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Critic’s tip highlights ‘uncommon practice’ by Kydes

Common Council member John Kydes (D-District C). (Photo contributed by the Kydes exploratory committee)

The 2021 Election is Nov. 2. A District C Democratic primary is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 14.

NORWALK, Conn. — A Freedom of Information request for City records, inspired by a tip from a City Hall staffer, produced information that appears to support an allegation that Common Council member John Kydes (D-District C) nurtures political allies by providing favors for those who support him.

Kydes threw his support to an applicant for a City job early this year, the records show, appealing directly to Norwalk Chief Financial Officer Henry Dachowitz. The candidate, who reportedly is a relative of another Council member, wasn’t hired.

Dachowitz, who has been CFO since April 2019, said it’s the first time he’s had a job applicant recommended by a Council member.

In response to the inquiry, Director of Personnel and Labor Relations Ray Burney vigorously defended the City’s hiring practices. He also said he didn’t “recall any overture made by John Kydes to me regarding the filling of the Deputy Comptroller position.”

The Democratic Town Committee endorsed Kydes for reelection and Jennifer McAllister, a newcomer who’s been an Oak Hills Park Authority member since November, as his running mate for Common Council.  They’re being challenged for the endorsement by Jenn McMurrer and Tyler Fairbairn, who secured the signatures needed to force a primary in District C, which will be held Tuesday.

Kydes is simultaneously seeking a DTC endorsement for Mayor in 2023.

The tip was provided confidentially and didn’t come from anyone competing with Kydes in this year’s election.

Kydes declined to comment. He hasn’t responded to emails since NancyOnNorwalk posted an article based on critical comments made by his 2015 running mate, John Metsopoulos. Before the article was published, Kydes questioned what the reporter’s “end game” might be.

 

A job for a friend’s family member?

Some Democrats heartily support Kydes; as an example, former Planning Commissioner Nora King, who is not running for office this year, is an ardent fan.

But others have a litany of issues they will discuss privately; some question his integrity and describe him as having built a District C power base by lining up “yes” folks. As an example, his wife is on the Democratic Town Committee and was part of the vote to recommend him for the endorsement. Council member George Theodoridis, who is not running for reelection after representing C for two years without uttering many, if any, sentences in public meetings, was recruited by Kydes. At the July DTC meeting where endorsements were made, Naomi Kydes seconded the nomination for McAllister to replace Theodoridis.

Critics also accuse Kydes of being manipulative, vindictive and transactional, employing a quid-pro-quo approach while ignoring constituents and giving special treatment to friends.

Some weeks back, an insider accused Kydes of trying to arrange a job for a supporter’s relative.  NancyOnNorwalk submitted an FOI request for text messages and emails between Kydes and Dachowitz to investigate the tip.

Through this, NancyOnNorwalk learned that if a Council member uses their personal email for City business, then compliance with an FOI request is basically done on the honor system as the City’s IT Department cannot search the emails.

Kydes told City Clerk Donna King that he’d had to replace his cell phone and could not retrieve his old text messages.

Dachowitz produced text messages from his phone, relative to the request. They include this exchange from March 17:

Kydes: Did that accounting position get filled?

Dachowitz: Which accounting position are you referring to?

Kydes: I don’t remember the exact position but there was an opening in your office and I sent you a letter of recommendation

Dachowitz: We are reviewing resumes for Deputy Comptroller currently. I’ll check with Chitsamay.

Kydes: {redacted} was the name. Please consider an interview.

Dachowitz: I don’t recall seeing anything. Could you please resend to me? Thx

And this one from April 15:

Kydes: Hi Henry. How did the interview go with {redacted}?

Dachowitz: It went well, thanks.

 

Neither Dachowitz nor Kydes produced any emails.

Dachowitz explained:

“To the best of my recollection, I only discussed this topic with John Kydes through these text messages.

“The candidate complied with all our application procedures as did the other candidates.  We determined that the recommended candidate should get an interview (conducted through ZOOM) as we did with about 4 or 5 other candidates.  The selection/evaluation members determined that a different candidate was the most qualified — we made that most qualified candidate an offer and she then accepted.

“We are always looking for the best candidate to fill our open positions.  I have never received a recommendation from a Councilmember on behalf of a job applicant in any other instance; I think this is an uncommon practice.”

 

Kydes formed an exploratory committee to run for Mayor in December, making him a potential future boss for Dachowitz when the recommendation was made. On April 15, campaign finance filings showed that Kydes wasn’t running this year but was seeking to run in 2023, making the intention well-known in City Hall.

 

Ethics

The City’s ethics code prohibits a City office holder from using their position to grant “any special consideration, treatment or advantage to any Person beyond that which is generally available to the public.”

It also states:

  • “A conflict of interest arises when there is a direct or indirect personal or financial interest of an Officer or Employee, Immediate Family or a business associate in the outcome of an official act or action, or any other matter pending before the Officer or Employee or before the public body in which the Officer or Employee holds office or is employed.”
  • “A ‘conflict of interest’ does not arise in the case of an official act or action in which the Officer or Employee has a personal or financial interest in the outcome, such as in the establishment of a tax rate, that is no greater than that of other persons generally affected by the decision.”

 

That section of the City code was updated in January.

 

 

‘Not aware’

A reliable source said the would-be Deputy Comptroller was related to another Council member.

NoN sent an email to every Council member, seeking a response.

“I am not aware of this,” Personnel Committee Chairwoman Barbara Smyth (D-At Large) replied.  “The Deputy Comptroller position does not need Common Council approval, so it didn’t come through the Personnel committee; therefore, I am not privy to the details.”

“I am not aware of any family member of mine inquiring about or applying for any position in the City of Norwalk,” Council member Thomas Keegan (R-District D) replied. “Further, I don’t believe anyone in my family has the necessary educational background (for the position).”

Greg Burnett (D-At Large), Tom Livingston (D-District E) and Lisa Shanahan (D-District E) said they knew nothing about it. Diana Révolus (D-District B) replied with information about the Haitian community attempting to raise funds for earthquake victims. Other Council members didn’t respond.

 

 

Personnel Director responds

Burney explained, “the responsibility for the integrity of the hiring process for the non-uniformed positions for City of Norwalk rests squarely on my desk.”

He wrote:

“In the 4 plus years I have been the Personnel Director (or Chief Human Resources Officer) my staff has played an active role in the recruitment and selection of candidates, and we approve every final candidate selected for an offer.  With very few exceptions, candidates for every position that we recruit for are vetted by my office staff.  In concert with the Department Heads, we make our best efforts to select the best 5 -10 candidates from among the applicants.  We then try to narrow the field down further to 4 or 5 candidates.  The process then calls for the establishment of an interview panel that contains me or a member of my staff, one or two departmental representatives, and often a subject matter expert that is not a City employee.

“For example, for the upcoming interviews for the Director of Recreation and Parks, the interview panel will be me, {Chief of Staff} Laoise King, {Chief of Operations and Public Works} Anthony Carr, and the Recreation Director from Fairfield as an outside subject matter expert. After the interview panel is established, we develop a series of 10-12 questions that each candidate will be asked, questions having to do with subject matter expertise, work style and approach, leadership capacity and decision-making criteria.

“The interview panel then meets with the best 5 or 6 candidates and after the interviews, we select the best candidate based upon their work history and their responses to our questions.  “For some positions, the Mayor meets with a final candidate (or two) and then an offer is made.

“In my experience and participation on these panels for the past 4 years, there has not been one instance where the panel members did not agree upon the selection of the best candidate to fill the vacant position.

“I do not recall any overture made by John Kydes to me regarding the filling of the Deputy Comptroller position.

“Over the years there have been occasions when someone of significance in the City has said something like ‘Someone I know is a good candidate for position X’. This does not happen very often but it has happened.  My response has been to anyone who made an overture like this has been that everyone who wants a position with the City of Norwalk has to apply on line and they have to meet the minimum qualifications for the position. If the candidate you are recommending applies on line and meets the minimum qualifications, that candidates resume will be reviewed with every other applicant who meets the minimum qualifications.  And then we will select the best qualified candidates for interviews.  If your recommended candidate is one of the best qualified candidates, they will be notified by my office for an interview.

“As I said, this does not happen very often but it has happened. I can further assure you and the public that there has not been one occasion when someone of significance in the City has attempted to unduly influence the hiring process or decision making. I would not tolerate that type of overture.  We have strived to find the best candidate to meet the needs of the City, and I think over the past 4 years we have done a pretty good job at finding quality people to work for the City.”

A SoNo inquiry

There are other accusations.

A Democrat pointed out that Common Council member George Tsiranides (D-District D) sat in on a recent Parking Authority meeting where an idea to provide free parking to Norwalk restaurant patrons one day a week was floated, although he hadn’t been to a Parking Authority meeting for months, and left as soon as the discussion of that idea ended.

Tsiranides and Kydes co-own il Posto on Washington Street. The Parking Authority hasn’t pursued that idea since the discussion in May. Tsiranides dropped his reelection bid after District D Democrats declined to recommend him for endorsement.

At the May meeting of the Parking Authority where this was discussed, Chairman Mike Harden said the idea had come from a member of the SoNo restaurant group. Harden didn’t reply to a Wednesday email asking who suggested it and why the idea hasn’t gone anywhere.

NoN also emailed all Parking Authority members to ask similar questions. No one replied. Tsiranides and Kydes did not reply to Thursday emails.

Norwalk Director of Transportation, Mobility, and Parking James Travers didn’t support the idea during the May discussion. It’s really hard to take back free parking once it’s been extended, he said, suggesting instead that an app might give diners a code when they might a reservation, and then the restaurant owner could share the parking costs. He said this would “empower” business folks rather than having the Authority continue trying to subsidize costs when the Authority is struggling with its own budget during a pandemic.

 

Story corrected at 2:49 p.m. to show that George Theodoridis has been on the Council for one term.

22 comments

Joe Oliveri September 10, 2021 at 6:49 am

Where is the story here? So Kydes made a recommendation for someone who applied for a job and that person didn’t even get the job? Ive been reading Nancy for years and have seen the bias reporting but this is over the top. It’s unfortunate because Norwalk has very little quality news coverage but I guess that is what is happening all over the world.

M Murray September 10, 2021 at 7:02 am

I guess the question would be whether the recommended candidate is a relative or business partner of Kydes. Otherwise there would be nothing wrong with a letter of recommendation and following up on it for a constituent or potential constituent.

Norwalker September 10, 2021 at 9:01 am

It’s looks like Nancy fell for a trap by a City employee, with political ties I’m sure, to go after and smear another political candidate. This article is far reaching and hasn’t proven anything other than the normal practice of someone making a recommendation or referral for someone they know and trust. Isn’t that what referrals are? Doesn’t the city want the best candidates? Will Nancy ne doing similar stories on other political candidates?

David T McCarthy September 10, 2021 at 9:53 am

I saw signs of this from day one, but if Kydes is this low a politician, he should go now… He has obviously learned well from his mentor.

Bryan Meek September 10, 2021 at 10:33 am

Funny how the court system had no issue mining and making public private emails for BOE members, but FOIA can’t touch them?

As for Ethics issues, would this go before the same panel that has no issue with things like elected officials voting on contracts that provide benefits for immediate family members?

DryAsABone September 10, 2021 at 11:25 am

Check his campaign contributions and try to determine links to contracts, however remote. I noted a couple of donations from people who have nothing but business connections to Norwalk. When I saw them the stink-alarm began to ring rather loudly.

Shelley September 10, 2021 at 11:40 am

I don’t condone quid pro quo behavior, but isn’t it just human nature? Time immemorial? Do we vilify the one who asks or do we trust our employees whom we pay to do the right thing?
On the other hand, don’t we have much bigger fish to fry? NPS performance? Over development? Traffic? Taxes? I’m just sayin’…

Scott Vetare September 10, 2021 at 12:23 pm

Too many games played by this party. It’s time to vote them out! Read Auerbach is the right man for the job. He’s a no b.s. man who’s honest and will work for the residents! Read is the right choice!

James September 10, 2021 at 1:05 pm

Nothing wrong here, to be equitable when can we critique Harry’s “uncommon practices”? Where would the list start

It seems rather nice of Kydes to write a letter of recommendation. And even better, Burney seems on point.!

John O'Neill September 10, 2021 at 4:21 pm

Big Deal — To Kydes critics – You’ve never recommended a friend or relative to someone for a job? I’m not a fan of Kydes but if this is the biggest issue he’s got he’s ok with me. If this kid doesn’t get the job at City Hall I know a School System that might need some help counting….Send him down the street.

Mike O'Reilly September 10, 2021 at 9:46 pm

Hey John, How many times did you beat your wife not including when you get home tonight?. This article is beyond belief. A favorite line is “But others have a litany of issues they will discuss privately”.
Let’s all step back and take a deep breath. John has worked hard as a Common Council member Giving many hours of service to our community. Do I agree with all of his votes? No . I am a Republican and i have many disagreements with him. John was elected because he reached out to the community. He won their trust.

As I read this Nancy on Norwalk article I am shocked. It seem’s like a personal attack.

Skip Hagerty September 10, 2021 at 11:00 pm

So this is somehow a scandal? Come on. That’s ridiculous. Trying to help a friend find a job is a nice thing to do.
And, by the way, I certainly am not a democratic supporter.

Tysen Canevari September 10, 2021 at 11:43 pm

I am not sure why you go after Mr Kydes when the mayor has done this for years. By the way, He is going to hire another out of town person to run the parks and rec department. The last one hauled out of town in a years time. This candidate is from Seattle and has a staff of over 1000 people. He is coming here to inherit a staff of 18! Yes 18! just shows how our heads of departments are getting overpaid Mr Mayor. They now ill come cross country to take our tax money! Facts! as my kids would say….

Lisa Brinton September 11, 2021 at 5:37 am

This is a non-story NON. John and I disagree on most things, but mainly, it’s his inability to see or speak out against the longer term implications of development impacting the neighborhoods he’s supposed to represent. But this is just a ridiculous story. Especially, since half this town’s relatives work for city hall. 🤣 Sadly, its our largest employer.

I’d like to know how John succeeds in having so many of his campaign lawn signs posted on Strawberry Hill – the future 18 wheeler truck route for Norden Place? Now, that’s a story worth covering, since he’s been largely silent on that safety & quality of life issue.

Norwalk’s streets are a mess – especially in East Norwalk. John owns that as a member of this administration – even if there’s a falling out now, due to his future ambitions.

Until Norwalk votes in council members with the courage to call time out to all this ‘growth & density’ vs announcing future mayoral plans – everyone will be able to take an even longer look at John’s signs. By then, Strawberry Hill Ave. will be a permanent parking lot.

Our Independent slate is running Scott Goodwin – a 15 year resident, who can’t take the nonsense going on in East Norwalk any longer. Please give him your consideration on Nov. 2.

Bobby Lamb September 11, 2021 at 11:02 am

Nancy – I noticed two things in this article. 1. Did you say Kydes is using his personal email and saying he lost his text messages? Isn’t that a Freedom of Information Act violation? Where are the Republicans who went nuts over Hillary and “her emails”? Are council people allowed to hide their city communications this way?? Got a new phone and can’t provide his texts? Only has to turn over emails on the honor system? That’s crazy. Can you please do a follow up on that? 2. Did you say Kydes and Theordoredies are business partners? And Kydes hand picked him to be his running mate? When did that happen? We’re they business partners the whole time? Did people know that when they were elected? I just looked it up – one chairs the planning committee and the other DPW – have they recused themselves from matters involving Washington St? Is that a conflict of interest??

Greg brasher September 12, 2021 at 10:34 am

Wow, this seems quite timely for some campaign smear. I think John has been doing a fine job for the city and his district and should be re-elected. From my perspective the job recommendation is something any person or friend would to. Plus the person never got hired.

Jo Bennett September 13, 2021 at 7:21 am

Former journalist here, who has pretty much only secured jobs via internal recommendations, shaking my head that this supposed “tip” was deemed article-worthy.
Regardless, the most interesting line in November will be Independents for Norwalk!

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