Updated, 9:15 a.m.: Copy edits
NORWALK, Conn. – Some Norwalk Common Council news for you:
- Carr approved, while process criticized
- Straniti moves to Ethics Commission
- Public speaking confrontation
Carr hired as new Chief of Operations and Public Works
Anthony Robert Carr was approved Tuesday to replace retired Department of Public Works director Bruce Chimento and become Norwalk’s first Chief of Operations and Public Works.
Carr will begin work on Monday, Mayor Harry Rilling said, explaining that DPW Principal Engineer Lisa Burns and DPW Superintendent of Operations Chris Torre met Carr and were impressed by his “resume and style.”
Carr has been Deputy Commissioner of Public Works and City Engineer for White Plains since October 2015, Commissioner of Public Works for the Village of Croton-on-Hudson from January 2015 to October 2015, and village engineer for Mamaroneck from March 2013 to January 2015, his resume states. He’s a licensed professional engineer in New York and Connecticut as well as a certified floodplain manager.
Public Works Committee Chairman John Igneri (D-District E) read from a recommendation he said he’d received for Carr from a former Mamaroneck Councilman who now lives in Norwalk: “He has never given me any reason to doubt his advice or his sincerity in always wanting the best for the public. In the time I worked with him, he did not hesitate to deal with tough issues and to work long odd hours to get vital projects done. When non-engineers had questions, he took the time to explain them in ways we can understand.’”
“That’s what the Council needs,” Igneri interjected, continuing, “’When a member of the public made it his mission to make Anthony’s life miserable, Anthony always took the high road, made sure the man’s concerns were addressed and did not let the abuse affect his work.’ I think those are attributes we need for the head of DPW.”
Council President Tom Livingston (D-District E) said he was impressed by Carr’s work ethic, and called the flooding expertise, “certainly something that is near and dear to our hearts.”
Rilling said that Minority Leader Doug Hempstead (R-District D) had been invited to meet Carr but the scheduling didn’t work out.
“I find it sometimes a little unfair that sometimes the chosen few get the chance versus the committee that is earmarked to at least pass this on,” Hempstead said.
The Personnel Committee at its last meeting queried Director of Personnel and Labor Relations Ray Burney about the process for major appointments. Personnel Committee Chairwoman Barbara Smyth (D-At Large) called the appointment of Norwalk Chief of Economic and Community Development Jessica Casey a “hiccup,” as Casey was presented to the Council at the last minute.
Burney said that was due to the holiday schedule and promised that the Committee would in the future have the opportunity to meet with selected candidates.
Straniti leaves Zoning, heads for Ethics
Former Common Council member Kelly Straniti resigned from the Zoning Commission on Tuesday and was appointed to the Ethics Commission in a unanimous vote.
She can’t serve on both, Rilling said. He called the moment “bittersweet” as it’s “difficult to see her step down” but “knowing her ethics and her bipartisanship and her knowledge of Norwalk, and has been stated, she has the propensity to do the right thing at all times even when nobody is looking.”
Hempstead echoed Rilling’s disappointment that Straniti will not serve on Zoning, but agreed that she is well-suited to the Ethics Commission. “There is probably not a more ethical person I can think of,” Hempstead said.
Council member Greg Burnett (D-At Large) cited Straniti’s Council and business experience, and said she has an “outstanding record of serving Norwalk.”
Council member Darlene Young (D-District B) said she’d worked with Straniti when Straniti was on the Council and Young was assistant city clerk.
“She carries herself in an ethical way and works in a bipartisan way. … she is an outstanding person and I think the best person for this position,” Young said.
Straniti was the Republican candidate for Mayor in 2015.
A little yelling
Tuesday’s public speaking session was a tad raucous. Real estate broker and vocal opponent of the Wall Street-West Avenue Redevelopment Plan Jason Milligan approached the lectern out-of-turn to complain that he didn’t realize that there was a sign-up sheet. Milligan was allowed to speak after the list was completed, and Donna Smirniotopoulos and others requested the same courtesy and rebuked Rilling.
“I just closed public comment,” Rilling said, after an hour of public comment, as multiple voices objected and Smirniotopoulos walked to the lectern and said that procedure is to ask if anyone else wants to speak.
“I know the rules, I used to sit there,” former Council member Steve Serasis called out from the last row. “You need to ask everybody if they want to speak.”
“That’s not the way it’s normally done, but we try to do that, when we have a few people,” Rilling said.
Smirniotopoulos went on to talk about the Garden Cinema and charged corruption on the part of JHM Group, the expected developer of Wall Street Place (known to many as “POKO”), whose owner, John McClutchy, has made multiple large donations to prominent Democrats. She also touched on Firetree’s lawsuit against the City.
“However you vote tonight, I am grateful for the opportunity to blow the lid off the City’s culture of secrecy, intimidation, misrepresentations, obfuscations and outright bullying,” Smirniotopoulos said. “When we allow elected and appointed officials, and City staff to push us around, to evade the truth, to suppress public comment, we have forfeited our democracy.”
John DiScala also spoke, hewing to the Wall Street-West Avenue Plan agenda item.
Besides the names and players, everything is the same on Wall Street as it was 30 years ago, he said.
“Don’t let one bad apple spoil the whole bunch, so if you think that POKO is the bad apple, don’t let developers like ourselves who have put our name and our reputation on the line throughout our history of Norwalk, and done nothing but good for Norwalk, don’t let that bad apple ruin the DiScala name and what we have done for Norwalk, because we have done a lot of good for Norwalk and this helps developers like us.”