McCarthy attacks Watts’ behavior after committee meeting

NORWALK, Conn. – A Norwalk councilman said he was “derisively mocked” by another Norwalk councilman Tuesday evening.

Towards the end of a discussion about sidewalks at the Public Works Committee, Councilman David Watts (D-District A) imitated Councilman David McCarthy (R-District E) in an exaggerated way, as shown in the video above. Some committee members laughed. McCarthy said, “That’s your definition of civility, that you’re going to suddenly make fun of me?”

“I’m not making fun of you man,” Watts replied. “We like to make jokes. We’re having a good time.”

McCarthy asked to comment about it after the meeting.

“I’m sorry I don’t make fun of people, and do that, like a circus clown. That’s unacceptable, if we can’t have basic respect for people,” he said. “At his worst, I don’t know if you were here for the garbage outsourcing things, I never made fun of him. I had to hammer my fist on the table to get him to even stop talking but I didn’t make fun of him and I don’t ever make comments about his appearance or anything else.”

The “derisive mocking” came about 10 minutes after McCarthy interrupted Watts while he was pressing on a sidewalk issue.

A resident had complained – much of the sidewalk on the road had been replaced as part of a road paving job, but not the sidewalk in front of the resident’s house – and Watts asked Department of Public Works Director Hal Alvord what was the genesis of the problem.

Alvord explained that there was a financial limitation to how many sidewalks can be repaired, that it would cost $91 million to do all 140 miles of sidewalk in Norwalk, that the $350,000 for sidewalk repair in this year’s budget was gone. The other sidewalks had issues and needed to be repaired, but not the sidewalk in question.

“This is unbelievable,” Watts said. The situation is “not right,” he said, and began to describe the resident’s story when McCarthy interrupted him.

“Rather than testifying, Mr. Alvord just gave you an answer,” McCarthy said.

“He is a grown man,” Watts replied.

“If you have another question or disagreement that is fine but if you are trying to make the mayor’s policy or city … save that and write a letter, ” McCarthy said.

“You shouldn’t attack the mayor,” Watts said. “He is not here today. I don’t work for the mayor. The mayor is not here to defend himself and I am not here to defend the mayor.”

McCarthy suggested Watts say something constructive.

“We have been trying to address the sidewalk problem since the beginning of the council,” Watts said. “We get into these urban/suburban debates … That gets back to why we are here on public works. For me, we spin our wheels on how we deal with sidewalks.”

Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) stepped in to ask questions and support the idea that the sidewalks need work. “You’ve got to admit sometimes these arguments we do feel like we are spinning our wheels,” he said, eventually.

After 10 minutes there was the moment captured above.

“You want to repeat that?” McCarthy said to Watts.

“I don’t know what that was,” Watts said, referring to something McCarthy said. “We’re not making fun of you,” Watts said.

“I’m not laughing if you don’t notice,” McCarthy said.

After the meeting, McCarthy described his inaudible comment as, “I said OK, lets’ move on and he turns and mocks me. Let’s turn that around and say I had done that to him. He would be standing in front of my house with 20 other people. I didn’t project, I’ll give him that one. If I was saying something derogative in any way.”

Watts listens to Alvord “and says opposite things,” McCarthy said.

“I get that the (complaining resident) thinks it is arbitrary, and sometimes you get someone who is only looking out their front door and I can understand that, but for a member of this council to not listen to facts, or be presented with facts and still just yell and scream, and thinking that that’s changing something,” McCarthy said. “He has done precisely zero to do something about sidewalks in this council other than yell and say we should replace every sidewalk in the city.”

Watts spoke in an even tone throughout and did not raise his voice, as shown in the video below.

Norwalk’s sidewalk ordinance mirrors that of every city in Connecticut, McCarthy said. Kimmel has spent researching the issue, McCarthy said. “He didn’t make fun of anybody, call anybody names or throw up his hands and do that,” he said.

“I am not seeing any work being done. That’s why I stopped him. I see a lot of testifying. I don’t see even a reasonable suggestion,” McCarthy said. “… Screaming at a committee meeting is not the way to effect change. I have seen this with other staff members – Hal can handle himself – but with staff that I consider to have been in a hostile work environment because of the way they are treated by elected and appointed officials. That is not appropriate.”
Watts declined to respond to McCarthy’s remarks.


23 responses to “McCarthy attacks Watts’ behavior after committee meeting”

  1. Norewalk Lifer

    McCarthy over-reacted, ridiculous

  2. NorwalkVoter

    Thin skin all around.

  3. Mike Mushak

    Let me get this straight. Mr. McCarthy can violate standards of civility with abandon through insults, lies, and attacks directed at anyone he feels like including members of the public, as he has done repeatedly in the press and in person, but an obvious joking mockery done with a smile by Mr Watts is beyond the pale? Really? Why the double standard for Mr. McCarthy? The hypocrisy is astounding, and is classic bullying behavior.
    Here’s just a short list of Mr. McCarthy’s lack of civility towards his fellow Norwalkers, officials and the public alike:

    1) Attacked and insulted, through a nasty letter to the editor published on Mayor Rilling’s Inauguration Day last November, 36 members of the public who were concerned about protecting our precious harbor and oyster industry, by signing a petition to request a perfectly allowable and legal public hearing on the state permit renewal of our $300 million taxpayer-funded wastewater treatment plant, a plant which he called “award-winning” while it was and still is under a state disciplinary consent decree from DEEP for recently “screwing up” (as a state official candidly mentioned). In 2010 alone, our “award-winning” plant dumped raw sewage into the harbor 13 times, forcing the closure of shellfish beds and poisoning the environment. The contractor running the plant had its offices in Norwalk raided by federal EPA officials investigating illegal activity. With this record, many folks are concerned about how the plant is being operated, but Mr. McCarthy saw fit to call these concerned folks “irresponsible” and that the single public hearing held in a drafty kitchen at the plant would cost taxpayers “hundreds of thousands” of dollars, a comment clearly designed to intimidate and silence these folks BEFORE the public hearing. When asked for evidence of these costs, he revised his number down to $50,000, saying there was “no distinction” quoted right here on NON between “hundreds of thousands” and $50,000. Really? And an FOI request to DPW for records to support even his $50,000 claim have gone unanswered, probably because there are no records. Lies and insults to bully the public on the very serious subject of protecting our harbor and the proper operation of a huge taxpayer-funded facility.

    2). The Rowayton Ave boondoggle that is now underway that is destroying the once charming historic and leafy character of a major gateway into Rowayton (go see for yourself) was sold to other officials and to a skeptical public by Mr. McCarthy using false statements on accident rates, truck strikes, sight line distances, and actual dollar amounts that it will cost Norwalk taxpayers. He publicly attacked those including well-respected leaders of his own community who questioned the dubious facts on the record that supported this project. He even said no one opposed this project in the past even though every public meeting over the last 10 years on this project was filled with opponents who spoke, all on the record. The fact that the city ignored them repeatedly doesn’t make their concerns about the need and scale of this project just go “poof” and go away. There was no need for this project at this scale for any safety or aesthetic reasons, it is completely out of context for the area, it will actually decrease safety as it will encourage speeding and more accidents, and it will go down in history as Mr. McCarthy’s $3 million taxpayer-funded folly that he lied and attacked folks about to push through when he could have easily joined the community and his fellow councilman John Igneri in calling for a major redesign and scaling back (without having to pay the state back any money if it was handled well, which it wasn’t).

    3.) The mosque flyer. Enough said on that for now. Everyone knows what that shameful episode was about, a low point in Norwalk politics and image, thanks to Mr. McCarthy.

    Etc, etc, etc. You get the picture. McCarthy can bully all he wants and never once apologize to anyone for it, but will not tolerate a mocking joke made in jest by his fellow councilman Mr. Watts.
    We have to ask why he feels so privileged on these matters.

  4. Suzanne

    I know this is childish, but I want to say to Mr. McCarthy, after watching the second video above, “Who died and made you king of the Committee?” He interrupted a reasonably presented testimony by Mr. Watts basically telling him what he was saying was not good enough. Mr. McCarthy was aggressive and rude. Now, it’s two children in the sandbox: Mr. Watts and his hand gestures were silly and funny but not necessarily appropriate. Mr. McCarthy who can dish it out but not take it gives an even funnier lecture on civility, a quality he is not likely to be engaged in at any meeting I have witnessed with him in attendance. The entire incident is a distraction and printing this information seems an exercise in provocation rather than truly informative: that these two would “duke it out” is not news. Repeating it just underscores the behavior even if NON thinks it is “relevant.”

    1. Mark Chapman


      Included in our stated mission is to shine a light on how the people the taxpayers chose to represent them are conducting business in their names. You might find it unseemly or unpleasant to read, but it is relevant. Voters should know who they are choosing to represent them. Civility is an issue.

  5. the donut hole

    The council clown is impressive on his grasp of the real issues here. Did he realize he was at the DPW meeting and not ordinance or finance where the conversation needs to be had? Wasting time.

  6. LWitherspoon

    I am blown away by the stark contrast between Mr. Watts’s childish buffoonery and Mr. Kimmel’s practical and reasonable proposal for solving the problem. Also amazing that Mr. Watts would continue beating up city staff after being told that the sidewalk in question wasn’t paved farther due to a lack of funds. I suppose therein lies a key difference between Mssrs. Watts and Kimmel – Mr. Watts refuses to accept a factual statement from an informed individual, pouts, and repeats his complaint more loudly, while Mr. Kimmel thoughtfully considers the problem and looks for a way to work with others towards a solution. The contrast reminds me of the old Goofus and Gallant cartoons that used to appear in Highlights magazine for children.
    Mr. McCarthy is certainly no saint but I don’t believe he has ever stooped to the level of clownish antics displayed by Mr. Watts on this video. A student behaving as Mr. Watts did would likely get detention; we shouldn’t tolerate it in Council committee meetings and we certainly shouldn’t promote people who behave this way to the position of State Representative.

  7. Suzanne

    Mark Chapman, I do not find it “unseemly or unpleasant to read” but, rather, a ridiculous waste of print. This is the City Council we have, we get it. Yes, it will be prudent to get more effective administrators. But, to constantly reinforce this silly behavior is just, well, silly and gives insight into nothing. Your site, your decision but I think, in this case, emphasizing this behavior is just more of the same.

  8. LWitherspoon

    Anyone who is considering replacing Rep. Chris Perone (D) with Mr. Watts should first view the behavior by Mr. Watts at 0:55 in the video at the top of the story. Is that the kind of behavior we want from the person who is representing us in Hartford? Was there any apology from Mr. Watts after his mocking imitation of Mr. McCarthy, or just the taunting laughter we saw in the video?
    Perhaps this is yet another example of the bad behavior that may have led to NoN not endorsing Mr. Watts for re-election last November.

  9. Oldtimer

    McCarthy isn’t smart enough to understand that most of the time when public figures are mocked, they bring it on themselves ? No one is spared, and the wise victims of the comic’s attention laugh right along when it is truly funny. He would do well to review the president’s performance at the correspondent’s dinner. His reaction this time will only bring more similar treatment. He needs to either change his behavior (deprive the comics of ammunition) or, learn to expect a bit of teasing and roll with it. Rolling with that kind of criticism takes the fun out of it for the critics.

  10. LWitherspoon

    You’re doing a major disservice to President Obama by comparing his performance to what Mr. Watts did. Anyone who views the top video at 0:55 will immediately realize the many differences between the two, the main one being that President Obama’s performance was funny. Moreover, there is a place and a time for everything, and council committee meetings are not roasts.
    At the next committee meeting should we give Mr. McCarthy a pass to do a mocking impression of David Watts? After all there’s nothing childish about it, it’s all in good fun, right? Exactly how far do you want to carry this ridiculousness?

  11. Oldtimer

    I did not compare the president’s performance to Watts’s. I suggested that McCarthy would do well to review the president’s performance. The president takes more than his share of mockery by all kinds of comedians with grace and a good sense of humor. I was suggesting McCarthy could learn from the president. Watts is an interesting character with a good sense of humor, in my opinion, but certainly not in the same league as the president. McCarthy needs to stop taking himself so serious. A lot of the criticism he gets is certainly justified.

  12. Perhaps –

    Perhaps the title should be “Mushak attacks McCarthy after watching a video”? McCarthy simply asked a question – he clearly was offended(why?).

    I would add to Mr McCarthy; toughen up a bit they probably say much worse behind your back. Perhaps Mr. Watts could gain a little more respect by treating others as he wishes to be treated. Maybe the antics explain why they can’t find gainful employment?


    Who can possibly defend any of these people? And their actions, no matter how childish?

  13. Bill

    @ Watts, we don’t have enough money for sidewalks because you give it away to over paid public unions

  14. Mike Mushak

    @Perhaps, I was offended that Mr McCarthy arrogantly suggested the angry homeowner just needed to wash his clearly cracked and crumbling sidewalk which city trucks helped destroy, and that he lectured David Watts on civility after he routinely and without any remorse attacks entire communities of people in Norwalk, including those who care passionately about protecting the harbor, or who want to protect neighborhood character in a historic area of the city that is being assaulted with an inappropriate and over engineered boondoggle. That’s all. There clearly is a double standard here for behavior based on McCarthy’s comments. One loose standard for McCarthy, and one strict standard for Watts. Why?

  15. Joe Espo

    The head should have been: Nancy Defends Watts Because McCarthy is a Republican.

  16. EastNorwalkChick

    Both are in the wrong, both are being childish. This is a clear example why nothing gets done, nothing changes and nothing moves us forward in Norwalk.

  17. Melanie

    Suzanne has a point, somethings are just not worth publishing. On the other hand, this editor also has a point about character and character attacks and professionalism by public servants. It should also be noted that it is the job of the editor to get you to click and sensationlising tabloid gossip, well it does generate clicks. One would think this forum would exclude such low brow soap opera promotions but when things are slow and even when the junky has little to offer, which by the way, is not why most follow this site but, well, it is what it is. When ya got nothing, make something up.

  18. Manners Please

    This is just a drop in the bucket. The real issue is that the behavior of so many of those appointment, elected and employed in city hall exhibit disgusting behavior constantly.
    Disagree fine.
    But when it becomes part of the norm to act so disrespectfully of those you work with (check out a zoning meeting!) and not be embarrassed by it… All of Norwalk should be ashamed!

  19. Perhaps –

    @Mike Mushak – I called them both out. I think they are both blowhards.

  20. Peter Parker

    I’ll say this again here…. Gee, I’m confused. You mean if this person on Dry Hill Road now wanted to fix his own sidewalk he would be required to put in concrete? OK, so I guess my question is why was the city allowed to break its on policy and repair the existing sidewalk with blacktop and not concrete? Hmm sounds like a lawsuit in the making the city disregarded its own policy they should be fined and forced to make the homeowner whole.

  21. LWitherspoon

    @Mike Mushak
    If Dave McCarthy did mocking impression of David Watts in a council committee meeting, I would condemn it just as strongly. I have in fact criticized McCarthy’s behavior on multiple occasions when it fell below the standard I expect from elected officials. Your conclusion that there is clearly a double standard at play is unsupported by fact.
    No elected official of any party should do a mocking impression of a colleague from the other side of the aisle, particularly on the record in an official meeting. Say what you will about Dave McCarthy, he has never behaved so immaturely as that.

  22. RU4REAL

    Who cares, just vote both of them out in the next election. We have bigger fish to fry here in Norwalk!

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