NORWALK, Conn. – An assertion repeated by Mayor Richard Moccia in his drive for re-election is a little short from the truth he was telling in February.
Moccia has said at at least two public forums that he turned down the 21 percent raise for the mayor that was approved at the Feb. 12, 2013, Common Council meeting. At that council meeting, he said he wasn’t eligible for that raise.
“As a mayor I want to make it clear that this pay raise is not for the sitting mayor,” he said. “It is for the next person that is elected in November.”
The issue came up Tuesday at the mayoral debate sponsored by The Hour and the Norwalk Chamber of Commerce at the Norwalk Inn. Moccia’s challenger, former Norwalk Police Chief Harry Rilling, was asked what policy change he might make if he becomes mayor. Rilling said it wasn’t exactly a policy but he would immediately ask the council to repeal the raise.
“I think it’s obscene in a time when people are struggling to find work,” he said. “The mayor talks about the 6.5 percent unemployment rate but I don’t think that factors in the people who have just given up and have not tried looking for work anymore. I would say to the mayor, if you’re re-elected would you try to take the 21 percent tax hike off the books? Not just say you won’t accept it.”
The council voted to boost the salary 21.5 percent, from $113,963 as of Jan. 1, 2012, to $138,465 as of Jan. 1, 2014 — a raise of $24,502.
“That pay raise could have gone into effect last year,” Moccia said. “I turned it down. You’re wrong again. … It was eligible for the last budget. Again, you are wrong with your facts. I could have taken it last year. I haven’t taken it. To imply I have is incorrect.”
He then took another shot at Rilling.
“Should you be elected, even with the current salary and your pension, you will be receiving over $200,000,” he said. “You will be, in effect, receiving a pension and a salary and you’re in that position, too. You have some choices you can make. I turned the pay raise down.”
Rilling will get his pension earned during his 41 years on the Norwalk Police Department no matter who wins the election, and Norwalk will have to pay either Moccia or Rilling to be mayor, so there is no net salary effect for the taxpayer unless someone takes the raise. Rilling also has insurance as part of his retirement package, he said recently, so the city would not have to pay for the mayor’s insurance if he is elected.
Asked in June if he would take the raise if elected, Moccia was less than transparent.
“In November, whoever the mayor is can make the decision whether they want to ask for the money to fund the pay raise,” he said.
Multiple Internet searches show no public statements saying he will not take the raise.
“You can’t get a raise while you’re in office,” Moccia said in June. “I got a raise that went into effect in January, after I was elected (2012). You can’t get two raises while you’re in office, so it was the new salary set for whoever was elected. I happen to have been elected; in January I got the raise. But I didn’t get another raise in the second year.”
In September, at the East Norwalk candidates forum, Moccia smiled and shook his head when Rilling brought up the matter of the mayoral raise.
“I didn’t take the pay raise. I turned it down,” he said.
Moccia’s statement about his non-eligibility for the raise at can be heard in a video of the February council meeting on the city’s website. You can find it here. Move the arrow to the 1:56:59 into the meeting.
At the 1:59:02 mark Moccia repeats the statement.
“I do not get a raise. This is not a raise for me.” he said.
Moccia’s latest assertion that he could have taken the raise but he didn’t can be heard at the 54:50 mark in the Hour’s video of its debate, which you can see here.
He has not responded to an email asking for an explanation.