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DPW worker goes to cops over Norwalk official’s ‘threatening behavior’

Hamilton Hasselkamp 007-20130312
Norwalk personnel director James Haselkamp.

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk union members say the behavior of Norwalk personnel director James Haselkamp at a Wednesday meeting was outrageous enough to merit filing a criminal complaint with the Norwalk Police Department.

Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik confirmed a complaint had been filed, but said Friday the case had been closed as there was no probable cause for a criminal charge.

What Kulhawik described as a “heated exchange” started with a comment that Haselkamp had lied, Department of Public Works employees say. They say Haselkamp shoved a table at the DPW employee who said it, leaned over the table and put his finger close to the employee’s face and screamed at the group as they left a room on the first floor of City Hall.

Haselkamp denies it.

The incident came the same afternoon the members of the Norwalk Police union met to endorse former Norwalk Police Chief Harry Rilling for mayor, saying they have been treated unfairly by the city, that they deserve respect. Norwalk firefighters said the same things Monday as they endorsed Rilling over incumbent Republican Mayor Richard Moccia. A Norwalk councilman said Haselkamp is the root of their complaints, that Haselkamp is costing Moccia votes.

“I think a lot of the mayor’s problems are a direct result of the personnel director,” Council Minority Leader David Watts (D-District A) said.

“There was an incident,” Haselkamp said in an email. “The union instigated the incident by verbally abusing me and in response there was an exchange where voices were raised.”

Members of the American Federation of State and Municipal Employees Local 2405 say they met with Haselkamp and representatives of CIGNA insurance Wednesday to go over the cost of their insurance package, negotiated last spring as part of their new contract. Terrance Fuller, a Local 2405 executive board member, said that he called Haselkamp a liar and turned to walk away.

Haselkamp had also been walking away but came back and shoved the table into him, Fuller said. “I’m no one’s liar,” Fuller quoted Haselkamp as saying. “Who are you to be calling me a liar?” He told the DPW workers to “Get your stuff and get out,” Fuller said.

There were about 40 people at the meeting, the union members say. DPW Acting Superintendent of Operations Chris Torre, who is not in the union, said he was one of them. He corroborated the union members’ side of the story.

Torre said he was next to Haselkamp, Fuller and the others, but had his back to them. He was leaning against a 6-foot-long table. The table suddenly moved a foot to the left, he said, forcing his to regain his balance. Haselkamp used a profanity as he yelled at the exiting DPW workers, telling them to leave the room, he said. “Get the —- out of here,” Haselkamp said according to  Torre. Haselkamp’s finger was five inches from Fuller’s face, Torre said.

Local 2405 Treasurer/Secretary Eric Montgomery was also there, as was President Milt Giddeons. Both said Fuller did not get aggressive in return.

“He did the right thing by not saying anything or not doing anything to retaliate against him because the city of Norwalk has a no-tolerance policy,” Montgomery said. “But obviously they tolerate this stuff. It all depends where it’s coming from.”

Montgomery said if a union member had behaved as Haselkamp did, he would be suspended.

Giddeons said he was “very, very saddened” and “upset” that this happened in front of so many people.

“It was uncalled for, unprofessional behavior,” he said. “It was disturbing to see that type of behavior.”

Haselkamp’s email tells a different story.

“I was nowhere near the member’s face as we were never closer than three or four feet apart,” he wrote late Thursday. “My version of the events can be corroborated by many witnesses. In fact, many of their members came to me and apologized for their conduct.”

NancyOnNorwalk promptly wrote back to ask for contact information for those witnesses. Haselkamp did not reply.

Moccia was copied on all the inquiries to Haselkamp. He has had no comment.

Montgomery and Fuller went to police headquarters Friday evening to check on the status of the investigation. The desk sergeant could not tell them anything. The file was locked, according to Sgt. Bruce Hume, meaning that it was only accessible to those officers directly involved in the case.

A short while later, Kulhawik answered a NancyOnNorwalk inquiry.

“After reviewing the investigation the officer’s supervisor determined that the case would be closed with no further action and I reviewed and concurred,” Kulhawik wrote. “There is no probable cause to support any criminal charges. It appears to be simply a very brief heated exchange of words.”

Union members said that was odd.

“They haven’t questioned us, so as far as I am concerned, it’s a little crazy,” Montomery said. “It’s a little weird that we haven’t been questioned. I don’t know why they’re waiting to investigate it.”

Fuller said the tension stemmed from the cost of insurance under the new contract. The numbers presented at Wednesday’s meeting were much higher than they had been led to expect, he said.

“He didn’t have actual numbers during the negotiation,” Fuller said. “He said, ‘Well, I can’t give you actual numbers of what the high deductible plan is going to be at this time.’ So we’re like, ‘How are we going to negotiate without actual numbers? It doesn’t make sense.’”

Haselkamp provided predictions from an actuary during the negotiations, Fuller and Montgomery said. Haselkamp denied that he had provided the numbers, which led to the liar comment, they said.

Montgomery said the comment was justified.

“We knew he was lying to us,” he said. “We knew about the paperwork.”

Fuller had a copy of the prediction they had been given, they said. He produced that paperwork before calling Haselkamp a liar, they said.

Why go to the cops?

“I felt threatened,” Fuller said. “I mean, he runs the city. He’s my boss’s boss’s boss’s boss. Yes, I felt it was definitely needed for me to come over here and give a statement and make a complaint.”

Montgomery said union members will check back on Monday to see what they can do about getting the complaint investigated further.

Comments

30 responses to “DPW worker goes to cops over Norwalk official’s ‘threatening behavior’”

  1. amazed

    It is not surprising to me Mayor Moccia has aggressive Management Staff on his team. All the more reason for the Mayor to move on. Would the outcome have been the same if Local 2405 members finger was in Haselkamps face? I don’t think so.

  2. Don’t Panic

    Negotiating a contract without numbers is near impossible for labor, but council members authorize city contracts all the time without reading them first, so I suppose this practice may have spread to other aspects of governing. Let’s hope cooler heads prevail.

  3. Oldtimer

    No City should be represented by anyone with that short a fuse. Neither side needs to have statements made during negotiations that are not true. If Hasselkamp pushed furniture around, he should be removed from his position as the City’s representative. The union is careful to keep their hot-heads away from negotiations. Next time Hasselkamp looses control, somebody could get hurt and the City will be liable.

  4. Suzanne

    Business as usual in our dear Town of Norwalk with the Moccia Administration. OR, maybe Mr. Haselkamp needs anger management classes. Either way, this does not speak to the “civility” nor the “transparency”, see the discussion about numbers or nonexistent numbers and the high deductible health plan, touted as the standard for interchange between entities that govern/work in this town. This is just embarrassing.

  5. RU4REAL

    This is why we cannot let Moccia win, Haselcamp is a mean spirited guy to workers of the city and everyone knows it.
    If Moccia was smart he would remove both him and his assistant;… get them both out before the election and you may have a chance (not really).
    Never happen, Moccia can blame him to keep the heat off himself, even though we know better, leadership reflects attitudes. …

  6. Tim K

    Couldn’t agree more with the comments above. The official response seems disingenuous.

  7. D(ysfunctional)TC

    Here come the partisan pit-bulls blaming this on Moccia. If one of their own punches an 80 year old and shoves another 80 year old lady onto the concrete, that’s ok.

  8. Mr Norwalk Ct

    This is such a no issue. What it is however is the union looking for attention, much like the police and fire unions. I have to wonder if the Rilling supporters are so desperate that they are attempting to make this an issue about Moccia.

  9. Tim K

    Mr Norwalk Ct: Maybe the unprofessional behavior of a high-ranking city staff member is not a news story – on that I agree. But it still should not be tolerated and treated as acceptable. I don’t work in an environment where a professional colleague at that level would ever act in that manner. They would take the high road when confronted by a subordinate and I wish that my city representatives would do the same. You get what you give.

    1. Mark Chapman

      Re: News story or no?

      Editors have to ask that question every day. If this had been an incident between people in private business it would not be a story unless an arrest were made. However, one of the things we have in our mission statement is to let Norwalk’s taxpayers know how their business is being conducted by the people they are paying or the people they are electing to serve. In other words, do you care if someone whose salary you are paying or who you are voting into office conducts him or herself in this manor? Maybe not. Maybe you do. But, because you are paying for it, or voting for it, you have a right to have that information. That is why the Brawl at City Hall was news. There were no arrests. No one pressed charges. But it involved people who were asking for your votes. Thus, it was news.

  10. Joe Espo

    I see this as leadership-with brass- dedicated toward tempering a union’s enthusiasm to raid our treasury, and who’s paycheck-taking members don’t live in our town and don’t care how much of our elderly parent’s social security pittance goes toward their cushy Cadillac health insurance, prescription benefits, pensions, sick days, vacation days and automatic non-meritorious pay raises. What fools some of us were to spend sums and time to study engineering, medicine, law and journalism only to be laid off and cast off because we didn’t have that “contract” that would let us feed from that trough of the municipal dole for life.

  11. cc-rider

    Joe Espo- did you read the article? Please define “high deductible” plan for all of us? Does your post have anything merit in this context?

  12. Oldtimer

    “journalism only to be laid off” ? That explains a lot about Joe Espo’s attitude toward unions and employees with contracts.
    Haselkamp is the wrong person for negotiations, and it is way past time he was replaced. He assaults somebody again, somebody will probably get hurt and the City will be liable. Wouldn’t it be really ironic if some employee won disability retirement because the City’s negotiator couldn’t control his temper ?
    Is that how he lost prior similar jobs in Stamford and Waterbury ?

  13. Suzanne

    Mr. Espo, Don’t you think a more effective way to “lead” would be to stay calm and reiterate the facts of the situation? To logically go through the points refuting what is not accurate or affordable and agreeing with what is? Violence and losing one’s temper gets you what? There was no resolution to this conference, no agreement reached because the representative from the town lost his temper, pushed a table around and then proceeded to yell, apparently a lot. Now, that maybe the way children solve their issues but usually someone who is an adult intervenes and says something like, “Calm down. Use your words” or separates them until they can (requiring, I might add, an apology for the initial conflict.) This man accomplished exactly zip for us as taxpayers and certainly didn’t curtail “a union’s enthusiasm to raid our treasury.” Rather, he put chum in the waters leaving the town vulnerable by his poor behavior. Who do you think now has the upper hand in negotiations? The ones who remained calm and reasonable, trying to come to an agreement? Or the guy who lost it, pointed his finger in the calm guy’s face, pushed furniture around, etc.? His behavior is not a good negotiating tactic and I don’t think you would find it as a successful model in any textbook on labor salary and benefit negotiations. We lost in this one. We lost big. Mr. Haselkamp now has to finagle his way back to that table, this time with ALL of the information required in order for EVERYONE to know what they are working toward, and he should do it with an apology, no rancor and good intentions. There are plenty of ways to respond with something with which one disagrees without resorting to violent behavior.

  14. Tim T

    I can understand how Mr. Haselkamp could get to the point that he did. We can clearly see how municipal unions and their members are impossible to deal with. The unions only have one purpose which is to get more and more for their member on the backs of the taxpayer all while doing less and less. I do agree with old timer that it is way past time that Haselkamp be replaced. However most likely not for the same reason. I feel that Haselkamp should be replaced with someone that will totally put the unions in their place and hopefully break them. A Chris Cristy type would be best as that’s exactly what he did in NJ. This should happen well before the police union takes more and more from the taxpayer in their contract negotiations.

  15. You may want to check your facts

    Tim T, what has the unions cost you as a tax payer. Can you please be specific? No more broad claims, please specifically state how the unions have cost YOU money and further, can you outline how and how much money it will save the city by “breaking” the unions.

    You do realize that unions are one of the strongest resins that a middle class was ever established, right?

  16. EveT

    @D(ysfunctional)TC: it was asphalt, not concrete.

  17. To everyone so upset about a little finger wagging…
    *
    What, NO outrage and calling for resignations when the bully DTC chairwoman PUNCHES THE SNOT OUT OF SENIOR CITIZENS WITH A WEAPON and yet they are all nilly-willy about air finger waving….
    *
    Wow – aren’t you a bunch.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @Irish Girl, Tim T

      Thanks for the opening here. Someone DID call for the resignations of the three Democrats involved in the Brawl at City Hall.

      https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2013/07/opinion-rush-to-assign-guilt-is-wrong-but-dem-leaders-should-resign/

      We would remind you and all readers of a few facts:

      1. The 3 Dems were and are not on the city payroll, so they were not taking taxpayer money while behaving badly. None of the participants reported it to police — that was done by a witness. No one pressed charges.
      2. Haselkamp is a paid city department head who reports to the mayor and is responsible to the taxpayers. The alleged victim filed the complaint and, we were told, said a table had been shoved into him before Haselkamp waved his finger inches from his face. Haselkamp said he was never closer than 3 feet. Chief Kulhawik said the case, the file for which was locked and not accessible to anyone other than the investigation officer(s) and the commanders, has been closed because “no probable cause was found” for a charge.

      In either version, the alleged assault or disturbance does not rise to a battery like the Brawl, but there was an angry, some felt threatening, physical outburst in the course of doing city business. It will be interesting to see if there is discipline. Stay tuned for more to the story.

  18. Break the Unions

    It’s time the unions get a reality check. They need to realize that the taxpayers have had it with them picking our pockets.

  19. Mike Rotch

    You want cost to the Taxpayer? How about the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Union members get medical coverage for $10/month; Copay of $10 per visit; $5 copay for prescriptions and a $600 gift from the City in an FSA to pay for out of pocket expenses. How about that pension? Shall I continue?

  20. Mike Rotch

    Haselkamp needs to go. There is no room for this type of behavior.

  21. Tim T

    irishgirl
    It was not one but 2 senior citizens as I recall??? Also let us not forget that Rilling never condemned this horrid behavior. This is one of the many reasons that I will not be voting for the Democrat for the first time in my life.

  22. Tim T

    Mark
    Two very important facts that you forget
    The brawl happened on city property. Also that the Head of the DTC is responsible to its members .

    I find it odd that she was not arrested as I have seen people get arrested for less. Just this past year a friend of mine was arrested for an altercation during a baseball game at the beach. Neither wanted to press charges and no one was hurt. Also the individuals involved were far far from senior citizens. This smells of favoritism by the NPD and no one will convince me different. This was disgraceful and not even in the same ballpark as shoving a table and pointing a finger. However he did say that bad word. I am not condoning his bad behavior as a HR manger however I do understand how he could have lost it especially if the union was involved.

    Who would have ever thought irishgirl and I would be on the same side on something.

  23. Tim T

    Mark
    Sorry forgot to add. I just checked your link and if I am reading it correct Rilling did not condemn Amanda’s behavior and as far as I know still has not. I find that odd for someone who was paid to arrest people for 41 years for just this type of thing.

    1. Mark Chapman

      Tim,

      Rilling has said a couple times since then that because no one actually witnessed the entire incident and none of the parties wanted to press charges, the police could not arrest anyone. Rilling said that, as he was not there, it would be inappropriate to try to judge anyone. Remember, Amander cast doubt on whether she actually pushed Mrs. Krummel and said that Mr. Krummel used a racial slur and slapped her before she hit him. Again, the classic he said, she said. No one knows for sure. To say “Amanda’s behavior” reveals an unsubstantiated bias.

  24. @ Mark:
    Rationalize it all you want – you posted some condemning photos – and believing that she “cast doubt” is at best trying to cover up a lie.
    *
    As for your comment that they “are not on the city payroll” is EXTREMELY lousy reasoning for not asking for resignations…. I have to say if that is your liberal spin on why they weren’t prosecuted, then all bullies in Norwalk (including in schools) are safe because “no one got physically hurt” – RATIONALIZATION AT THE LIBERALS BEST…. wow, sorry bunch.
    *
    And all that dribble you posted about “not being there”, “unsubstancial biased” ,,, blah, blah, blah….
    REALLY ??????? I am so utterly amazed at your attempt to boonsnaggle the public … and to say you aren’t biased…. LOL!!

    1. Mark Chapman

      @Irish girl

      I wasn’t going to respond to any more of these accusations, but your post this morning is just so far off from the facts…

      You said no one called for the resignations of those involved in the Brawl at City Hall. I posted the link. I called for the resignations of all three. You say I am trying to mislead people and cover things up? READ THE ARTICLE.

      Biased? We broke the damned story about the bad behavior of DEMOCRATS, which was picked up statewide and nationally and linked back to our site. We called for resignations. And we have not yet called for Haselkamp’s head because, despite his history, there is no hard evidence of an actual assault and battery, only of pushing a table into someone and having a tantrum.
      As for this: “As for your comment that they “are not on the city payroll” is EXTREMELY lousy reasoning for not asking for resignations….[WE CALLED FOR THE RESIGNATIONS] I have to say if that is your liberal spin on why they weren’t prosecuted, then all bullies in Norwalk (including in schools) are safe because “no one got physically hurt” – [WHAT? TWO PEOPLE WERE HURT; WE WROTE THAT AND IT WAS IN THE STORY I POSTED THE LINK TO. THE RATIONAL WAS NO ONE WITNESSED IT AND NO ONE SIGNED A COMPLAINT. I SAID NO ONE GOT HURT IN HASELKAMP’S INCIDENT]

      LOL is so correct, though. It’s what we do whenever highly partisan commenters say WE are biased. Facts are the enemy of partisanship and, as the birthers continue to prove, there is no fact in the world than cannot be denied when your partisanship is strong enough.

  25. Where’s OLIVIA POPE…..if she was in the house..these bad mannered, bad boys,would be far in the whole!!!!!!

  26. Norwalk Lifer

    You are all getting away from the real issue here, this is a “negotiator” who is also the head of human resources for the City of Norwalk.

    To think that a human resource director in a public corporation, actually have police officers summoned due to a physical altercation, is unheard of.

    That person would be either on leave or dismissed.

    It’s that simple, work in the free market and see the real reason for all these “regulations” it’s called law suit.

    Regards
    Norwalk Lifer

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