Haselkamp leaving post as Norwalk personnel chief

Director of Personnel and Labor Relations H. James Haselkamp.


Updated 2:46 p.m. with photo, names of other departed department heads.

NORWALK, Conn. – Another Norwalk department head is leaving his position.

Director of Personnel and Labor Relations H. James Haselkamp will remain on the job until the end of December, Mayor Harry Rilling confirmed Saturday afternoon. The position has been posted on the city’s website.

Rilling had expected to wait until after the holidays before making any moves, but said earlier that Haselkamp had approached him to discuss his situation. Haselkamp had been at the center of a controversy in October when an angry outburst during a meeting led a union official to file a police report. Haselkamp was also named in an affirmative action complaint alleging discrimination, and there have been rumblings among city employees about difficulties dealing with him.

“We had a discussion,” Rilling said Saturday afternoon. “We discovered that we had philosophical differences between us. He understood that. I told him he would stay on until the end of the year.”

Rilling said he did not yet have anyone in mind for the position.

“I believe in recruiting for positions and trying to find the best person for the job,” he said.

Other department heads who have been or are being replaced at this point include former Corporation Counsel Robert Maslan, who was replaced by Mario Coppolla, and Director of Business and Marketing Tad Diesel, who was hired by former Mayor Richard Moccia during his first term, has retired. His last day was Thursday. No replacement has been named.


21 responses to “Haselkamp leaving post as Norwalk personnel chief”

  1. LWitherspoon

    What were the philosophical differences between Mayor Rilling and Mr. Haselkamp? Are they real, or is this just an early Christmas gift to the municipal employee unions who endorsed Mayor Rilling?
    Certainly the municipal employee unions are very happy with this move. I attended a public hearing regarding the outsourcing of trash pickup and heard municipal employees speaking about Mr. Haselkamp in very ugly and violent terms.
    I also seem to recall that during the recent election season, a retired firefighter and former Norwalk resident penned a letter to the editor from his home in Easton (lower taxes, don’tcha know) complaining about the fact that retirees health care co-pays were going up, the same way they have been for nearly everyone in the private sector. Did Mr. Haselkamp have anything to do with that? It will be interesting to see what policy changes occur after Mr. Haselkamp leaves, and what those changes will cost taxpayers.

  2. Break the Unions

    This is just the first step in Old Harry’s gifts to the unions.
    Philosophical differences or in other words Harry wants someone who is pro union and anti taxpayer.

  3. WOW!

    @Break the Unions
    I was wondering what your take might be with former Mayor Moccia’s move on November 18th? If anyone has shown to be pro union since the election, it’s Moccia! Since he’s now not working, maybe he’s lobbying for Haselkamp’s job!

  4. The Deal

    Good riddance Jimbo! NEXT!!!!

  5. anonymous

    Rilling’s gift to the Unions. Lucky for the taxpayers Rilling must swing his appointment by council for vote, maybe taxpayers won’t get stuck with union lackey, a lackey who knows how to show ‘respect’.

  6. Casey Smith

    L.Witherspoon – It seems Mr. Haselkamp’s main problem was not his negotiating skills, it was his personality, or as some would claim, lack thereof. You, yourself, observed that during the garbage hearings.
    As for union concessions, many of the towns in our local area have been struggling with pensions and benefits. Once you remove the BOE allocations from the budget, Pensions and benefits literally consumes the largest chunk of revenue. And anyone who has seen the BOE budget will tell you pension and benefits take a huge bite out of their allocation, too. The municipalities simply can’t afford the cost of the benefits and pensions anymore. The current municipal trend is toward getting the cities and towns out of providing retiree health care, so the union negotiation trends are moving towards higher co-pays, not lower. I’d be extremely surprised if Mayor Rilling was not aware of this.
    Nothing that Haselkamp did was out of the ordinary, other than the fact that he cleaned up a lot of the policies, double checked to make sure that the enrollment lists were correct and negotiated for union agreements that were more favorable for the City. And that’s all part of the job description. Hopefully his successor will continue the trend.

  7. You may want to check your facts

    Casey Smith, can you please post where in his position it stated that he was to create policy for city employees and not just follow policy set forth by contract? Also, can you please show where Norwalk has has short comings in paying benefits to unions as you describe?

    Everything Haselkamp did was out of the oridnary, hence why yet again, he has found himself being forced out. That’s 4 major cities in the state of Connecticut in the last 10 to 15 years, does that seem like a good track record to you?

  8. Casey Smith

    Check facts – Wow! Are you sure you are reading my post?
    I never said he “created policy for City employees”. Not being a City employee, I wouldn’t know if he did or didn’t. And I didn’t say the City had a shortfall in paying benefits. I said “The municipalities simply can’t afford the cost of the benefits and pensions anymore.” Once upon a time, the municipalities paid 100% of the retiree’s health care costs. With more and more retirees and the spiraling cost of health care, you do the math. Or take a look at the last union contracts and notice that the co-pays for medical have increased steadily. Oh yeah, and don’t forget, any former employee is now entitled to 99 weeks of unemployment. That factors in, too.
    Cleaning up the insurance enrollment lists is something that needs to be done routinely. It shouldn’t be out of the ordinary. Neither should negotiating contracts with favorable terms for the City.
    As for Mr. Haselkamp’s employment history of employment in four major cities in Connecticut in the last 10-15 years, that pretty much speaks for itself.

  9. anonymous

    Haskelkamp was forced out by politics, Rilling needed someone friendly to the Unions.

    Different than being forced out for incompetence, or lackluster work. That would have been practically impossible to to do if he were in a Union. Even then, he would have been on the payroll for 2 more years while he sued the city to prove it.

  10. LWitherspoon

    @Casey Smith
    I never witnessed what you referred to as Mr. Haselkamp’s lack of personality. Please see my original comment – it was the municipal employees who spoke about Mr. Haselkamp in very ugly and violent terms. In that case the reason was that Haselkamp was involved in arbitration that won the right to outsource garbage collection, and he was involved in advancing a plan to outsource garbage collection. The DPW union lost control of a few positions in City government and they were livid.
    It’s no secret that the Unions that endorsed Mayor Rilling wanted Haselkamp gone. Maybe this was a good move on Rilling’s part, or maybe it was political payback to his supporters. It’s hard to say since I have no experience with Mr. Haselkamp and Mayor Rilling’s explanation is very vague. This article mentions various complaints that have been made about Mr. Haselkamp but he has never been found guilty of any inappropriate behavior in Norwalk or elsewhere that I’m aware of.
    Reading this, one wonders if NoN is interested in shining a light on the question of whether or not this is political payback from Mayor Rilling to the Unions. I see no evidence that Mr. Haselkamp was asked for comment, or that Mayor Rilling was asked about the nature of his philosophical differences with Mr. Haselkamp. Since candidate Rilling promised us a transparent administration, he would surely elaborate, wouldn’t he?

    1. Mark Chapman

      @L Witherspoon

      Mayor Rilling would not say anything else to us about Mr. Haselkamp for the same reason as most employers will only confirm employment dates rather than give recommendations — the threat of legal action. He chose his words carefully.

      Perhaps you missed this story that mentions some of the background: https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2013/10/document-haselkamp-has-history-of-outlandish-and-inappropriate-behavior

      Mayor Rilling campaigned on a platform that emphasized civility. He cannot enforce that with council members or with commission members who are appointed for certain terms, but he can with department heads, who can then set the tone in their departments. Much like Mayor Moccia built his own staff in his image, Mayor Rilling can do the same. How that works out will be watched over the next two years.

      Is it political payback? Time will tell, but, given the history, given the comments we have heard from people around the city over the past few years, we suspect that this was a decision made to try to bring a new attitude to the city’s government.

  11. @Witherspoon,
    You are living in a fool’s world if you think NoN is going to “challenge” Rilling to anything more than what he states at face value (or not say – because then she would have to investigate the “transparency” touted throughout his campaign).
    This is the Democratic Rilling cheerleading site.

  12. The Deal

    A few clarifications; Mr Hazelkamp didn’t negotiate anything in contracts with workers. He attempted to change policies and procedures that didn’t always benefit the City. The City, at least in the past, you know, during the Moccia years, hires an outside firm to do that at a cost to taxpayers of approximately $500.00/hr.( I apologize in advance for not being exact). Also in the past Cities fully funded insurance costs for current workers and retirees but that was along time ago, prior to the 80’s. Some current contracts call for active employees to contribute as much as 50% of costs of medical insurance. Also every city employee contributes a minimum of 7% of their pay into the pension fund pool. The burden on the taxpayer is not what it once was, agreed that’s not possible. The majority of ANY city department IS NOT pensions or benefits, it’s salaries, operating costs, equipment, vehicles, computers, I.T. maintenance, and even electricity to keep the lights on. Last note, if you didn’t have any direct contact or experience with Mr Hazelkamp please don’t speculate, guess, or assume. Norwalk is not the only city that thought it best they part ways.

  13. Tim K

    A lot of wasted breath on an such a non-issue. Who cares who the director of personnel is? I don’t. If this guy is so great, I’m sure he will have no problem finding a job. If not, karma prevails. Done.

  14. Casey Smith

    Deal – Trust me, I am acquainted with Mr. Haselkamp. However, as I said, not being a City employee, working for his department, or being involved in union negotiations, I would not know what he changed and what he negotiated. OPEB is part of the GASB package and the City is required to fund it.
    Let me ask you this….if the employees contribute 7% of their pay to retirements, where does the other 93% come from?
    There’s a fun little report called the CAFR (Comprehensive Annual Financial Report) that is issued by the City every year. It has the complete breakdown of the entire budget in it. It makes for wonderful bedtime reading.

  15. lael

    Before our new mayor was swore in, I–among others in comments to NON stories–said this was going to happen and now it indeed has. Our new mayor is making good on the first of many promises he’s made to the unions in exchange for their supporting him. This man is losing his job because of politics pure and simple. This is WRONG.

  16. Piberman

    As rain falls from the sky the new Personnel Head will be paid more than the outgoing one and be more “respectful” to our union employees – highest paid of any City in the state. Norwalk’s’ politicans know how to take care of our public unions.

  17. anonymous

    Common Council must approve this appointment. Republicans and Dems, are you listening? Will you do your job and protect the taxpayers? City Unions don’t need any more help. Heartening to see you work together but if the price of the new civility is a union-sympathizing-lackey appointed by a owe-the-unions-big-time Mayor, give us rancor.

  18. The Deal

    Airline pilots, sheet metal workers, grocery store cashiers, doormen, health care workers, pipe fitters, truck drivers, butchers, meter readers, newspaper pressmen, railroad workers, aircraft mechanics, hotel workers, electricians, toll booth operators, hospital workers, baggage handlers, Emergency Service Personnel. This is a very short list of unionized workers. No one is excluded from paying for goods and services these, and many more, people provide. Take a moment, or a lot of moments, they’re free, to think about what kinds of goods we would get or the quality of services we would actually receive if everything was based on the paying someone the lowest wage possible and minimal or no other employee benefit. Would we be happy with that? Not me. I see lots of expensive cars around town parked in driveways of expensive homes. We want the best, we have to pay. I can hear it already, “yes, but……………….”

  19. The Deal

    @ Casey. Who pays the other 93% ? As I understand it the City’s pension fund(s) is/are fully funded at this time with millions of dollars, invested. Picture a swimming pool full of water. Over time the level of the water in the pool drops a bit from evaporation, usage, maybe even a small leak. A garden hose is placed in the pool and turned on (employee and city contributions all set by law). In a relatively short time the pool is returned to full capacity and the water turned off. I realize this is a simplistic example but also keep in mind if the fund, through interest gained in the investment vehicle it’s in, remains close to full funding the City’s contribution obligation lessens while the current employee’s contractually stated obligation remains constant. The 7% employees contribute, plus City contributions keep the water flowing through the hose to keep the pool full. Just one more little bit. Many City workers, some of which who are now retired, prior to 1982 were not eligible by law to collect social security benefits like millions of other private sector workers therefore their pension is what they live on in retirement.

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