Norwalk political notes: Spahr moves to dismiss Coles lawsuit; Barron moves to Oregon

Then Norwalk Finance Director Bob Barron, in June 2018.

NORWALK, Conn. – Here’s a summertime news roundup:

  • Spahr asks court to dismiss NPS lawsuit
  • Barron gets new job
  • Reminder: don’t put plastic bags in the recycling bin

‘Their motivating factors are unclear’

Deputy Corporation Counsel Jeffry Spahr has filed a motion to dismiss in the class action lawsuit filed by Hope Coles and Sadiya DeIrish, who accuse Norwalk Public Schools of wage theft.

Spahr accuses the plaintiffs of “jumping the gun” because they “made no attempt to resolve the issues at hand” by going through the grievance process or even having a preliminary discussion before filing a lawsuit and notifying the press.

Coles, an administrative secretary, and Deirish, an office assistant, claim that they have routinely worked more hours than they were paid for. The plaintiffs list 18 job NPS positions and promise to prove through the discovery process that “at least hundreds of individuals” have also been deprived of pay.

“{E}ach Administrative Secretary, of each school, manually reduces the hours of approximately ten (10) to fifteen (15) employees per week,” their complaint states.

Coles is Norwalk Federation of Education Personnel (NFEP) president and DeIrish is a union member, Spahr wrote in the motion to dismiss filed Thursday, accusing them of “ambushing” NPS with the lawsuit.

“Coles sent out a letter to the Union membership as President of the Union encouraging them to join in the litigation thus bypassing the informal and formal resolution/grievance procedures as set forth in their collective bargaining agreement (the ‘CGC’). That is, the Plaintiff actively engaged in soliciting others and encouraging them to violate the terms of the collective bargaining agreement by getting them to join in this litigation,” Spahr wrote.

Attorney Ryan Daugherty said recently that neither he nor his colleague will make any money unless they win the lawsuit they filed for Coles and DeIrish.

If Coles and DeIrish went through the grievance process they would not have been able to select their lawyers, but would have been represented by union lawyers who would bill all the members hourly. Unpaid wages is a violation of state law, not necessarily a violation of the union contract, he said.

By going to state court, the “class” will get a jury trial with an experienced judge rather than an arbitrator, he said. All class members would get double their damages.

Spahr, in the motion to dismiss, wrote, “Perhaps the Plaintiffs were enticed by the possibility of recovering double damages. Or maybe their legal counsel was mesmerized by the prospects of publicity or the potential of recovering professional fees (or both). Their motivating factors are unclear.”


Barron at work in Oregon

Bob Barron surprised Norwalk when he abruptly quit his job as Chief Financial Officer in January, with no other employment lined up.

Barron started work as finance chief for Salem, Oregon, in June, news reports say. “He will oversee the city’s budget in a time of rising costs,” the Salem Reporter states.

News reports about this online cite Mayor Harry Rilling’s “red flag” commentary from January.

“{R}ecent accounts provided to me by Mr. Barron’s staff raised significant red flags and caused alarm,” Rilling said in a January statement. “When we attempted to discuss our concerns with Mr. Barron, he lashed out in anger and chose to resign rather than work through the issues he alone had caused.”

The Statesman Journal quotes Barron as saying he had had “professional differences from the mayor, and he and his administration were quite frustrated with my decision to leave.”

“The implications made in the short press release that you cited were unfortunate and a reflection of their frustration and certainly not representative of my relationship with my employees,” Barron is quoted as saying.

Salem City Manager Steve Powers called Norwalk staff members before hiring Barron, and they vouched for Barron’s good nature and credibility, he Statesman Journal reports.

Salem has had its own problems, as two of its top finance officials resigned this year, one of them a retirement, the Statesman Journal reports.


Don’t put plastic bags in recycling bins

“It has been one month since an ordinance prohibiting single-use plastic bags went into effect in Norwalk. City officials remind residents that any plastic bags in circulation cannot be placed into their blue recycling bins. To recycle any plastic bags, residents must drop them off at specific locations, such as local grocery stores,” a press release from Norwalk Communications Manager Joshua Morgan said.

“When plastic bags or plastic film go into the recycling bins, it ultimately ends up in the solid waste stream,” Norwalk Waste Programs Manager Jessica Paladino is quoted as saying in the release. “Workers are manually sorting plastic out of the recycling process and removing it when it becomes clogged in the machines. This is labor intensive and dangerous to workers.”

“Not everything we buy can be recycled. We all must pay attention to what can be recycled and what should be otherwise thrown away,” Mayor Harry Rilling is quoted as saying. “I encourage residents, as well as all City and school employees to recycle as much as they can and when possible, move to reusable products – like canvas tote bags and travel coffee mugs – instead of relying on paper and plastic.”

Norwalk’s recycling tonnage has increased to nearly 9,000 tons collected annually over the last five years, the release states. It explains:

  • “All items placed into the recycling bin should be empty, rinsed, and clean. Do not box, bag or bundle items. Everything must fit inside of the container – do not stack items outside or on top of the blue bin. In addition to plastic bags and plastic wrap, single-use coffee pods, plastic straws, Styrofoam cups, paper cups, and packing peanuts cannot be recycled.”
  • “Large rigid plastic items, clothing, shoes, electronic items, light bulbs (fluorescent or regular), scrap metal, waste oil, antifreeze, and batteries are not recycled curbside. Most of these items are recyclable at the Norwalk Transfer Station with a valid City of Norwalk Resident Pass or permit. Chemicals, gasoline, oil-based products and other items can be disposed of at the upcoming Household Hazardous Waste Day on Saturday, August 24, 2019 at Norwalk High School between 8 a.m. – 2 p.m.”
  • “For a complete recycling list visit norwalkct.org/recycling. For more information contact the Customer Service Center at (203) 854-3200.”



3 responses to “Norwalk political notes: Spahr moves to dismiss Coles lawsuit; Barron moves to Oregon”

  1. Jason

    Walmart on Main Avenue (Route 7) in Norwalk has a large receptacle right on the front entry for recycling of the (now banned) single use plastic bags. I’m sure other places around have them as well.

  2. Patrick Cooper

    Good for Bob Barron. Lucky Bob – he lands in an enchanted land, full of beauty and open land – a veritable triangle of joy between Portland, Eugene, and Bend. For what he could dump his CT property for – he’ll get twice the value in Oregon. On top of all that – he get’s dropped smack dab in the center of the finest Pinot Noir vineyards in the world!

    Think Bob misses the bouillabaisse of BS that is East Avenue? Doubt it. It says allot when the closest he wanted to be was 3000 miles away. I doubt he’ll ever spill any beans about the shenanigans – as I have no doubt that he signed an NDA in blood. But what he could share – I’m certain would be fascinating.

    Good luck Bob.

  3. Lisa Brinton

    Best of luck to you Bob Barron!

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