Kimmel says he’s back with Norwalk Republicans; Dems say otherwise

NORWALK, Conn. – A move to redistribute the power on Norwalk’s Common Council is based on a misconception, Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) said Tuesday. Wednesday, Kimmel said comments made by Minority Leader Travis Simms (D-District B) and Councilman David Watts (D-District A) at Tuesday’s meeting were false.

“I never officially resigned from the Republican caucus,” Kimmel said Tuesday, attempting to invalidate a move made by Simms to elect new council officers.

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

On Sept. 24, Kimmel spoke to NancyOnNorwalk and said that the actions of Councilman David McCarthy (R-District E) had inspired him to stop caucusing with Republicans. He also said that he would not join the Democratic caucus unless Watts left it, because Watts had destroyed the caucus.

Tuesday night’s agenda included “discussion of election of new officers and Common Council committee chairs.” Council President Doug Hempstead (R-At Large) introduced the item by saying it was there by Simms’ request.

“There seems to be a misconception among Council members and some members of the public that I have officially left and resigned from the Republican caucus,” Kimmel said.

An erroneous news report had started discussions about a 7-7-1 split on the Council, and things had been “spinning out of control,” he said. Kimmel said he had spoken to Majority Leader Jerry Petrini (R-District D) and Hempstead and had never lost contact with the caucus, although he had not attended two meetings. Hempstead had called him to ask his opinions on things, he said.

“I never officially resigned from the Republican caucus,” Kimmel said. “I let Mr. Petrini and Mr. Hempstead know that I had severe reservations with the activities of one caucus member and would limit my participation with that caucus. At no time did Mr. Petrini consider me a non-member of the caucus. We stayed in touch. He sent me information about caucus meetings.”

Kimmel attended the caucus before Tuesday’s meeting after talking to Petrini that afternoon, Kimmel said. McCarthy was absent, but Kimmel said Wednesday that had nothing to do with it.

“I think there will be a healthy outcome for both me and the Republican caucus,” Kimmel said Tuesday. “… My view is the status quo on the Council never really changed. We are where we have always been, technically where we were, and that any motion to rework the Council or to redistribute the committee chairs, things like that, I think should be considered a moot point. Most of it was based on a misconception. I think I caused a lot of people to spend a lot of time checking out law books, state statutes, spend a lot of time on the phone. I apologize if I implied something other than what I just stated. We never stopped communicating on how we could resolve the problems that I brought up before and I never officially resigned from the Republican caucus, which would have to be done for me to leave the caucus.”

Minority Leader Travis Simms (D-District B) and Councilman David Watts (D-District A) confer at Tuesday’s Council meeting.

“I don’t believe there was a misconception here,” Simms said. “Mr. Kimmel was very frank and adamant about his involvement in not caucusing with the Republican caucus. That led me as the minority leader to make sure that the meetings reflect the balance of the council. There was never a point that there was a misunderstanding whether he was caucusing with the Republicans or he was not.  He came to our caucus and told members directly that he was no longer caucusing with the Republicans  … and he didn’t foresee himself as long as David McCarthy was caucusing with that caucus.”

Watts said he agreed with Simms.

“We had a conversation with Mr. Kimmel, actually we were leaving a meeting one night, he actually held us up, he requested a meeting with us outside in the parking lot and we spoke frankly,” Watts said. “The conversation went as follows, ‘I am no longer caucusing with Republicans but I don’t want to talk about committees or chairmanships as long as the mosque is an issue.’”

Watts then went on to paint himself as a victim, calling himself “a target of Mr. Kimmel’s for a while.” He referred to the NoN article without mentioning where it came from, paraphrasing the text.

“(Kimmel) went on to attack me, but he also attacked a fellow Republican council member with harsh words, terrible things he said about myself and Mr. McCarthy. Just horrible, without any facts or proof to bring that up,” Watts said. “He on numerous occasions sites Nate Sumpter as a reason to defend his character but then go on and engage in the same type of behaviors that he accused other people of with harsh words. Sources say ‘Kimmel left the caucus recently because of what he called bullying and political intimidation tactics of one member but tonight pointed to David McCarthy and David Watts as two Council members making his life miserable.’ Why? Kimmel also ‘accused Watts of bullying and said he has disrupted the Democratic caucus.’”

Watts said he didn’t know how Kimmel would know what goes on in the Democratic caucus since he is not a member. Kimmel has a history of jumping political ships since 2002, he said. Kimmel had organized a meeting at Harbor Lights, which could be substantiated with emails, Watts said. Not every caucus member went, because if they did there would have been a quorum

He cited the Freedom of Information Act, challenging the validity of Kimmel’s claim that he had not officially withdrawn from the Republican caucus.

“Under FOI, when caucus members make a public declaration that they are leaving can they go return under FOI? I would like to get a  legal opinion on that but I think that is pretty sufficient evidence that he has claimed he will no longer caucus with the Republican party and we should investigate under FOI can he return or can he make those statements and then decide they can go back,” Watts said. “… If he can return then it’s all moot and we go back to business as usual. If he cannot return then that leaves the Council at 7-7-1, where it’s seven Republicans, seven Democrats and one independent or unaffiliated, whatever he would be. That would basically put the caucus as – we would now have two majority leaders because the Democrats would no longer be in the minority.”

Petrini said he couldn’t speak to conversations Kimmel had with Simms and/or Watts, but, “It was always my impression and I have always told them that as far as I was concerned, Bruce – no matter what he said in public, no matter what he said in the paper, no matter what he told you – that until I got a letter from the town clerk stating that he was going to leave the caucus he was still a member of our caucus.”

Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola suggested tabling the item to give him time to research the issue and come back with a legal opinion at the next meeting. That was done.

Kimmel sat quietly after his initial speech. Wednesday, he said that was because “we had a room full of people who came to hear about Oak Hills and the Aquarium. I had hoped the Council business item would be pushed back on the agenda. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.”

He sent the following statement by email:

“Most of what Mr. Simms and Mr. Watts said was simply not true, it was as if they were making it up as they went along.

“I was invited to, and attended, a meeting at Harbor Lights by members of the Democratic caucus. I did not organize that meeting. We mostly discussed how to deal with David Watts going forward.

“Last night, Simms did not mention that I had three conversations with him alone (two over the phone when he called me, and one at City Hall after a meeting). Each time, he wanted to discuss what he referred to as ‘fairness’ and the composition of the Council. I repeatedly responded that, for me, the only issue I would discuss was David Watts’ dysfunctional antics and I had no interest in discussing the makeup of the Council while Watts was a member of the Democratic caucus. Interestingly, on all three occasions he did not dispute my characterization of Watt’s actions; in fact, he seemed to agree. His view was simply that Watts was not in control of the caucus. I disagreed with that. I indeed spoke with Simms and Watts at length last month in front of City Hall after a committee meeting, but the caucus issue was never brought up. I only talked about the mosque, trying to figure out how they would be voting and why. All they wanted to talk about, especially Watts, was making me the Council president because, to quote Watts, everyone ‘respects’ me because I am ‘fair.’ If I remember correctly, at the time, they were not even aware that I had a problem with Mr. McCarthy.

“Also, it is no secret that I have had a rocky relationship with the Norwalk Democrats over the years. I won’t go into details, but I will say that I have refused to allow the dysfunction that has afflicted the party over the years force me to leave politics.

“Regarding the caucus, I have repeatedly said to the Republicans that I would not show up at caucus meetings as long as the issues I raised concerning McCarthy were not addressed. At no time did I submit or even discuss submitting the paperwork necessary for me to actually leave the caucus (which, in my case, was required because of my political affiliation). I have been in constant contact with Mr. Petrini and Mr. Hempstead regarding caucus and Council business.

“Yesterday afternoon, I worked out a scenario with Petrini that I believe will resolve the McCarthy issue; that is the reason I attended last night’s caucus meeting. I had no idea McCarthy would not be at the meeting until it was mentioned to me by Petrini. I would have attended even if he were there.”

On Tuesday, Hempstead tried to cool tempers, saying he’s been in politics for a long time and knows people get angry.

“I get it, but if we can move forward at least with the rest of our term, kind of at least keep our conversations civil, kind of listen to all sides and all people, we are all guilty of this one or the other way from time to time, just keep it to the business before us and let’s focus on the business of the city more than anything else,” Hempstead said. “Other things should be focused on behind the scenes.”


13 responses to “Kimmel says he’s back with Norwalk Republicans; Dems say otherwise”

  1. Norewalk Lifer

    This article is of supreme indifference to me, I could care less where Kimmel lands, this isn’t about his personal viewpoint, it’s about what’s right for the city, there’s too much “soft skilling” involved here, with regards to Nate Sumpter, clearly that was character assassination, BUT if Kimmel were really a leader, he’d listen to Watts, and yes Mr. Watts, Mr. Kimmel might be inclined to share the best parts of his leadership.

    But this constant, “he loves me, he loves me not” volley at the net with Kimmel, well, it’s old, it’s tiresome, and it’s not necessary

    Norwalk Lifer

  2. John Hamlin

    This article is a classic example of the supreme dysfunction and growing irrelevance of our Common Council. Why don’t they stop whining about their hurt feelings and petty personal feuds and their egomaniacal obsession with their own sense of importance and do something to move the city FORWARD. They are a do nothing council. All they do is have food fights — they can’t even approve the aquarium lease!! Enough!! We need charter reform to take the running of the city entirely out of their hands.

  3. Yankee Clipper

    Both the Davids are bullies … enough is enough. The leadership as well as rank and file of both parties need to stand up to those two and tell them that they should change their ways or leave their respective parties.

  4. Casey Smith

    Mr. Watt’s antics aside, Mr. Kimmel brought this on himself by making lengthy public statements about why he wasn’t attending this caucus or that caucus. There have been Council Members in the past who never attended caucuses and others who left their party caucuses and simply said, “I’m done with that, thank you very much.” This seems to be a case of TMI (Too Much Information, for the non-texters). I understand that Mr. Kimmel is a principled man, but we really don’t need to know the details of why he was or wasn’t at a caucus meeting. If someone asks him, it’s one thing, but publicly announce every spat seems a bit too much.
    One interesting thing that came out of this was hearing about the “Harbor Lights” meeting regarding Mr. Watt. Oh, to be a fly on THAT wall!!!!

  5. EveT

    According to this video, the Council spent almost 12 minutes going round and round on this personal spat while a room full of people waited for them to get on with the actual agenda. These elected officials need to grow up, set their personal feelings aside, and do the city’s business.

  6. Taxpayer Fatigue

    I respect and admire Councilman Kimmel for doing what the leadership of the republican caucus should have done a long time ago.

  7. Piberman

    If memory is correct no Council Republican ever caucused with Democrats. Are Republicans desperate to have a Democrat in their ranks ? Is Mr Kimmel being groomed for Republican Council leadership ?

  8. Don’t Panic

    Members of the council need more FOI training. The ability to meet as a political caucus that is exempt from public meeting status because it is called out as an exception. With that right comes responsibility. Here is the definition of a caucus under FOI

    (3) “Caucus” means (A) a convening or assembly of the enrolled members of a single political party who are members of a public agency within the state or a political subdivision, or (B) the members of a multimember public agency, which members constitute a majority of the membership of the agency, or the other members of the agency who constitute a minority of the membership of the agency, who register their intention to be considered a majority caucus or minority caucus, as the case may be, for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act, provided (i) the registration is made with the office of the Secretary of the State for any such public agency of the state, in the office of the clerk of a political subdivision of the state for any public agency of a political subdivision of the state, or in the office of the clerk of each municipal member of any multitown district or agency, (ii) no member is registered in more than one caucus at any one time, (iii) no such member’s registration is rescinded during the member’s remaining term of office, and (iv) a member may remain a registered member of the majority caucus or minority caucus regardless of whether the member changes his or her party affiliation under chapter 143.

    When someone chooses to caucus, especially with members of another party, they provide a letter to the clerk’s office–they don’t just announce it to the media.

    I would argue that “no such member’s registration is rescinded during the member’s remaining term of office” means that Mr. Kimmel can’t switch caucuses in mid-term, but it’s arguable that the statute means it cannot be rescinded involuntarily.

    Given that there were two different FOI issues at this common council meeting (the fight about the FOI rules with respect to the amended agenda), it might behoove Mr. Coppola to brush up on FOI (or at least load the act on his smart phone for quick reference).

  9. Newsfreak203

    The irony is that everyone believes, hears or read what they want and take whatever they feel will validate their position. However, if Bruce stop thinking of himself first or assume he’s the most important person on the Council, then maybe the agenda would not had been delayed… having said that, I agree with the Democrat’s for challeging Kimmel’s position on whether he is/not Caucusing with the GOP, which would have huge implications, if it’s true.

    I find Bruce as being selfish, manipultive and putting his personally agenda before the city.

    Personally, I don’t feel one council representative should have that much power at his/her disposal in throughing the entire Council in disarray, to me it’s just disgusting!!!

  10. JMB

    How in the world can Norwalk get anything accomplished when council members are more concerned about hurt feelings than getting anything done? It is utterly ridiculous to me that these grown men cannot see beyond their politics and figure out how to move forward. I don’t care if BK dissed DW or DM (though I imagine they both deserved it). If people stopped being so concerned with power than maybe something good could happen. Grow up, for god sakes and skip the grandstanding.

  11. The Deal

    Norwalk is the CRAZIEST place EVER!

  12. Kevin Di Mauro

    Sorry Bruce. I could care less about which party you belong to or associate with. In my book you are useless.

  13. Joanne

    Stop the insanity folks!!! Get back to the business at hand…why is it there’s always craziness around election time and heading into a new political season? And yes, a new political season is on the horizon…Having been an elected official several times over I have never understood why some people just don’t get that once elected you represent the “ENTIRE” city!!! Who cares who is chairman or who has what position? The ultimate goal is to do what is right for the whole population of Norwalk (or it should be anyway) I know I made a few mistakes while serving on the council and other committees but it had nothing to do with picking and choosing who I represented. I never for one moment thought I was there for political grandstanding..everyone needs to take a deep breath and get back to business and stop this foolishness. If Bruce doesn’t want to caucus with either side so be it…he’ll be a caucus of one but that still should have no impact on how meetings are run and what business is taken care of. Power struggles just don’t work when it comes to doing the right thing!

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