Updated, 1:43 p.m., comment from Colarossi
NORWALK, Conn. – A renegade Republican Board of Education member up for re-election under a different flag says the actions of Norwalk Republican leadership show why Norwalk needs his new party, the Norwalk Community Values Party, and its candidates.
Norwalk Republican Town Committee Chairman Art Scialabba announced Monday via The Hour newspaper that he may throw BOE member Steve Colarossi out of the Republican Party. Colarossi stressed in a Tuesday email that he feels Scialabba’s attempts to influence the Board of Education are wrong and show that Norwalk needs him and his running mate, Andres Roman.
Colarossi referred to the RTC’s endorsement of Democrat Bruce Kimmel for an at-large Common Council seat in his letter, which is printed in its entirety here.
“Let’s put aside the sheer hypocrisy that a political party that has just nominated an outspoken member of the opposing party wants a different rule applied to candidates who defect from their ranks,” he wrote. “And, let’s put aside the unmitigated chutzpah of a local party flack who is somehow so taken with the trappings of his post (by vote of less than 100 people) that he alone is to decide the political parties in which one might register in our otherwise open and free democracy. But, then again, this is the same political club that is refusing to allow its Board of Education candidates to run their own individual campaigns and is, instead, directing and controlling their four candidates’ campaigns.”
Scialabba indicated Tuesday that ousting Colarossi is only a possibility.
“We have several options, and nothing that has to be done right away,” he said in an email.
Scialabba provided a document outlining the procedure, a “Discretionary erasure or exclusion from enrollment list for lack of good-faith party affiliation; citation and hearing,” which requires the involvement of the registrar of voters. He said he had never done it before, but that Mayor Richard Moccia had done it when he was RTC chairman.
“I believe that anyone can join any political party,” Scialabba said. “But when you have formed a new political party, and are running candidates against our endorsed Republican slate, you either remove yourself from the Republican roles or we should have the option to do that for you. You can’t be a member of two political parties.”
To support his claim of Scialabba attempting to influence the BOE, Colarossi provided an email Scialabba sent to Republican BOE members last October.
“I wanted to pass along to you the unanimous and strong recommendation of the Mayor and the RTC Executive Committee that the leadership positions on the Board of Education remain unchanged for the upcoming year (i.e., Jack as Chair and Artie as Vice Chair),” Scialabba wrote, referring to Jack Chiaramonte and Artie Kassimis. “As recent events on the Zoning Commission have shown, changes in key boards can have unforeseen consequences that can be potentially damaging to the interests of the City and of the Party.”
The RTC chairman went on to say that the board was at a “critical juncture,” with contracts to negotiate, a superintendent to find and finances to straighten out, not to mention the retreat that was planned to encourage teamwork with the board.
“With all this going on, a change of leadership is likely to looked at negativity by the general public, could lead to confusion among employees of the school system as well as parents, as on top of all the things I’ve already mentioned they would have to deal with new Board officers and leadership styles,” Scialabba wrote. “There is certainly no urgent reason to change your officers, and we feel strongly that some stability is required among all these other changes; re-electing the current leadership would strongly signal that continuity.”
Lyons said he didn’t expect any personal payback for that.
“I don’t foresee any problem for me with the RTC,” he said in an email. “Both parties’ leaders periodically make recommendations to members of all boards; sometimes we agree, sometimes we don’t. The DTC chair contacted the Democratic members of the BoE at the time of the last chairmanship election with her own recommendations, too, for instance.”
Democratic BOE members Migdalia Rivas and Rosa Murray abstained from the vote.
Lyons said both parties have used the procedure to terminate someone’s affiliation in Connecticut, although he wasn’t aware of it happening in Norwalk before.
“I fully appreciate the desire for party loyalty,” he said. “We’ve seen a big push for that in the local Democratic Party, with its ‘loyalty oath’ and Warren Peña’s openly stated support for denying renomination to insufficiently ‘loyal’ Democratic office-holders (e.g., Carvin Hilliard). Scialabba’s comment shows a similar belief in enforcing party discipline. Like most things in politics, you probably should look for a middle ground. Kicking Steve off the Republican registration list would probably be going too far, but I would agree that if Steve is running himself and another candidate against his own party that it is inappropriate for him to remain a member of that party’s own Town Committee.”
Colarossi confirmed Wednesday that he in on the RTC.
He said, “However, out of respect for my friends on the RTC, I haven’t been to any meetings since working on Norwalk Community Values.”