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Inquiry on campaign complaint nets ‘stupid back and forth’

At left, then-Republican-endorsed Mayoral candidate Lisa Brinton; at right, Democratic Mayor Harry Rilling. Rilling won the 2019 election with 55.5 percent of the vote. Brinton has compared that to his 55.4 percent win in 2017 by pointing out that 6 percent of the 2017 vote went to Democratic candidate Bruce Morris and although those Democrats only had one candidate in 2019, Rilling’s total did not increase. She united the “NURDS,” she has said.

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 State Attorney Joshua Foley said it had been withdrawn.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it appeared that the flawed reporting was largely a matter of incompetence and poor record-keeping, and it was withdrawn.”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.

Meek continued:

“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.”

22 comments

Bryan Meek June 17, 2020 at 8:08 am

“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.

Please let me respond to that:

$5 cash cards at My 3 Sons, who still can’t open for business while the Mayor allows mass protests on public parks that we the people are restricted from fully using.. No money was raised for the Lisa For Mayor campaign at that independent event, which I’m told gave 3 children $5 cards to play video games.

Failing to discuss employer credentials for a dozen retired ladies in Rowayton who gave less than $100 on average is the other issue here. Not even illegal.

Neglecting to check off one box on the second $250 ad-book buy from a business. Whoa, stop the presses…..

Using the office of the mayor to arrange fundraisers and solicit donations…..oh that wasn’t us.

But again, this is stupid back and forth.

The big picture should focus on the fact that we have been totally mismanaged during the pandemic. Paying full time wages for part time work. The city could have leveraged the CARES act to furlough workers just one day a week, had many of them see more weekly pay on the Fed’s nickel, while saving money for our budgeted revenues needed for next year, which are never going to be realized as the private sector bankruptcies pile up. Instead we are raising taxes while all of our neighbors lower theirs.

Bryan Meek June 17, 2020 at 8:17 am

“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.“

Please let me respond to this:

I can see the confusion in someone who has no code of ethics to follow. This was not the context I gave before knowing the full contents of the complaint, which at that point on Election Day I only knew was coming. Had I known at that point that over half the issues were totally bogus and matters of check boxes, It might have come off a little differently.

My point that day outside the polling place was that CPAs are bound by a code of ethics that very few would violate for a tiny city campaign like this. That I was certain that it was going to be a waste of his time. And if they didn’t rescind it, I would file a complaint of my own.

It had nothing to do with my ability to earn a living.

I’ll be just fine there without having to live out of the pockets of taxpayers like some.

Concerned Taxpayer June 17, 2020 at 8:34 am

taxes have risen, large-scale developments are through the roof with no slowing down in sight, the grand list is exploding and yet the rainy day fund is dwindling (pre-pandemic). It’s hard to tell what’s running so smoothly? With all the extra money from the mall, why the tax increase?

Other nearby towns did indeed cut taxes to as relief for taxpayers during the challenging economic times

John O'Neill June 17, 2020 at 8:47 am

IF there’s someone out there who knows the real version of events, please come forward. Readers who would like to know the unvarnished truth would appreciate that. Is there a Patriot in the group??

NIZ June 17, 2020 at 11:35 am

Odd that this is even an article, if anyone reads Ms. Brinton’s commentary or listens to her when she is campaigning for the mayoral seat, it is clear she cares for Norwalk. I think it is important for all residents to read and listen to them both.

Patrick Cooper June 17, 2020 at 2:09 pm

I was there November 5th at West Rocks – poll sitting for Lisa. I did not witness this exchange. But what I did see only reinforced my commitment to my candidate – a real solution for Norwalk.

Harry was all tight with his d-party minions, George and Erica. It had the opposite effect, though – as by standing next to them – he by contrast looked every bit his age, and then some. Everybody who used a cane or a walker – he knew by first name.

As for “tears in his eyes” – maybe he’s just having one of those senior moments, you know? Maybe he thinks Brian is Carl Spakler – as he was standing with Norwalk’s own version of Ty Webb (just bald) and Lacy Underall (except she didn’t need photoshop for a campaign picture). Yep – we were all pulling for that Cinderella story – except instead we got a destructive gopher, who is tearing up Bushwood – rather than sitting in a rocker in Florida.

Isabelle Hargrove June 17, 2020 at 2:37 pm

I am unsurprised to read that this fraudulent complaint was dropped as soon as the Brinton campaign suggested they would file a complaint against Rilling so the state could dig into his ostentatious funding. Hummm… and Bryan Meek crying? I don’t think so….

But, reading Mayor Rilling’s comments and tone, what should be most obvious to the East Norwalk residents pleading for their neighborhood, the Wall Street businesses begging for parking relief or effective policies to spur business, the residents and businesses dreading the monstrous disruption of the Walk Bridge, the taxpayers angry at bailing out POKO or the lack of action against the exploding number of unreported rentals, the homeowners looking at stagnant values and increasing taxes, the residents looking at increased density with little infrastructure, the SONO residents still suffering with zoning infractions and contractor yards, and all stakeholders living through a growing and deeply underfunded poor school system, is that our mayor is perfectly content with his leadership and vision for our city. Too bad you’re not. He won, you lost…

Mimi Chang June 17, 2020 at 4:34 pm

My friend and I poll stood with some others for Lisa, and we were shocked and highly disappointed at how John Kydes, one of our District C reps, conducted himself. He talked to fellow poll standers about two other candidates In a mocking way within earshot of us, and as Lisa Brinton walked up over from the parking lot, he suddenly resorted to his eight year old self, outbursting, “Oh, God, Look at her! Oh, No, I can’t! I can’t look! Oh God!” He started theatrically looking down and away as if the sight of Lisa would burn his eyes out. Then we had Pam Parkington, who scowled at us pretty much the entire time, even though my friend tried to cordially engage her, and then later took to Facebook to perpetuate lies about us, which my friend called her out on. What a mature crew. Elections have consequences.

Babar Sheikh June 17, 2020 at 9:05 pm

Bryan Meek, I think you bringing up a deceased baby and somehow connecting it to the mayor really shows what kind of person you are. I’m glad your side lost.

I’m disappointed that Nancy chose to include that classless statement in this article.

Bryan Meek June 18, 2020 at 9:58 am

@Babar, you might want to inform yourself of facts before throwing out your uninformed opinions. My competence with respect to financial management was put into question over a few $100s in typos on an antiquated archaic reporting system, thanks to bureaucrats who can never get things done.

The ownership of a house being used as a business that didn’t bother to form as an LLC is about as incompetent as you can get and why it is relevant. For someone casting personal aspersions towards others for their incompetence, and who is surrounded by financial and legal experts …..how did anyone miss this basis real estate 101 topic?

The same persons accusing me of gross financial mismanagement over a few $100 let $900,000 walk out of city hall on their watch and no one was ever held accountable.

But thanks for clearly showing who’s side you are on. It is noted.

Babar Sheikh June 18, 2020 at 5:50 pm

Bryan, I read an article about the complaint against your team. It was minor and pretty stupid. It got dropped as it should have been. The whole situation seems so petty now. There was no reason to bring up the dead baby. You know it. Apologize for the insinuation and move on. I’ve agreed with you in the past on issues, even though I’m on the other side.

Bryan Meek June 19, 2020 at 9:45 am

The Mayor is either a liar or is losing his memory. Let’s see who is crying when revenues crater and you are doing mid year layoffs from your ridiculous budget. I’m glad you think this is funny. Thanks for showing your disdain for opposing viewpoints.

John B. June 19, 2020 at 3:25 pm

@Barbara Meyer-Mitchell. You’re on the BoE and you act like a child? Another Harry minion.

John ONeill June 20, 2020 at 11:23 am

I find it amusing when faux liberals have fun at someone’s expense but are horrified when it’s reversed. Interesting times we are living in…

Steve Mann June 21, 2020 at 11:34 am

Equally amusing, John when the left employs a tactic, the right reacts in equal measure, and then we get the indignant response from the left that “this is unprecedented in modern times”.

Bryan Meek June 21, 2020 at 11:34 am

@John. That’s a clear pattern. They can dish it out but can’t take it. They can lie and smear and hit below the belt, but dare if you point out factual character flaws and you are the mean guy. Ask Babar, who probably thinks these scoundrels actually serve the best interests of the public and not their own personal ambitions.

Isabelle Hargrove June 21, 2020 at 6:21 pm

I find Mimi Chang’s account of what happened on Election Day with John Kydes and Pamela Parkington, who are both unfortunately elected officials, deplorable. It proves once again that Democrats don’t really support women, or only women who share their political leanings. They would never ever have treated a male mayoral candidate with such disdain, openly mocking them or berate male supporters.

Lisa Brinton is a strong, smart, and hard working woman with impeccable character and moral fortitude. She is dedicated to Norwalk and the well being of all Norwalkers. I wish I could say the same about so many of our local politicians. Maybe they should stop mocking and dismissing long enough to reflect….

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