NORWALK, Conn. – Contracts are a way of life in city government, but some Norwalk Democrats say that one routine aspect of that way of life needs improvement: the flow of information coming their way.
“We’re getting paperwork at the last minute into our council chambers consistently,” Councilman Warren Peña (D-At Large) said at the Jan. 23 council meeting. Later that day, he said in an email, “It’s becoming the norm and it’s frustrating. This administration has to be more responsible in delivering information to the legislative body.”
Councilwoman Anna Duleep (D-At Large) agrees, but veteran Councilman Carvin Hillard (D-District B) said that’s just the way it is.
“I think that’s due to expectations,” he said. “I’m not saying they’re wrong, I’m saying I’m used to it from being on the council for so long. I think it’s just the way it is, it’s just the way it has been.”
The Jan. 23 meeting had a contract with Liberation Program on its agenda; Duleep said an email had been sent to council members at 5:31 p.m. that day containing changes to that contract.
“That I voted yes on consent is a testament to my high regard for Liberation’s efforts to treat addicted moms,” she said in an email. “It almost became a classic example of how this administration’s questionable tactics made me vote no to (or delay voting on) a very worthy public/nonprofit partnership. Like when Mr. Bondi added the YMCA lease after council packets had already been delivered. Pattern? I’ll let my constituents decide.”
The YMCA lease was an issue at the Dec. 11 meeting. Councilman David Watts (D-District A) questioned why it had been added at the last moment, saying committee chairmen need to do a better job getting materials in to city staff.
Hilliard, a councilman for 10 years, said the apparent sloppiness is not partisan and it’s not a deliberate effort to deprive Democrats of information.
“You can criticize the administration or whatever, I don’t know if they’re partisan or whatever, but it’s always been that way,” he said. “I was there under (former Mayor) Alex (Knopp) – it’s that way. … I don’t think that’s too big an issue, because even the Republican council members, they want everybody to be informed. That’s what I believe from my experience. Nobody wants to pull anything on them.”
His solution to the problem is to study from other sources. “You have to kind of be flexible, be aware of the issues when they come up,” he said. “I make sure I read the paper. You have to kind of be aware of what’s going on around you. When something comes up, you either pass it on or vote to send it back to committee or whatever.”
Peña said in an email that the late-arriving information is not fair to council members, who have jobs and only have 30 to 60 minutes to review detailed paperwork before a council meeting, which is “Certainly not enough time to make an educated decision on very important matters that face our city.”
“Frankly, it’s not at all professional and seems sketchy,” he said.
Hilliard said city staff is out straight. “I think they certainly try to provide us with what we need. I honestly think they do. I don’t there’s anything sinister going on,” he said.
There’s a solution, of course. “It could be better if you want you increase the staff,” he said. “Do you want to do that? That goes into more taxes and all that. It’s a matter of what you want.”
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