NORWALK, Conn. — Some Norwalk political notes for you:
- Burney hits send, unredacted investigation report flies out
- Coronavirus fears end Smyth’s teaching career
- Sumpter leaves Zoning Commission
An email hit the inbox of every City Hall employee Wednesday containing an unredacted version of the investigation report into alleged cheating on the firefighter candidate tests. It came from Director of Personnel and Labor Relations Ray Burney, who attached it to an email about health insurance benefits.
NancyOnNorwalk heard about this from two readers, one of whom alleged that Burney sent it out of spite because “the charges were dropped against the Deputy Chief who was represented by a Union lawyer.”
No, not a nefarious plot, Norwalk Communications Manager Josh Morgan said Thursday.
“The fact is Hearst CT Media demanded the un-redacted report. The Law Department told us we had to comply by providing a copy to Hearst and notifying the affected employees and their unions,” Morgan wrote. “While attempting to fulfill the Freedom of Information request, Ray mistakenly attached the report to a health benefits email which was sent to city staff rather than the email to the unions.”
The unredacted report reveals the identity of the deputy chief who was accused of helping his son with the exams, for whom investigators say there was no evidence to support the accusation. His son’s name is also revealed. The rest of it as has been previously reported: Assistant Chief Chris King and Building Department employee Patrick King resigned after being confronted with the suspicions of cheating.
Burney “immediately realized his error and recalled the email,” Morgan wrote. “However, approximately 20 employees were able to open the email before it was retracted and deleted from inboxes. Ray has apologized to the Union leadership and parties involved for this mistake. No malice or ill will was intended – it was an accident. The bottom line is that report has become a public document and no confidences were violated. Despite this fact, it should not have been sent to employees.”
He said, “Additionally, if employees have concerns about a co-workers actions – they should share those concerns with their direct supervisors, union reps, or Human Resources, instead of sending emails to the press in an attempt to embarrass an employee or further an agenda.”
Smyth feels ‘fortunate’ to be able to drop teaching role
Common Council President Barbara Smyth (D-At Large) has resigned from her position as a Norwalk High School English teacher.
“I did it because of COVID,” Smyth said. A family member has several risk factors and “it’s a very frightening illness and we just were really concerned about exposure. It was a very difficult and agonizing decision” that she made with her husband.
Smyth has been a teacher for 12 years. She was previously at Ponus Ridge Middle School.
She said she knows “a lot of teachers who are very scared and feel uncertain.”
“We are in position that we are able to make this decision,” she said. “We are really fortunate.”
Forbes reported Thursday that “children may play a larger role in the community spread of Covid-19 than previously thought.”
A Journal of Pediatrics study found that children who had COVID-19 were shown to have a significantly higher level of virus in their airways than adults who were hospitalized for COVID-19 treatment, Forbes reported.
Norwalk Public Schools has delayed its opening to Sept. 8 to “to make sure all health and safety precautions are in place,” it said Thursday.
Sumpter bows out, Goldstein steps up
Nate Sumpter has left the Zoning Commission.
Sumpter “termed out,” meaning that he served three three-year terms and the charter states that no member shall serve more than three consecutive terms. But he also didn’t want to serve another term because of personal issues, Mayor Harry Rilling said at the Aug. 11 Council meeting.
“He has done a remarkable job putting in countless hours,” Rilling said. “I would see him at City Hall all days of the week, all hours of the day, not only to attend meetings, but to visit the Zoning office to bring himself up to date on some of the Zoning issues that would become before the Commission.”
Sumpter was Commission chairman for several years.
The Council moved Joshua Goldstein up, from an alternate Commissioner to a full Commissioner. Goldstein is an attorney with Adelman, Hirsch & Connor in Bridgeport.
“He has extensive legal research experience in a variety of different capacities. For example, he’s been a clerk in Superior Court, (and has) experience in both the US Attorney’s and Attorneys General’s Offices,” Council member Dominique Johnson (D-At Large) said.
“We like to have alternates move up when appropriate, and when possible, because they have been in the meetings, they’ve learned the process, they’ve learned about the issues,” Rilling said. “It’s been kind of like a training session for them. And they come into the position, ready to hit the ground running and starting to do their job.”