Updated, 4:31 a.m., comment from Pat Pheanious
NORWALK, Conn. – An email sent to discourage Democratic Norwalk mayoral candidates from attending a town hall-like meeting Wednesday in South Norwalk has been obtained by a board member of the agency that organized the event.
Common Councilman Warren Peña (D-At Large), who has been embroiled in an ongoing dispute with NEON (Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now) in his role as a leader of the South Norwalk Community Center, urged the mayoral candidates not to go to Wednesday’s community meeting organized by NEON, which, according to NEON CEO and President Pat Wilson Pheanious, was meant to give community members a chance to see the candidates for themselves.
The email was first reported on NancyOnNorwalk.
“It’s an outrage,” Pheanious said. “Somebody figured people needed to know.”
On Friday, NEON board member Jack O’Dea sent NancyOnNorwalk a copy of the brief and to-the-point email from Peña to all four Democratic candidates:
Gentlemen – I would strongly encourage all of you NOT attend tonight’s NEON forum.
In my opinion, you are all being set up and these folks running this forum CANNOT be trusted!
The email was dated at 10:34 a.m. Wednesday.
O’Dea, who lives in Stamford, thought it important for Norwalk voters to know what their elected official had been doing, calling Peña a “wannabe boss.”
“As a lifelong registered Democrat myself I always thought that we Democrats were all about openness and transparency. … I guess that this must not always be the case,” he said in an email. “This type of intimidation has no place in local, state or national politics. Shame on anybody who uses these tactics and congratulations to the Norwalk mayoral candidates who obviously chose not to listen to him and who showed up in spite of him to make their case to the citizens of Norwalk.”
Peña expressed skepticism about O’Dea’s credibility and speculated that NEON Chief Operating Officer Chiquita Stephenson had brought him on board to be her chief advocate.
“Let’s be realistic,” he said in an email. “My recommendation to my fellow Democrats was to help them avoid or be subjected to all the ridiculous behavior of NEON leadership staff. I mean look at the craziness I have had to deal with and continue to respond to. It’s tiresome, but I will be relentless in my pursuits because they are guided by the Just principles.”
All four Democratic candidates said Peña’s email did not influence them. District D Chairman Vinny Mangiacopra, who has been endorsed by Peña, arrived nearly an hour late to the meeting. Andy Garfunkel did not attend, but said he was focusing his time and energy on getting signatures to get on the primary ballot.