broken; this city is broken by crony politicians who can’t read a balance sheet. Case in point- Look who’s running for governor this year in the two party system? A couple of business guys from the private sector. I ran last year, so I could say to my kids- I fought for their family home and am trying to stay in a city I love. What do either of you stand for?

David T McCarthy September 8, 2018 at 11:31 am

Adam Blank…good point and fair. I never saw that story before, must’ve missed it in the election noise at the time. There was even an unanswered bashing of me in the comments…who knew?

The differences here abound, however. 4K vs 80K to start with. Mayor Moccia didn’t affect your vote on the Lowe’s project, did he? (I think you were still on Zoning…I lazily didn’t check) Nor did he try to sell public land to Lowe’s, nor create some special district to siphon public money to Lowe’s or anyone else. He didn’t travel to Italy with the chairman of Lowe’s etc. The timing is also after, not before, and certainly not ongoing. Likely there were other contributions that fit this pattern that were reflected on both sides of the ballot…something that curiously stopped.

You’re a smart man, but if you want to excuse this, you lose my respect, as these other mindless party driven fools long ago have.

Sid Welker September 8, 2018 at 3:46 pm

I stand for backing a candidate who takes the high ground and doesn’t slander or run the current administration through the mud. I consider myself a Reublican to boot but would never consider giving you my vote due to the way I’ve seen the way you have carried yourself over the past 2-3 year in or on comment section. If Harry would slash taxes and copy your exact agenda, I’m figuring you would still find something to complain about. Sour grapes of not having David McCarthy run you a better campaign will not capture the next election. Sorry my dear.

Tysen Canevari September 8, 2018 at 6:36 pm

The Republican party needs to pick a better leader to be their spokesperson. He couldnt even win a common council seat which is like making a little league team with no cuts. No offense to our wonderful men and women of the police force (many of them friends) but does he not realize the contractors pay $65 an hour to have the police sit in their car while 2 flagmen wave on traffic. They certainly cant be proud of his comments. Political donations are definitely in need of stricter guidelines but not illegal. Campaigns are so expensive that it is needed. They shouldnt be allowed at all. Give each $10000 and may the best person win.

John J. flynn September 9, 2018 at 6:42 am

Pay for Play. Straight up. 100% Yes I agree with a Police Officer it is hard to believe but I have come to know Mr. Suda, respect him for his street sense, which is something that progressive liberals would not understand. They might be book smart. They may have gotten a perfect SAT score, but they have no values, no ethics, and accept gifts, bribes and the never recuse themselves of a great deal for themselves. Self interest, conflict-of-interest and incest.

You shouldn’t have sex with your first cousin.

Thanks Johnny. Mark was 102%.

John J. flynn September 9, 2018 at 6:59 am

I would just like to add two things.

1) Kulhawik was on the board of Firetree, under indicted for laundering $50 mil.
2) At the recent P&Z meeting LaJoie gave testimony that F&G pays him cash, no lease to crush cement without any permit.

Retire and stop collecting your Chief pension on top of your salary as mayor to do nothing.

What is the Status of the criminal money laundering investigation started on 9/30/2000? 1200 stolen checks were cashed. $47 million is missing. I have emails between Harry Rilling and Detective Maloney that say that I should sit in the long line of complaints that will never be investigated.

Pay for Play. How much do I have to Pay? to get you to play? You are in denial.

John J. Flynn 27 Quintard Ave Norwalk Ct 06854. 203-561-0840.

Bill Dunne September 9, 2018 at 4:55 pm

Mark Suda hits the nail on the head.
Anytime a government — any government — sets up a system of favors (valuable tax breaks, for example) to be parceled out only to selected individuals or entities on the basis of their meeting certain criteria, and when judging whether those criteria have been met is in the hands of the government’s officials and bureaucrats, that is a system ripe for potential “pay to play” scenarios. It’s classic.
I’m sure this plan for an Innovation District was designed with the best of intentions. But examples of government good intentions being subverted are countless.
What should also set up alarms is the mayor’s reaction to Suda’s observations. Rilling says he has assigned Police Chief Thomas Kulhowik “to look at it and together we will determine what the facts are and whether or not there should be a criminal investigation into these allegations.”
First of all they are not “allegations”, as I understand the term. Suda has not cited any specific violations of the law or named any names. He has simply referred to “perceptions” he has heard on the street. And as a police detective he is certainly in a position to hear things.
So what is Rilling suggesting? I hope it is not that the police chief should be considering consequences for the chief’s subordinate instead of whether the perceptions have substance.

Sid Welker September 11, 2018 at 4:29 pm

That’s a pretty big accusation. You can throw words around like “word on the street” or I heard it through the grapevine” but every Joe Schmoe knows he has proof right? Unless you have facts Mr. Suda or anyone else backing this claim please present it or stop riding the slander train. Why we’re on this topic, a buddy of mine from Hoboken just got the drop that Little Tommy Ricotta’s mom got caught kissing Santa Claus. But I cant prove it so mums the word!

JJ Pinkerton September 12, 2018 at 12:06 am

I’m not understanding how or why a Norwalk police officer is allowed to accuse the mayor and the people who write his paycheck with shady underhanded illegal dealing; essentially the crime of bribery. And how in heck can this Norwalk police officer be allowed to keep his job while heading up the republican party of all things – the Trump party. Make America White Again.

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