Kimmel leaves GOP caucus, wants ‘situation’ remedied

Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large)
Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large).

Updated 7:54 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18, with remarks from Republican Town Committee Chairman Pete Torrano, other informtion.

NORWALK, Conn. – Bruce Kimmel has been looked at as the swing vote on the Common Council for the past two years. His next swing could cause a major change in the makeup of the Council.

Kimmel, an at-large Democrat caucusing with the Republicans, said Wednesday night he will not participate with the GOP caucus going forward unless a situation involving another Council member is remedied.

The situation, he said, involves what he called bullying and intimidation, not just of him but of others.

“I have taken great offense over a period of time at some of the activities taking place concerning a member of the Republican caucus,” he told NancyOnNorwalk, saying the situation dates back two years.

It was two years ago when Kimmel left the Democratic caucus, citing disarray and tactics that made it difficult to get any business done. His switch helped switch the Council majority from the Democrats to the Republicans and allowed the Moccia administration to set the agenda for the final year of his tenure. Kimmel was joined in the move by Mike Geake and Carvin Hilliard.

Kimmel maintained his Democratic Party membership, but ran on the Republican ticket last fall, endorsing the platform and all the GOP candidates. His election helped give the Republicans an 8-7 Council majority.

Kimmel said Wednesday night he has not made a decision to rejoin the Democratic caucus, but said he has told the Republican leadership “I won’t participate in any Republican collective activities.”

Should Kimmel decide to return to the Democratic caucus, the Democrats would regain control of the Common Council by an 8-7 majority. Currently, Travis Simms (D-District B) is the minority leader. Jerry Petrini (R-District D) is majority leader. Doug Hempstead (R-At Large) is Council president.

The majority party gets the chairmanship of all Council committees, sets the agendas and controls the meetings.

Kimmel said his decision to leave the caucus is pending a resolution of his concerns.

“Members of the leadership said they cannot disagree” with his concerns, he said, but they feel “powerless” to do anything.

Kimmel said that, over the past three years, “a number of people have been deeply hurt and insulted” by treatment and tactics of a member of the caucus, who Kimmel declined to name, although he specifically mentioned situations regarding Nate Sumpter on the Zoning Commission and talks surrounding the Bike and Walk Task Force.  He said the tactics involved bullying and intimidation, and said, “There is no place for that in Norwalk politics.”

Kimmel  locked horns with fellow caucus member David McCarthy (R-District E) earlier this year over McCarthy’s bid to get Sumpter off the Zoning Commission. Sumpter, a Democrat appointed by Moccia, was reappointed by Mayor Harry Rilling but needed Council approval. He got it with a 13-1 vote, but not before Kimmel unleashed anger at the politics of the situation. 

McCarthy’s tactics have been the focus of complaints on other issues as well, including his connection to the distribution of at least one inflammatory flyer about the proposed mosque during the 2013 campaign, and about a public hearing requested before the city’s sewage treatment plant’s license was renewed. He has publicly battled with fellow Councilman David Watts – currently an ally in fighting against a mosque settlement – and former Zoning Commission member and current Bike and Walk Task Force Co-Chairman Mike Mushak over behavior and tactics in addition to actual city issues.

Kimmel would not put a timetable on any decision to rejoin the Democratic caucus, saying only that, “Right now, my concern is to get past the mosque issue, to see if we can get some kind of settlement and see if we  can move forward.”

Kimmel was not at the Wednesday night executive session Council meeting to discuss the issue, as he was teaching a class.

Petrini did not respond to requests for comment, but Republican Town Committee Chairman Peter Torrano spoke with NoN Thursday afternoon.

“There’s not much we can do about it,” he said, and pointed out that Petrini and Hempstead have “worked reasonably well” with Kimmel since he joined the caucus. “This is something he is going to have to work out with them,” Torrano said. “If he can’t find a way to work it out, he’ll have to make his own decision. We have no control over it. It’s Bruce’s decision.”

Kimmel changed parties during the Alex Knopp administration when he was a Board of Education member. He was elected to the Council as a District D Democrat  in 2011 and left the caucus almost immediately due to unhappiness with the caucus behavior. After a year of attending committee meetings, he announced he would caucus with the Republicans.

His move was preceded by a move by elected Distict B Democrat Mike Geake, who left the part five months after the 2011 election, registered as an Independent and joined the Republican caucus. That move gave the Republicans an 8-7 majority. The Republicans have maintained Council control since then.







16 responses to “Kimmel leaves GOP caucus, wants ‘situation’ remedied”

  1. Yankee Clipper

    No surprise … leopards don’t change their spots so be forewarned Bruce

  2. John Hamlin

    The article does everything but declare that the individual is Dave McCarthy — if it’s not him, then it seems incredibly unfair. Why speculate in that way?

  3. Don’t Panic

    Let’s not forget his overbearing treatment of the Rowayton neighborhood objections to the state plan to lower the roadway under the railroad bridge. Returning a few million to the state was viewed as catastrophicly irresponsible to the city budget. But ten or more millions to fight the Islamic Center in West Norwalk is okay.
    That little spat included factually incorrect statements about the number and nature of the accidents and “bridge strikes” at that site.

  4. Don’t Panic

    Mr. McCarthy, not Mr. Kimmel

  5. One and Done.

    Et tu Brute?
    At least now the city’s residents will know full well what party is running things and where they stand. Harry won’t be able to blame Republicans for his lack of accomplishment next fall.
    Hopefully Bruce is not bluffing and we’ll see the following moves almost immediately, Council President Travis Simms and DPW Committee Chair David Watts. That should fix the city for sure.

  6. Suzanne

    Why can’t there be a self-declared Independent on the Council? Or can there be? Advantages? Disadvantages?

  7. Lisa Thomson

    My personal frustration with Mr. McCarthy is that he ‘fights’ for West Norwalk and it’s overdeveloped ‘mosque’ but strikes a sharp contrast to his position on the overdeveloped ‘underpass’ on Rowayton Avenue, which resembles something akin to Ft. Knox. Additionally, his ‘silence’ on the planned overdevelopment of the 2 Nearwater ‘trolley line wetlands’ property in Farm Creek strikes a similar hypocritical tone.

    The GOP position on the mosque, of which Mr. McCarthy has been at the forefront, may genuinely be construed as representatives ‘fighting’ for their constituents or it could be seen by this unaffiliated voter as political grandstanding.

    As a former P&Z member and as Ms. Wilson’s mentor, why doesn’t Mr. McCarthy try to fix the P&Z code responsible for all of this overdevelopment across the city Norwalk in the first place? The current cherry picking of projects and P&Z issues strikes me as political cronyism and leaves me unimpressed.

  8. LWitherspoon

    Bruce Kimmel is one of our most hard working, thoughtful, and independent council members. Whatever Mr. Kimmel ultimately does, let’s hope he continues to have strong community support.

  9. EastNorwalkChick

    Mr. Kimmel you state that this type of behavior has been going on over a period of years, what makes you think that this is going to change overnight with Mr. Torrano now in charge of the Norwalk Republicans? After what we saw of the bullying tactics he used to try to oust the Republican registrar this past primary season, if anything, I believe it will only get worse….
    Remember the old saying, “Republicans fall in line…” I believe that this is what’s happening here, so take heed, because in their minds “you are either with us, or against us”

  10. Non Partisan Voter

    This is a shame as it has been constructive for Norwalk in the past year to have bi-partisan leadership running the City. We have a “strong council – weak mayor” form of leadership and with the Republican Majority on the Council, the Mayor has had to compromise on virtually everything to get anything done. But, I applaud Councilman Kimmel for standing up for the bad behaviour of one that is pulling all of the Republicans down.

  11. Debora

    “Why can’t there be a self-declared Independent on the Council? Or can there be? Advantages? Disadvantages?”
    There is no independent party to speak of running in Norwalk. It’s difficult to run for office without a party endorsement (though not impossible). In addition, there is the caucus issue. An “I” would likely have to decide to caucus with one party or the other anyhow.

  12. One and Done.

    @ObviousPartisanVoter. Please list out for me what the Mayor has not gotten done because of Republicans. I won’t be holding my breath waiting for your response. Harry has gotten everything he wants, including it would seem payback to his political contributors from the Mosque.

  13. LWitherspoon

    How about the Norwalk Republican and Democratic party leadership do some old-fashioned horse trading and agree that neither David Watts nor David McCarthy will be on the ballot next year? A win for all of Norwalk, with the possible exception of NoN, which benefits from all the controversy created by the behavior of these two.

  14. Peter Parker

    It’s about time Mr. Kimmel stands up to the big bully. We all know this is about Mr. McCarthy. McCarthy is a bully and needs his wings clipped.. Go get em Mr. Kimmel, you are renewing my faith in you.

  15. Suzanne

    Debora, It appears by the latest article, that Mr. Kimmel will be caucusing with no one.
    This lack of respect feels like high school, everyone having their separate cliques and no one crossing the line because they have “cooties.”
    Honestly, the last time I checked all of the Common Council were adults – some with giant egos. Grow up, all of you, learn to get along, to agree to disagree if necessary, and get back to the job you are elected to do – SERVE THE PEOPLE OF NORWALK.

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