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Hartford lawyer pushing back at city of Norwalk

By Nancy Guenther Chapman

NORWALK, Conn. – A Hartford lawyer hired by the city of Norwalk to handle a federal lawsuit concerning a controversial plan to build a mosque in a Norwalk neighborhood has sent an email to Corporation Counsel Robert Maslan and others complaining that his emails are not being returned and asserting that a settlement has been worked out.

The email from Thomas R. Gerarde of Howd and Ludorf LLC was sent to the Common Council, Mayor Richard Moccia, Corporation Counsel Robert Maslan, members of the legal department and Adam Blank of the Zoning Commission.

Here is the text of the email:

Bob,

I have not been contacted by replacement counsel and am still counsel of record.  Kevin Tighe emailed me today that he is not going to be representing the city.

I was told by CIRMA (Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency) today that your position is the city does not have a settlement  to discuss and to which it should either provide its consent or withhold its consent.  I’m not sure where the communication has broken down, but this is not factually correct.

The Plaintiff, Al Madany Islamic Center, has agreed to the terms set forth below, and CIRMA has agreed to pay the $100,000 cash piece, so it is up to the city to meet and vote to consent of not to consent to the settlement.  As the city  and the Zoning Commission are my clients, I would like to be sure they are apprised of all settlement opportunities, and I am concerned that our communication lines have broken down as you have not responded to my last three emails.

The settlement terms set forth below are still agreed to by the plaintiff, and CIRMA has still agreed to pay the $100,000 settlement monies.  Therefore, it is necessary for that to be communicated to the city, and addressed at a Common  Council meeting for a vote to consent or not to consent.

Please have this matter added to the agenda of the Common  Council meeting for Tuesday Jan. 22, 2013.  If you would like me to attend that meeting to answer any questions I will do so, please let me know.

As this information is critical to the city and the  Zoning Commission, I have copied the mayor and a number of the public officials, to be sure the settlement opportunity is communicated and understood.  I am available to answer any questions you or anyone who gets a copy of this email may have, and my contact information is  below.

As you know, the Zoning Commission  met on Nov. 29, 2012 and passed the resolution set forth in paragraph 2 below.  A final meeting with the zoning commission should be scheduled if the city votes to consent to the settlement.  The Common Council  vote is limited to the monetary part of the settlement so the motion should be  a motion to consent to the $100,000 settlement agreed to by CIRMA in the case of Al Madany Islamic Center v. City of Norwalk et al., and either it passes or does not pass.

Here are the terms, and the referenced attachment is attached to this email as well.:

1.        Defendants agree to pay Plaintiff $100,000 as full compensation for all claims for damages, costs and attorneys’ fees.

2.        Defendants agree to consent to the entry of a Consent Judgment and other orders that will direct permits to be issued to allow construction of the Mosque and accessory building on Plaintiffs property on Fillow Street, as evidenced by the vote by the Norwalk Zoning Commission, 6-1 in favor, on the following:

“Subject to an agreement on the terms and conditions of the final settlement agreement, we consent to a resolution to allow for zoning approval for the mosque and accessory use building.” which vote was taken on November 29, 2012.

3.        Plaintiff agrees to the  parking plan outlined in the “non-binding term sheet”  as follows:

The Parties agree that Al Madany’s planned 89 parking spaces are sufficient under the applicable zoning regulations for gatherings of up to 435 people on the Property.  In the event that Al Madany expects the attendance of more than 435 people on the Property, Al Madany agrees to follow a parking plan, which shall be described in the Settlement Agreement to be executed by the Parties, to satisfy the need for additional parking.  However, nothing herein shall be construed as a representation or admission by Al Madany that it plans to use the Property for events in which an excess of 435 people will be on the premises.  Instead, Al Madany reaffirms that its congregation size is such that it does not foresee any events in which the attendance would exceed 435 individuals, and further reaffirms that no concurrent worship programming will be held in the two buildings.  Al Madany agrees to provide a parking plan proposal solely as reassurance to Defendants and to provide for a rare and unforeseen event in the future.

If an event is held at the Property at which more than 89 cars are anticipated, attendees will be instructed to park their cars at the Maritime Garage municipal parking facility in Norwalk or another municipal parking facility.  Al Manday will then run shuttle buses, at its own expense, between the parking location and the Property.  At the conclusion of each event, Al Madany will return attendees to the parking location by shuttle bus.  Al Madany may also, from time to time, enter into an agreement with other houses of worship and/or private parties to use excess parking space that they may have available. Al Madany has reaffirmed that, if the unlikely occurs and they have an event where more than 89 cars are expected, they will implement the off site parking plan and shuttle attendees to the mosque.

4.        Plaintiff has no objection to “ no parking”  signs being installed,  and will inform the congregation as to the parking plan and that there is no parking on Fillow street.

5.        Plaintiff  will hire an officer for traffic control during  its services for its 2 high holy days,  Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha.

6.        Plaintiff does not expect full capacity for any of its services, even on high holy days, and will not automatically hold 2 services.  Plaintiff will hold additional services if  it expects attendance to exceed seating capacity.

7.        Plaintiff   will agree to the following additional screening: [need specifics—plaintiff is open to the large arborvitae or similar vegetation discussed during the zoning meetings].

8.        Plaintiff submits that restricting the use of the minaret violates its free exercise rights, and  notes that the bells ring at the Christian churches each day.   Plaintiff has no intent to use any kind of amplified sound in the minaret or to have any human in the minaret shouting with an unamplified voice.

9.        Plaintiff  agrees to a coordinated meeting  with  neighbors to discuss any concerns they may have.

10.    Upon the entry of a Consent Judgment, Plaintiff  agrees to write the Dept. of Justice a letter indicating that this matter has been resolved.

11.    Plaintiff  affirms its agreement to abide by all of the conditions already set forth in the “ non-binding term sheet”  ( attached).

12.    The  agreement between defendants and plaintiff will be made part of a Consent Judgment by the U.S. District Court, which will retain jurisdiction as outlined in the “  non-binding term sheet” (attached).

Tom Gerarde

 

Thomas R. Gerarde

HOWD & LUDORF, LLC

65 Wethersfield Avenue

Hartford, CT 06114-1121

Comments

6 responses to “Hartford lawyer pushing back at city of Norwalk”

  1. LWitherspoon

    One has to wonder about the motivation of whatever official or City employee leaked the e-mail to Nancy. While I’m glad that Nancy got a scoop, it certainly cannot help the City to widely disseminate an e-mail from the City’s attorney regarding confidential settlement negotiations.

  2. Oldtimer

    Lwitherspoon
    Email from the City’s counsel says negotiations are finished, agreement has been reached between counsel for both sides and the City’s insurance co. An email directed to that many people is hardly confidential. What difference does it make who gave Nancy the story? Do you expect another investigation? Will the State Police be involved?

  3. LWitherspoon

    @Old Timer

    Yes, the e-mail never should have gone to that many people. And it never should have been leaked to the media. When you are in confidential negotiations, the last thing you want is the details of those negotiations shared with the entire world. Ask all your union buddies, they’ll tell you the same thing.

    There is clearly more to this story and it will be interesting to learn why Attorney Maslan was not responding. It’s also odd that the City’s attorney sent the e-mail to so many people. My point is that the City’s Zoning Commission, presumably acting with the best interests of the City in mind, voted not to allow this mosque to be built. Now the City has been forced into negotiations because of a federal suit, but it still hasn’t approved this very sensitive project. Whoever leaked the e-mail acted against the City’s interests. If it was a City employee or official, that person has betrayed his or her responsibility to protect the City’s interests. While that may or may not be a crime, it’s certainly a sleazy act which does not help the City towards a desirable resolution of this matter.

  4. Oldtimer

    lwitherspoon
    Are you forgetting the November 29th meeting where the Zoning Commission agreed to a resolution essentially committing to go along with whatever settlement came out of this suit ?
    The mosque group was turned down by zoning for reasons they say concerned off-street parking and traffic and they filed a federal lawsuit claiming religous discrimination. While a lot of us believed that suit had no merit, the City’s insurance carrier chose to agree to a settlement limiting their liability to $100,000, and the mosque side agreed to certain terms meant to adress the parking and traffic issues. Now they need the City (common council) to also agree, or not, so the suit can proceed to a consent decree settlement or to litigation where the insurance company is not confident the liability won’t cost a lot more. Why are you so concerned that several reporters now have the story, with quotes from the mayor ?
    Is it because moccia is annoyed Nancy published a story first and moccia wants her jailed ?
    He needs to grow up, or step down.
    You need to stop defending him, even when he is making a fool of himself.

  5. Tim T

    He needs to grow up, or step down
    Old Timer
    I have been saying this for years about Moccia

  6. LWitherspoon

    @Old Timer

    Sorry but you’re not correct when you say that the Zoning Commission “essentially committed to go along with whatever settlement came out of the suit.” The Zoning Commission simply voted to EXPLORE THE POSSIBILITY of a settlement. If you actually read what has been in the news about this, that will be quite clear.

    I’m also confused why you’re so angry that I would question the motivation of whoever leaked the confidential settlement e-mail. It’s a fact that all the people on the e-mail distribution are City employees or officials, and as such they have a duty to look out for the City’s best interests. Releasing the e-mail was a betrayal of that duty. I suppose I could go a step further and speculate as to why someone would do such a thing, but then I would be guilty of simply making things up, which is more your department.

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