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At least three Norwalkers ask: Where’s the Council meeting?

Tuesday’s Common Council meeting on Zoom. Council member Bryan Meek (R-District D) joined the meeting about 17 minutes after it started, after arriving on time in City Hall only to find the room empty.

Updated, 2:23 p.m., 3:03 p.m., 4:08 p.m.: More information.

NORWALK, Conn. — Tuesday’s Common Council meeting was “illegal,” in the opinion of its sole Republican member, Bryan Meek.

Meek, appointed to represent District D after Council member Tom Keegan retired and moved to Florida during his second term, was in City Hall at about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, asking fellow traveler NancyOnNorwalk, “Where’s the Council meeting?”

Although the meeting agenda listed City Hall as the location of the 7:30 p.m. hybrid meeting, the Council Chamber doors were locked. A custodian opened the door for NoN, showing only darkness in the chamber. Security guards were unable to offer any explanation to Meek.

The City’s YouTube channel did not display an ongoing meeting.

About 20 minutes later, Mayor Harry Rilling explained in a text message, “Virtual widespread internet outage so we couldn’t do hybrid.” NoN asked why the apparently ongoing meeting wasn’t on YouTube and within minutes, it appeared.

Turns out, Council President Greg Burnett (D-At Large) had sent Council members an email at 6:22 p.m., telling them to attend the meeting by Zoom and not go to City Hall.

“{W}e were notified 68 minutes prior,” Meek said in an email. “I was on the road and did not get this in time to adjust.  People I know who live next door had internet.  I guess we’re just special.  Maybe 3.4 million for four traffic lights will fix the problem.  This appears to be the new norm.  I don’t recall CC meetings ever being moved last minute with short notice because CC TV wasn’t working.  My view is that this was an illegal meeting if the Covid orders are no longer in effect.”

Under the Freedom of Information Act, meetings must be accurately noticed to give the public a chance to participate.

Activist Diane Lauricella, a City Hall Zoom veteran who attends more meetings than any other nonparticipant, reported that she had tried to log into the meeting but was unsuccessful. She gave up.

Another citizen confirmed that City Hall had no Internet that evening. She was in a City Hall meeting at about that time, not open to the general public and not broadcast to YouTube, and was told the Internet was out.

“We were informed in the early evening by IT that the Internet service was unavailable at City Hall,” Burnett said in an email to NancyOnNorwalk. “We did not have any estimated time when the service would be restored or if the outage was wide spread across the City.  If we continued to meet in the Council Chambers we would not have access to Zoom and members of the public would not be able to utilize the Zoom access link to participate. We made the decision at 6:10 PM to not meet in the Council Chambers and utilize the Zoom link to participate in the meeting. Council Members, City staff and Norwalk residents were able to utilize the Zoom link remotely to attend the meeting and participate in the Council meeting.”

Norwalk Bike/Walk Commission Chairman Tanner Thompson did get into the Zoom meeting, as the only member of the public to speak to the Council. Other citizens, who were being appointed or reappointed to Boards and Commissions, utilized the Zoom link and were allowed to appear as participants.

Norwalk Director of Communications Michelle Woods Matthews said Friday that she was on the Zoom meeting and could see “a number of attendees” beyond the Council members and other participants. The last-minute cancellation was advertised on social media and on the City’s website.

In addition to emails, every Council member was also notified by a phone call, she said. Meek was called at 6:25 p.m. and a voicemail was left.

Meek responded via email:

“If they did, they didn’t leave a message on any of my phone numbers.

“Regardless, the reverse 311 system has been used for less.

“I’m over it.  I’ll just try to remember to check FB or my email for the next excuse.”

 

He later corrected himself, saying he’d gotten a phone call from a 516 area code. He added:

“Again, I’m over it.  Things happen.

“But the reverse should have happened.

“The meeting should have been in person and videotaped like the old days for later broadcast.”

 

The agenda informed the public that they’d be able to attend by Zoom.

Woods Mathews said Internet was out in “certain areas” of Norwalk.

Although the Council meeting wasn’t being broadcast live until Rilling was alerted to its absence, the Board of Education meeting happening simultaneously was online without any issue. The BoE was in Tracey Elementary School, not City Hall.

8 comments

Drew Todd January 13, 2023 at 7:59 am

So no Internet means the business of the City is hidden from the people!? WTH?! Stop with the freaking Zoom nonsense get to City Hall and conduct the business you were all elected to! The meeting would have been videoed for YouTube to watch later or maybe someone should have called the garbage service of Altice or Optiimum or whatever they call themselves.

Joe Tamburri January 13, 2023 at 11:02 am

How about we all get back to real time meetings and avoid all the confusion you can’t seem to resolve?

Fred Wilms January 13, 2023 at 3:22 pm

It is way past time for City government meetings to revert back to in-person. Lose the fake zoom backgrounds, change from sweat pants to adult clothing, jump in the car and drive 5 minutes to City Hall.

Johnny cardamone January 13, 2023 at 3:45 pm

Sounds like the democratic mafia is hard at work🥵👎🏽 I wonder if any of them have a Corvette in their garage?💩🙈

Skip Hagerty January 14, 2023 at 6:59 am

Maybe they should make everything at city hall virtual. Use technology so all the employees can work from home. Then, tear down the building and build more apartments to increase the tax base.

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