NORWALK, Conn. – On Nov. 6, the day after the City’s last election, leading Norwalk Democrat Ed Camacho dropped the complaint he’d filed on Lisa Brinton’s Mayoral campaign, alleging violation of campaign finance laws.
Brinton said Sunday that the complaint had been a “witch hunt” from a campaign that was afraid of her grassroots effort. Mayor Harry Rilling, who won the election handily, replied that the complaint was dropped because her treasurer asked for that to happen. Bryan Meek was in tears and afraid for his livelihood, Rilling said. Meek called that description of their conversation “laughable.”
The complaint was short lived – Camacho, then-Norwalk Democratic Town Committee chairman, filed it with the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) on Nov. 1.
“Taking cash game cards, accepting multiple illegal contributions from businesses and failing to discuss the employer and occupation of her donors are clear violations of state campaign finance law,” Camacho said in a November statement. “She has taken contributions from Jason Milligan while promising to ‘rip up the LDA’, effectively giving Milligan and Citibank city property for free. Even more troubling, she has failed to report all of her fundraising events or contributions as required by law, and in one instance materially misrepresents donations received in excess of state law limits.”
NancyOnNorwalk reached out to the SEEC late last month and asked what the status was of the complaint. State Attorney Joshua Foley said it had been withdrawn.
“The complaint was lodged in good faith,” Camacho wrote Sunday. “Thereafter, it appeared that the flawed reporting was largely a matter of incompetence and poor record-keeping, and it was withdrawn.”
Asked about it, Brinton wrote to NoN on Sunday:
“The complaint had no merit. It was a political witch hunt to try to discredit my character.
“It’s ironic given the repeated appearances of ‘pay to play development’ by the Rilling Administration or recent ‘tone deaf’ tax increase during the worst financial crisis in our lifetimes.
“The SEEC stunt demonstrates how threatened they were by our grassroots campaign challenge to their longstanding, concentrated power.
“All of it was unfortunate and reflects poorly on Mr. Camacho, Mayor Rilling and Senator Duff.”
State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) did not reply to an email giving him the opportunity to reply to that comment.
Rilling sent this statement Monday:
“As Lisa pointed out, we are in the midst of a global pandemic like nothing we have seen in our life times. I don’t have time to engage in petty back and forth.
“What I will say is this – my campaign polling showed we were winning easily – by the same margin I had won each and every election – those results proved to be accurate. The complaint was filed because Lisa Brinton campaigned on a platform of fiscal responsibility, transparency and attention to detail, yet she couldn’t even properly manage a $50,000 campaign budget. Her filings were rife with inaccuracies, missing information on donors and a slew of other sloppy mistakes. It was extremely relevant to the issues at hand since her inaccurate filings flew in the face of her entire platform. If this was an example of how she oversaw her budget and legal reporting requirements how was she ever going to oversee a $385 million budget?
“Fact is, the SEEC complaint was only dropped because her campaign treasurer approached me in tears at West Rocks Middle School on Election Day and asked me, person to person, to drop the complaint. He felt his livelihood as a CPA was being put in jeopardy. My issue was with the candidate and her constant hypocrisy and lies – not with her campaign volunteers. I told my team to drop the complaint the next day as I did not want to hurt someone’s ability to earn a living. We dropped the complaint and I considered this matter over.
“As for her other jabs, maybe one day she will understand that being mayor means making hard decisions in the best interest of the city. She can continue to take positions that are popular in her Facebook echo chamber, and I will continue to do what I believe is best for the city and our tax payers.
“There is no question that Norwalk is better positioned than virtually all other municipalities in the state because of our strong financial management and healthy reserves. We will continue to provide needed services to our residents while cities and towns around us reduce garbage collection to once a month and make drastic cuts to their schools.
“This is all I am going to say on this matter, my staff and I are entering our 95th consecutive work day – reconfiguring the way we deliver services and keeping the city running smoothly in unprecedented times.”
Meek has served as treasurer for multiple campaigns and political committees, dating back to at least 2008. On Tuesday, Meek wrote:
“In tears? That is laughable. I simply asked him politely and sternly to have the complaint dropped or else I would file one counter to his campaign for which there were several violations that I could easily have established. It turns out over half of the issues that they raised were totally bogus and the others were simply typos on the antiquated handwritten paper forms that his City Hall after 6 years has never been able to digitize despite heavy investment in the area. My intent was to avoid wasting thousands of dollars an unnecessary investigations at the state level at the expense of taxpayers, which the mayor clearly does not concern himself with… Our campaign was not complicit with owning a property where a child died with questionable circumstances.”
Rilling co-owns 9 Hunter’s Lane with his daughter, Christine Limone. She has been arrested and charged in the 2016 death of an infant in her home-based daycare.
“The only thing I agree with the mayor here otherwise is that the back and forth is stupid. At the end of the day he has to live with himself which I would not be able to do were I him. As for overseeing a 385 million dollar budget that he is happy to piss away in the middle of a depression my guess is that a different change of management would be able to trim a little bit off of that like every single Town surrounding us did in the middle of this pandemic that he can’t figure out how to manage.”