Norwalk DTC struggles with BoE racism charge, sniping

Norwalk Democratic Town Committee Chairman Ed Camacho reacts to contentious comments at Monday’s DTC meeting.

NORWALK, Conn. – A rift on the Norwalk Board of Education stoked simmering resentments Monday night at the Democratic Town Committee meeting.

DTC Chairman Ed Camacho said it is important for members to try to work together to overcome lingering hard feelings left over from his rise to leadership over long-time active DTC member Brenda Penn-Williams, but his efforts to organize the troops – and provide a way for resentments to be aired in an organized way – hit roadblocks.

Two of three BoE minority members who are behind a recent complaint to the NAACP alleging racial discrimination on the board aired their grievances, asking, in part, that Camacho take a stand on their behalf over a comment they said was indicative of the problem they have been facing. A feeling was expressed by the BoE members and others that the DTC is not supporting its elected officials, in that DTC members are leaving comments online, under their own names, attacking those officials.

Camacho said he had talked to Gov. Dannel Malloy, who is up for re-election this fall.

“You know, he’s in a dogfight,” Camacho said. “But his thinking is if each of the towns he won can get 5 percent more votes than he did last time he can win by a landslide. On the other hand, if he gets 1 percent less then he’s going to lose. So it’s that close and I think I would like for us to do our part, because Norwalk has historically been viewed as not the most functional DTC in the state. Since we are the sixth largest city in the state, it’s my hope we can not make this about personalities.”

A personality not in the room loomed large over the proceedings: Republican BoE member Jack Chiaramonte was recently quoted in a published report as calling BoE member Shirley Mosby “the girl who cried black,” a takeoff on the cliché, “the boy who cried wolf,” in an article stemming from her complaint to the NAACP.

Mosby said many people in the community are upset about the comment. “That goes to the insensitivity that we have been talking about for the last year and a half, two years,” she said. She wanted to know what the DTC would do about it.

Camacho said he thought the way that comment was played up was “highly insensitive,” but tried to discourage having a conversation about it in the DTC meeting. But Councilwoman Phaedrel “Faye” Bowman (D-District B) said it should be discussed there as members of the community found it “highly offensive.”  Camacho should write a letter to the editor on the topic, she said.

Camacho said he’d like to have a collaborative conversation to draft such a letter.  “There is a difference of opinion about what has occurred, what the dynamics have been, on the Board of Education,” he said. He said he had only been to one BoE meeting and did not want to step on NAACP President Darnell Crosland’s toes.

The topic was revisited when NAACP member Andre Williams expressed confusion over who was representing Mosby legally. Camacho said he didn’t know if Deputy Corporation Counsel Jeffry Spahr was representing anyone on the board at this point, although Spahr penned several emails to Crosland on the topic on behalf of BoE Chairman Mike Lyons.

“I know that was a contentious issue,” Mayor Harry Rilling said. “It’s kind of like the same situation, the Corporation Counsel will represent members of the Common Council. They’re not city employees either, but they are representing the city in their actions. He is representing the Board of Education. I know there is some question as to the legality of whether or not Mr. Spahr can rightfully represent the Board of Education. I think that is being looked into. I don’t know what the final decision is going to be, but they did show language in the city charter that said the Corporation Counsel could, at times, represent the Board of Education.”

“In this particular instance the matter is problematic because this issue is amongst members of the board,” said Third Taxing District Commissioner Deb Goldstein. “… One board member is getting city aid and the other is not.”

That issue had been raised by BoE members, Rilling said.

BoE member Rosa Murray sat silent through the discussion, but BoE member Migdalia Rivas said she had come to the meeting, although she is not a DTC member, to decry the lack of support from the committee, citing “People in the DTC who have said that I should be removed because I am unprofessional, that I am not capable of doing my job.” She said her daughter had seen these comments and that it was hurtful.

“This isn’t about one person, it’s about all of us and it’s about our children,” Mosby said. “I know all of us want what is best for our kids. It’s about accepting people for who they are. … Three elected officials, three female, women, have stood up and said something is wrong. If you get three women saying something is wrong – not one, not two, but three, three women, you would think that – and then on top of them speaking up, they have to be subjected to this kind of stuff, where their children (see hurtful comments). I mean my son, personally he will not even touch this party now and I am sad because he has potential. He won’t even go near it now. He said forget these people. That’s sad. We lost a great leader in the future, a great leader, because he doesn’t want to deal with these people.”

“I don’t think that any of these issues have been aired out so I don’t think we can take any actions on them tonight,” Camacho said. “The actions we have taken tonight is we have formed committees. These conversations can be had in those committees and then those committees will then be able to report to the full DTC and recommend actions or anything else in connection with those.”
Camacho had emphasized the team building approach, which includes social gathering so everyone can get to know each other.

“The last few months and the next few months are going to be about establishing a process,” he said, “so that we can have these issues dealt with in an orderly manner rather than a haphazardly manner because I don’t think we’re going to like the result if we do things in an haphazard manner.”

Correction, 2:11 p.m.: Deb Goldstein is not a DTC member.


26 responses to “Norwalk DTC struggles with BoE racism charge, sniping”

  1. piberman

    That the DTC should take time to seriously support the unfounded racial discrimination charges by 3 Democratic BOE members is indeed a sad commentary. As is its “lack of interest” in resolving the long running NEON fiasco. The DTC may be many things but a considered representative body adhering to long standing Democratic Party principles it is not.
    Nor does it reflect the aspirations of our City’s burgeoning minority communities. A worthy DTC would chastise the 3 complaining BOE as unworthy of their positions. And thereby demonstrate it supports our legal system.

  2. Norwalk Cares

    It is unfortunate for Midaglia Rivas and Rosa Murray to be in the Sudetenland of Board of Education politics with a Neville Chamberlain clone running the DTC.
    The only question for Dems should be how Edwin Camacho has time trying to appease Jack Chiaramonte, Mike Lyons AND Darnell Crossland when so much of his time is spent protecting Warren Pena.

  3. loveforthecity

    Guess who is back under another pseudonym!

  4. West Norwalk Observer

    Has Mosby and Rivas produced their evidence of discrimination yet? All of the videos posted online seem to show otherwise. I strongly caution the DTC against making the same mistake that the NAACP did in supporting their claims without producing any evidence. The NAACP’s credibility is now in question – the DTC shouldn’t make the same mistake.

  5. EveT

    Sounds like Camacho is exercising appropriate restraint. Let the issues be discussed in committee, then let the committee bring a proposal to the DTC for what actions should be taken. Then the DTC can vote on that proposal.

  6. Casey Smith

    I suspect that the restraint on the part of the DTC is because it does not want to find itself in the same place where the NAACP ended up after Andre Williams cobbled together his letter on “behalf” of the NAACP board. Truthfully, I can’t blame them.
    I’m sorry that Ms. Bowman was offended by Mr. Chiaramonte’s comment, but how many other people are being offended (both black and white) by Mr. Mosby’s continual tirades and charges of bogus racism against the BOE? Oh, there may be claims that Mr. Mosby “felt” he was being discriminated against, but the facts tell a different story.
    “This isn’t about one person, it’s about all of us and it’s about our children,” [Ms.] Mosby said. “I know all of us want what is best for our kids.
    Sure it is. You just go right on believing that, Ms. Mosby, while the BOE and the District spends time and precious funding to defend itself against your father’s lawsuits. How is this “best for ‘our’ kids”? I’d really like some clarification on that.
    ” It’s about accepting people for who they are.” – Ms. Mosby.
    And isn’t it odd that the only time that there is a media story about you, it involves racism? Don’t worry, I hear you loud and clear.

  7. LWitherspoon

    Jack Chiaramonte’s choice of words was not appropriate, even if I agree with what I think he was trying to say: Mr. Mosby and his daughter make frequent false claims of disparate treatment and racial discrimination. Said false claims cost the City money and hurt the credibility of others who have legitimate complaints.

  8. oldtimer

    It is troubling to see how many people here have decided, without any evidence, that Ms Mosby’s discrimination charges are bogus. Too many seem to believe it is not discrimination unless there is proof of intent to discriminate. Maybe we haven’t come as far in the last fifty years as we like to think.

  9. EveT

    @Oldtimer, it’s not “intent to discriminate.” It’s the actual words and behavior, documented in the minutes and more so in the videos of the BOE meetings. Review of this evidence would be the standard for determining whether discrimination has occurred.

  10. LWitherspoon

    So despite any evidence or details in support of Ms. Mosby’s allegations, they should be presumed true until proven false? How can Ms. Mosby’s allegations be proved anything at all when they contain next to no substance? Ms. Mosby and the NAACP were asked by the City’s corporation counsel to provide evidence or, in the absence of any evidence, at least some details of the complaint. In response neither Ms. Mosby nor the NAACP have provided details or evidence. What does that tell you?
    It is a factual statement that Ms. Mosby’s father has made numerous frivolous complaints against the BoE, all of which have been judged to have zero merit. He hasn’t won a single one! Defending against Mr. Mosby’s frivolous and spiteful complaints has cost the City thousands of dollars. It would appear that when it comes to the Mosbys, the apple hasn’t fallen very far from the tree.

  11. longtimedem

    Woohoo! Godwin’s Law fulfilled in only two comments!


  12. LWitherspoon

    Here is a detailed response from the City’s assistant corporation counsel which thoroughly debunks Mr. Mosby’s latest frivolous complaint:

  13. Bill

    Ms. Mosby only cares about her brother’s job at the school district and her father’s pension…who cares about the kids.

  14. Mr. Ludlow

    @longtimedem: Me thinks the reference to Neville Chamberlain was about “appeasement” and not comparing anyone to atrocities.

    @oldtimer: Don’t you think that the whole problem is that Crossland said he needed time to gather evidence after the charges had been made?

    @CaseySmith: It’s not “restraint” to refuse to take a stand. You confuse “restraint” (which takes courage) with political expedience.

  15. Norewalk Lifer

    Mr.Chiaramonte’s words are indicative of his behavior over the years, I recall his flat out declaration concerning the head of the teacher’s union as being a “liar”, I admonished him here for his words, stating that while he may have a legitimate concern, the attacks of a personal nature were not going to win him any support.
    If a person is productive and goal oriented, there is a certain amount of restraint required in order to not leave dead bodies on floor in the wake of movement.
    The DTC should investigate thoroughly the allegations; there are many parents in Norwalk who consider the Norwalk Police Department racist; now that may or may not be founded in fact, but the clear message is there is a “perception”.
    While there seems to be an inordinate amount of desire or concern to have the DTC better themselves, I question why the Republicans of Norwalk do not exhibit the same concern or desire in persuading Mr. Chiaramonte to improve his oratory skills.

    After all, what is good for the goose, is good for sauce.

    Norwalk Lifer

  16. longtimedem

    Mr. Ludlow — Just to clarify, Godwin’s Law, as set out by Godwin himself, states: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.” Reference to Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement at Munich in allowing Hitler to take over the Sudetenland is clearly a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler. (Godwin’s Law does not require reference to atrocities in order to apply.)

  17. @Norwalkl lifer

    Stop making excuses. I also remember when the head of the teachers union lied, and Chiaramonte did the right thing by calling him out on it. Doesn’t the head of the teachers union have a duty to be truthful? The fact is the union made a false claim that they almost had a deal on the teachers contract, when in fact they had nothing of the sort. Every member of the negotiation committee also said there never was a deal. The union leader lied to make himself look good. Chiaramonte did the right thing then for exposing him for the liar he is, and he did the right thing now for saying Mosby & company show up at every meeting and accuse the board of racism without any proof. Finally, someone has stood up to them and told it like it is. Why aren’t you attacking the small group on the board who make these racist accusations without Merritt? Instead you choose to admonish the messenger. Shame on you Norwalk lifer

  18. Norewalk Lifer

    Dear Colorblind or Mr. Chiaramonte,

    It is exactly that kind of tone that got you in trouble, you do not leave dead bodies in your wake, no matter how passionate you might be about a subject or a goal.

    I treated you with extreme respect, when I discussed this with you last year, but now using a sound bite to discuss an extremely important issue to people of color, well it shows the disrespect and it shows it clearly.

    So in my view, you can call for shame, you can call for anything you like, the truth is, if you wish to be treated with respect, show some, if someone states a questionable stand, try to understand the position, that’s what grown ups do.

    And stop pretending yourself, that racism does not exist, the perception is what matters, These are hard working people also, but given the level of vitriol, anytime anyone mentions race, shows that there are quite a few adults in this town who require some maturity.

    Norwalk Lifer

  19. Lifer, your effort to appear as ‘the mature person’ here would be more successful if you showed even the TINIEST concern over the tendency of some people to throw accusations of racism – arguably the most serious attack one can make on a public official in modern America – at anyone who disagrees with them. You call on the targets of these (almost invariably false) accusations to be ‘grown ups’ and not respond in kind, while those hurling the accusations escape any significant criticism. Balancing your commentary would be salutory.

  20. LWitherspoon

    @Mike Lyons
    Norewalk [sic] Lifer is the same person who stated that the Norwalk PD under Harry Rilling was an abysmal failure. Further, Norwalk PD officers acted in a racist manner towards Norewalk Lifer’s grandson. What’s more, Harry Rilling himself was dismissive and unhelpful when Norewalk Lifer attempted to learn what sex offender(s) lived in the area.
    Then Harry Rilling became the Democratic Party’s Mayoral Candidate, and all of a sudden Norewalk Lifer had nothing but praise for Harry Rilling, going so far as to enthusiastically support Rilling’s ‘promotion’ to Mayor.
    Norewalk Lifer’s comments are interesting to read, particularly those about Norwalk’s history, but don’t ever expect consistency or balance in matters which are the least bit political.

  21. Norewalk Lifer

    Dear L Witherspoon,

    Thank you for your comments, you are correct in what I said, my African American grandson was told not to play basketball at the hoop in my front yard by Norwalk Police, at 6:30 in the afternoon, due to a neighbor complaining about “noise”.
    I find your willingness to leave out certain important points, well quite refreshing, and more over, with regards to the institution of Megan’s law, yes, I sat and wrote down every name, and description of every sex offender in Norwalk, and distributed to my neighborhood watch, Why? because I opened up my backyard on the harbor to every one in the neighborhood, and I was concerned about the possibility of that area being a “magnet” for people like this.
    Your weak attempt at character assassination is obvious, it is weak though, and I do support this mayor, why? because it wasn’t under Rilling’s watch that this all happened, it was under Mr. Moccia’s.
    I would ask that everyone observe the fact that those who are “disgusted” “fed up” “nauseated” by the accusations of racism, and Let me be clear, Mr. Lyons himself is playing a bit of the shell game here. I did not “accuse” Mr. Lyons of racism, on a previous story, I asked why the “insensitivity” “the brash dismissal”, by his comments and statements, it would appear that Mr.Lyons has never made a mistake in his entire life.
    I am not sure if the accusations of racism are real, nor do I pretend to know in this case. But what is clear, is that every single person decrying these accusations is white; of course, they are, they are not racist.
    But the perception in our communities, and we have multiracial communities, is that there is a modicum of racism. If you want to dispel that notion, then address it, and don’t be so dismissive.
    Lawyering up and calling in the town pit bull, Jeff Spahr, doesn’t fix the issue, what was it that your last Republican president said? “We must win the hearts and minds”,
    Well sir, that’s quite a task. It’s quite an obligation, when you see people of color rejecting Mr. Mosby’s accusations, then you have arrived.
    Until then, keep dismissing these statements with a brush of a hand, it certainly will do no good in the long run.
    Thank you once again for telling only the half the story, this is the second time you’ve inserted yourself into a discussion with a attempt, albeit weak comment to discredit another.
    No wonder, no one wants to move to Norwalk, with “neighbors” like you, it’s clear that the property values suffer from the effects of a semi-nihilistic concern for one’s “neighbors’

    Norwalk Lifer

  22. Norewalk Lifer

    @ Mike Lyons, instead of furiously defending your position in a public place, why don’t you “explore” why these people perceived that they are being discriminated against?
    Instead the lawyers are called, to “observe” stuff and nonsense
    If you had the leadership skills, you would have sat down with each individual, that very act, Mr. Lyons, speaks volumes about respect; you don’t have to agree with another’s viewpoint, buy you could try to understand it, without the bureaucratic nonsense.
    What I have seen in your reactions, is that you are never wrong, not in your letters to the editor at the Norwalk hour and not here.
    Mr. Mushak came clean with a point where he made an error on another story; he didn’t have to do that, but it garners respect Mr. Lyons, to my viewpoint, you have never made a mistake in your entire life.
    That’s impossible, we are all human, and if an individual tries to reach to understand why the perception of discrimination, usually you find that the viewpoint is borne of something you didn’t even notice.
    I think your comment about appointing people of color, shows just that; I would think you would appoint people because of their attributes, their talents, their ability, you make it quite clear in your comment, that while you may not intended to do so, you “used” those appointments to clear your position. Honestly? that in itself, states that there is a subconscious motivation, people are sensitive to that.
    When a group of people are referred to as malcontents, noisemakers, etc, like Mr. Chiaramonte did, then they are de-humanized, stick to the topic, stick to the issue, and don’t “broadbrush” a whole group of people under one convenient description.
    Maturity? sure, I’ll be mature, as soon as you admit there is a possibility you could make a mistake once in a while, adults do that you know

    Norwalk Lifer

  23. Mike Lyons

    Lifer, let me get this straight – the fact that I made all those appointments of the minority members (as I also did of majority members) is evidence of my subconscious motivation to “clear” myself? So you would have been happier if I had NOT given them the appointments? That is a logic breakdown I hardly know how to respond to. And I have never claimed to be perfect – I just deny false charges of being a racist. Charges that don’t seem to concern you in the slightest degree.

  24. Norewalk Lifer

    No Mr. Lyons, your use of these appointments as an example, is what I am referring to, explore your own reactions; no one here is calling you a racist, I simply point out two things:

    1) you use these as examples to support your clear and unfettered viewpoint
    2) And as stated earlier, there is not even a micron of relaxation in your rigid assertion that you are completely right and correct in all assessments.
    None of us are correct in every situation, there is ebb and flow, give and take, but every single comment I have seen you make on this subject shows absolutely no room for debate, that is in your own view point.

    Norwalk Lifer

  25. John Levin

    I think Ed Camacho is tough as nails. If I was in his position as DTC Chair I probably would quit and go do something much easier, like cure cancer or solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

  26. LWitherspoon

    @Norewalk Lifer
    When and why did you change your mind about Former Police Chief Rilling? Your prior comments had been quite negative regarding then-Chief Rilling’s unhelpful response to your attempts to learn what sex offenders lived in your neighborhood. I believe you noted that the treatment of your African-American grandson reflected issues with racism that necessitated change at the top of the Police Department, and you criticized then-Mayor Moccia for keeping Mr. Rilling on as Chief. I believe you also declared that the Chief failed in addressing the issue of gun violence, and it was time for federal intervention. You described former Chief Rilling’s record as one of alleged indifference, tolerance of racism, and general failure. Yet the moment Mr. Rilling became the Democratic candidate for Mayor, you wholeheartedly supported putting him in charge of not just the Norwalk PD, but the whole city! I think given the circumstances it’s reasonable to wonder if your about-face was a case of politics making for strange bedfellows, and if the same is happening here in your criticisms of Mike Lyons.
    I’m sorry if you feel that my statement of fact regarding your past comments is an attempt at character assassination.

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