Norwalk employee alleging discrimination

Norwalk DPW 070213 030
Norwalk Department of Public Works Director Hal Alvord indicated he knew of a complaint filed by acting Superintendent of Operations Chris Torre but said he could not elaborate. “I’m not involved in that,” he said.

(Updated 3:10 p.m. Nov. 5 with additional information.)

NORWALK, Conn. – A Norwalk employee has filed an affirmative action complaint against the city, a reliable source said.

Torre is of Hispanic descent, the source said. His complaint alleges that he is being discriminated against because he is Hispanic, the source said.

Deputy Corporation Counsel Jeffry Spahr confirmed that a complaint has been filed by acting Department of Public Works Superintendent of Operations Chris Torre. The city responded Oct. 28 to an Oct. 21 Freedom on Information Act request to see the documents in the case. FOIA requires the city to respond within four business days.“I just wanted to update you on the status of your FOI request,” Spahr wrote. “I put in an inquiry to Chris Torre to see if he objects to the release of a copy of his claim to you. His auto-reply indicates that he is out until Wednesday of this week. I will let you know what his response is. ….”

Tuesday, Nov. 5, Spahr forwarded a letter from Mr. Torre dated Nov. 1 in which Torre said he wished for the details of his filing to remain confidential until a resolution is reached.

“I do not think that all claims may be public,” Spahr wrote on the 29th. “I believe that some claims may contain sensitive or confidential material that the claimant might not want publicized. For example, if you were to file a claim against the city alleging that you were discriminated against as the result of a personal and confidential medical, psychiatric or emotional condition or disability, I would imagine that you might not want to have this information made public.”

FOIA provides for requesting the permission of the employee if a request for information concerning them is made, he said.

Torre has applied for the permanent job of superintendent of operations, DPW director Hal Alvord said. He is “absolutely” qualified, Alvord said.

“We have been without a superintendent since October of last year,” Alvord said. “We split the responsibilities up amongst several people until we could fill that position so he’s picked up a good chunk of the superintendent’s responsibilities. Another part of the responsibilities were picked up by Ralph Kolb. So they’ve been sharing some of those responsibilities to get a variety of the work done last year.”

The job pays between $103,297 and $122,073 a year, according to the city’s website. Alvord said he had no idea how many applicants there are.

“I don’t control that process. The advertising and all of that is done by the personnel department. I have two key vacant positions right now, superintendent of operations and waste programs manager. We’ve struggled to get stuff done.”

The personnel department is led by James Haselkamp. Common Councilman David Watts (D-District A) said many city workers have complaints about Haselkamp.

Alvord could not answer questions about a complaint.

“I’m not involved in that,” he said.



7 responses to “Norwalk employee alleging discrimination”

  1. M Allen

    What was the goal of this story, published on election day? That an employee filed a discrimination case? That you don’t have enough detail yet to write the story? Or was it a vehicle for being able to use the words “Personnel Department” and “Hasselkamp” followed up by Watts rehashing negative views of Hasselkamp?
    Wouldn’t it have just been easier to write the story like this: Hispanic, Qualified, Discrimination, Lawsuit, Hasselkamp, Bad, Watts, Good, Freedom of Information, Hasselkamp, Moccia, Hasselkamp, Moccia, Election, Vote.
    Fewer words, but same point, no? 🙂

  2. John Frank sr

    Of course, Alvord runs the department Torres works for, but has nothing to do with any discrimination complaint, and no power to influence a decision to promote him.
    Why do I have trouble believing that ?

  3. M Allen

    Apologies. According to the story, “FOIA provides for requesting the permission of the employee if a request for information concerning them is made, he (Spahr) said.” It didn’t seem like that point was in dispute in your story, so I was working under the premise that it was accurate. You know more about FOIA than me or probably anyone here. Was it a valid response or not?
    As for why Alvord said what he did, I would imagine there were follow up questions? But given its a lawsuit, it could be Alvord can’t or shouldn’t say anything. You now how people are always saying nobody should speak about an ongoing lawsuit and all that.
    It would seem Alvord was pushing you towards the Personnel Department. Were any questions asked there? If so, no mention of that was made in the story. Haselkamp’s name was mentioned, but nothing that would indicate he refused to comment. Just his name then the paraphrased “comment” from Watts saying workers have complaints about him. That is public knowledge these days, but was Mr. Watts alluding to the fact that this lawsuit was directed at Haselkamp or was he just making an offhand remark directed at Haselkamp?
    I don’t know why it’s so hard for the city to contact an employee. It seems from Spahr’s comment on 1 Nov that contact had been made and the employee was going to get back to Spahr, but had not. You had his name, I presume you tried to reach out to him. Maybe have a union rep try and contact him?
    Actually, you seem to have even more questions about this story than I do. It just seemed kind of sparse to warrant an election-day run unless you were trying to get something else across. Maybe it was breaking news and all the facts just weren’t in yet.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @ M. Allen

      The point was we felt it was being stalled until after the election. And yes, Mr. Spahr’s assertion is correct.

      We don’t know why it took seven days instead of four for a simple response with no documents. We don’t know why a letter to Mr. Spahr on city letterhead dated Nov. 1 addressing the situation took until Nov. 5 to be forwarded. I don’t know what Nancy’s questions were to Mr. Alvord. Most of the conversation around here has revolved around campaign and election coverage and did the cats get fed… His statements do raise many questions, and I would make an educated guess that he really can’t say more because of the complaint.

      There will be followup.

  4. M Allen

    Oh now, you blamed the cats. That’s going to draw a response from the lonely, cat owning crowd. 😛

    1. Mark Chapman

      @M. Allen

      It’s the cats. It’s ALWAYS the cats…

  5. John Frank sr

    I was trying to make the point that Alvord, like Moccia and others in Moccia’s administration always claims it is not his fault, no matter what issue is being raised. He runs the DPW, who is responsible for denying, or making, a promotion in the DPW ?

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