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Norwalk Republican Registrar called racist, urged to resign

Norwalk Republican Registrar Karen Doyle Lyons. She can’t, as an elected official, be fired but Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill is reviewing the matter, Mayor Harry Rilling said. (File photo)

The 2020 election is scheduled for Nov. 3.

NORWALK, Conn. —Karen Doyle Lyons, under fire for a Facebook post deemed racist, is resisting calls for her resignation from her long-time post as Norwalk Republican Registrar. Some are coming from Norwalk Republican Party leadership. Others are from powerful Democrats, including Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill.

Doyle Lyons responded to a Facebook post last week with the words, “No more Black History Month because many of us know more then many Blacks.”

Amid a torrential outcry, Doyle Lyons states that her words are taken out of context, that you have to see the rest of her comments: she meant that Black history should be taught year-round.

“I am just saying study, learn not just one month but all year. I do and so should many others,” she said days ago in a follow-up Facebook comment.

It’s not flying with Norwalk Branch NAACP President Brenda Penn-Williams and Democratic Town Committee Chairwoman Eloisa Melendez. On Sunday, they released a joint statement:

“We are calling for the immediate resignation of Karen Doyle-Lyons from her position as Registrar of Voters. Her recent inflammatory comments on social media make it clear that Karen Doyle-Lyons holds negative views and beliefs against people of color, and against Black people in particular. To put it plainly, she is a racist.

“The 2020 Election is the election of our lifetimes. Literally, this election may mean life or death for Black people, and for all people of color and minorities. Karen Doyle-Lyons’ racist comments make it unacceptable for her to be involved in this election in any way. She needs to resign immediately.”

 

NancyOnNorwalk also received a statement from Norwalk Republican Town Committee Chairman Carl Dickens:

“Karen Lyons has served the City of Norwalk as its Registrar of Voters for 20 years. Registrars have recognized her expertise in Fairfield County and the State of Connecticut.  Previously she served two terms on the Norwalk City Council. She has spent countless hours volunteering and advocating on behalf of children, the elderly, and, especially, veterans.

“Friday, Karen Lyons made the appropriate decision to step down from her position as Registrar of voters and to withdraw her candidacy for election to another term as Registrar. Letters to that effect were sent to appropriate recipients, including the Republican Town Committee, the Town Clerk, Mayor Rilling, and Chief of Staff Laoise King as well as to the Norwalk Director of Personnel.

“It is my understanding that Karen Lyons has disavowed the letters she sent. This is a surprise and a disappointment.”

 

 

 

‘Appropriate decision’

A screenshot provided to NancyOnNorwalk.

Doyle Lyons’ Facebook comments were made June 22. On Thursday, an RTC email blast, sent to members, called the post “very egregious {and} insensitive.”

“The Post is not something that Republicans and, in particular, this RTC can ever accept or stand for,” Dickens said. “Therefore, we moved quickly to ask for the immediate resignation by Karen Lyons from the position of Registrar of Voters and also asked that she resign from the Norwalk RTC and her status as Vice-Chair of District A.”

 

It continued:

“Today, Karen Lyons made the appropriate decision to step down from her position as Registrar of voters and to withdraw her candidacy for election to another term as Registrar

“In the coming days, the Republican Party will seek a candidate to replace Karen Lyons on the November Ballot.

“Karen will be vacating her office and position at City Hall on the 20th of July 2020. A quote from Karen, ‘I am truly sorry for the wording on Facebook; it was not my intent to insult anyone.’”

 

 

In May, Norwalk Republicans endorsed Doyle Lyons for reelection. Republican Town Clerk Rick McQuaid said Sunday that he has a letter from Doyle Lyons saying she was withdrawing.

That was a draft of a letter, and was followed by a letter saying the opposite, Doyle Lyons said Sunday. She sent the “draft” after being “threatened and bullied on Wednesday night.”

Dickens said there was “nothing of the sort.”

“I was not the only one that was speaking with her regards the situation: no bullying, no threats,” he wrote.

“On advice and reflection, I will not be resigning, retiring or withdrawing my (candidacy).   The information that was given was incorrect, defamatory and it wasn’t fair,” she said.

It’s “getting blown up,” and her words have been taken out of context and mischaracterized, “a spin,” Doyle Lyons said. “I’ve gotten a calls from half the Town Committee. Half my co-workers found out about it.”

“I’m just saying, study and learn all year long,” Doyle Lyons explained.

Her post was met with responses that include:

  • “in this day and age, some leftist will get her fired for it.”
  • “Karen Doyle Lyons you racist-ed when you should have french fried”
  • “not true… just because it’s not taught in our school system doesn’t mean blacks don’t know…”

 

“I always said that If I offended anyone, I would certainly apologize,” Doyle Lyons said Sunday, asserting that many people feel Black history should be taught year-round.

“Carl Dickens took it out of context, threatened and bullied me on Wednesday night, then got to the Mayor and they said, ‘If you resign, the Mayor will not call the dogs,’” she said.

 

 

 

‘Disgusted by her comments’

Mayor Harry Rilling released this statement Sunday evening:

“I condemn the comments made recently by Registrar of Voters Karen Doyle-Lyons on Facebook. They were ignorant, hurtful, and racist. I was disgusted by her comments and immediately contacted the Chair of the RTC and asked for her resignation. I was relieved when she submitted a letter of resignation. Ms. Doyle-Lyons is now apparently trying to rescind that letter of resignation. As an elected official, she cannot be terminated from her job at the City of Norwalk, and we are evaluating our legal options.

“Ms. Doyle-Lyons serves as an elected official, and it is clear she is not representing the Norwalk community. I spoke to Secretary of State Merrill last week and raised my concerns about having Ms. Doyle-Lyons remain as Registrar. I know her office is reviewing this matter and her conduct.

“Free and fair elections are the foundation of our country’s democracy.  All registered voters should be free to cast a ballot without worry that the election process is anything less than fair and unbiased. Those overseeing elections must be fair and impartial. The comments made by Ms. Doyle-Lyons render her unfit to hold such an important office. To ensure our elections are conducted honestly and fairly, those overseeing the process must be impartial. Karen Doyle-Lyons must resign now.”

 

Merrill released this statement:

“Elections are about public trust and Norwalk Registrar of Voters Karen Lyons has broken that trust with her disgusting and indefensible comments. She should resign immediately.

“Registrar Lyons’ comments have cast doubt on her ability to conduct an election that is free from bias and fair to all of her constituents, and I am carefully reviewing every option within the authority of my office to ensure that the voters of Norwalk have elections, and election officials, worthy of their trust.”

 

 

Doyle Lyons said she has her family’s support, and that’s the most important thing. There’s a primary on Aug. 11 and anyone who is interested in being a pollworker should call her.

27 comments

Murphyslaw June 29, 2020 at 7:17 am

I have never heard of someone submitting a “draft” resignation letter. Norwalk should process the resignation letter and end this embarrassing incident.

Black Mother June 29, 2020 at 8:17 am

Why would you make such an insensitive comment? How do you know what a majority of Black Americans know about Black History, do you have black friends, do you even talk to us? Black history, SHOULD be taught more in schools. My gosh, we went through so many years of slavery, being raped, abused, etc…. When will the hate stop…

Diana Paladino June 29, 2020 at 8:42 am

This makes me so incredibly sad for our community!
She needs to resign NOW! There is simply no way to spin those hurtful & disgusting comments any other way. You simply do not make errors as such. Especially when you are elected to represent the voters of our city. This community deserves someone focused on democracy and the voters of Norwalk solely and who can professionally represent ALL voters.
It’s a shame because no one could do elections better than this lady…she knew her stuff inside and out in that ROV office but she could simply never get out of her own way with words and involvement in things-she just simply did not need to be in. It was very difficult for me to turn away and stop supporting her many years ago when I did. I tossed and turned at night when I did not support her re-election to the RTC and it hurt me to do it. At one time, she was a friend and her guidance and friendship was valued and important to me. But after simply too many incidents and long talks encouraging her to focus on the job and not the bs… I had too stop supporting her and it killed me. Her lack of professionalism overshadowed. It’s a shame because she did so much good for the veterans and in other aspects. She just never knew when to quit and keep quiet. So many who saw the good she posed, tried to help her but she rarely listened. And now this…
20 + years of service erased because of truly heinous remarks.

john j flynn June 29, 2020 at 9:05 am

Witnessing the madness at the Columbus Magnet School caused many voters to walk away. Karen stood her ground and I witnesses many comments about the hatred of the Republican Party and our President that I support.

John ONeill June 29, 2020 at 9:24 am

I have to admit I don’t know Karen Lyons from a hole in the wall. Whether or not her comments were taken out of context is not really an issue for me. What is an issue is her complete lack of common sense in the current sensitive political climate we find ourselves in. She may have done many good things over the years but her judgement is certainly lackinget here. Sorry Karen, you gotta go!!
There was a quote above categorizing this election as a life or death event for an awful lot of people. That’s a ridiculous statement and that type of hyperbole is asinine. I’m guessing Trump will be beaten in November and some will celebrate. BUT that won’t change the fiscal disaster CT has been in for at least 10 years. CT Dems may say the politically correct things publicly, BUT they are gutting our state. Anyone with the ability to read a balance sheet clearly understand’s that. Speaking of life or death, would anyone care to vacation in South Chicago next weekend??….I thought so.

Caroline Ettinger June 29, 2020 at 9:38 am

This couldn’t be furtherf from the truth!! Karen Lyons is NO racist!! This is a huge accusation and absolutely false! Karen is a dedicated, hard working, caring and gives from her heart person. She works tirelessly for our Veterans and Mayor Rilling as a Veteran KNOWS this and should be ashamed of himself! She has head up many Memorial Day parades as well. Karen has always been a fair and giving woman and everyone who knows her knows THAT!! With everything going on today to put a target on this lovely woman is so uncalled for and to me the one who yells racists IS in fact the racist!! I stand with Karen Lyons and there will be many. Be ready for a fight Mayor Rilling, this is nothing but another cheap election tactic and you are a disgrace!!

Ex-norwalker June 29, 2020 at 9:58 am

I can’t even finish reading this foolishness! Karen is NOT a racist and it’s disgusting that one comment taken out of context can label her one. I’m so tired of everyone being labeled racist. Get over it!

David McCarthy June 29, 2020 at 10:47 am

There’s a primary on August 11th and they need to pull out the stops to get someone on that ballot to oppose her, regardless of spin.

Christine Wyatt June 29, 2020 at 1:17 pm

I never would have thought the city where I was born and raised would be ran by racist bigots. Not in 2020

JustATaxpayer June 29, 2020 at 1:49 pm

1) “If you don’t vote for me, you ain’t black”

2) “For a black man, he’s articulate and clean”

3) “Poor kids are just as smart as white kids”

Joe Biden for President

More to the Story June 29, 2020 at 3:25 pm

Norwalk Are you reading the entire post or just the snippet that they are showing in this article. Do a little research read karen’s entire thread. She is NOT racist. Where are the other posts that she was responding to? This is definitely a political move.
Where the others given a heads up to remove their posts? they some how deleted them leaving just Karen’s behind and out of context before commenting on thread was turned off. I’m sure there is a way to uncover those posts that were deleted.

This Karen Should Resign June 29, 2020 at 4:12 pm

The party tried to replace her once before, but she defeated the party’s endorsed candidate in a primary and held on to her no-show job. She runs parades to honor veterans, and this has apparently won friends who don’t care about the rest of her awful behavior. Her attempted replacement was back before the Suda/D’Amelio/Crosland era, when there was enough of a Republican Party in Norwalk to win Council seats, so I wouldn’t hold my breath this time around.

During the debate over whether murals with unflattering depictions of enslaved people should be removed from City Hall, KDL took time from her busy (?) schedule to plead publicly for them to stay. More recently, she criticized protestors and commented on NON that she would instead advance the cause of racial justice by… living her life and being nice to people (?). Those tone-deaf comments, combined with her recent bizarre and racist statement, combined with a long pattern of lousy behavior, are evidence enough that she should resign. But even if you think none of that matters, are you best served with an erratic ROV who makes a racist statement, resigns Friday in writing to everyone except the Ice Cream Truck driver, and then tries to revise her racist statement and un-resign a few days later?

Patrick Murphy June 29, 2020 at 4:19 pm

Caroline is 1000% correct Thank you for your post !!!

I’ve know Karen for over 15 years .. she is the most accepting person I’ve known and a whale of a volunteer for veterans and other causes and serving our local community. Runs elections flawlessly. Teaches other cities how to execute their elections .

When I got the RTC email about this hatchet job , I remind them of the racist on the RTC EC . , the one that yelled racist is indeed one .and I can back that up .. it yielded me nothing but a lot of hate emails from the RTC members. The one Said the B for district B (SoNo) be stood for Bastards .

I guess they are ok with Archie bunkers leading the party and we wonder why they get destroyed every election . Meeks tossed off the BOE so easily . One one seat won last year ..: But please .. Keegan hands down is a great guy / representative. With him I have hope .

Unfit to serve as ROV June 29, 2020 at 6:09 pm

Channel 12 has a segment on this today with more allegations of racism against Karen Lyons.

http://connecticut.news12.com/story/42305218/norwalk-republican-registrar-of-voters-criticized-over-black-history-month-comment-on-facebook

She mentions that she has her family’s support. Does her granddaughter in law, Erica DePalma, a BOE member support her?

I am glad to see that the RTC did not hesitate to take a stand. It reflects well on the new chair, Carl Dickens. Hopefully, Ms. Lyons will come to her senses. There should be no questions ever through any elections that both Registrars of Voters have high moral character and are completely impartial. She broke these golden rules. There is no coming back from that.

Al Bore June 29, 2020 at 7:38 pm

Patrick, B for bastards does not sound racist to me so help me understand. Bastard is not a racist term that I am aware of and many different cultures live in south Norwalk.
Mayor Harry Rilling released this statement Sunday evening:
“I condemn the comments made recently by Registrar of Voters Karen Doyle-Lyons on Facebook. They were ignorant, hurtful, and racist. I was disgusted by her comments and immediately contacted the Chair of the RTC and asked for her resignation. I was relieved when she submitted a letter of resignation”.
Patrick, you sound like you are taking out your frustration with the situation on the RTC and the RTC chair the mayor asking for Ms Lyons to resign. Maybe your fight is with the mayor if you disagree with his ask and his comments. Move on you now don’t like the republicans, that is your right as a US citizen for now until we become a socialist country led by the democrats.

Steve Mann June 30, 2020 at 6:38 am

The city is not “ran by racist bigots”. This is how a false narrative starts. This is why the public view of reality is so tainted. Take a sound byte, put your own words to it, and let it rip. This should happen “not in 2020”. Well, I guess MSM leads the way on this practice, so what is the unthinking public to do?

D Augur June 30, 2020 at 7:07 am

This woman is not racist. Read the entire post and her comments. Some see racism everywhere because they have hate in their hearts and are racist themselves. Others use any means to cause an issue where there isn’t one, and others do not have the fortitude to stand up and say enough is enough- stop harassing this woman. Those cowards are trying to make political gain by throwing this woman under the bus. Those are the people who should resign. Disgusting.

Bryan Meek June 30, 2020 at 9:30 am

I don’t know why Murphy insists on continuing to embarrass himself. This whole thing has nothing to do with me, yet he keeps bringing my name up here and in other circles. His recollection that I was “tossed” off the BOE ignores the fact I received about the same number of votes I did when I first won in 2015 and left a good record behind me shepherding in the longest tenured Superintendent in Norwalk in 20 years as well has having had 5 budgets finish in positive territory. I have no shame in losing to a worthy opponent, yet he somehow thinks this runs cover for our ROV? I tried to remind him that I beat him with 90% of the vote for my RTC seat and he finished 9th out of 10 only beating out a newcomer to the party, but for some reason he continues to embarrass himself.

David Muccigrosso June 30, 2020 at 10:55 am

That excuse is absurd. It’s impossible to extract anything remotely resembling “black history month should be taught all year round” from what she said on FB.

That said, the entire city government AND Norwalk NAACP aren’t doing nearly enough for POC. Norwalk deserves true progressive leadership, not a parade of woke peacocks who sell POC down our pitiful excuse for a river to get that sweet sweet TOD kickback money.

Stephan Genovese June 30, 2020 at 2:46 pm

In my opinion Karen Lyons is not a racist. The media should report ALL of what Karen said, not just the parts taken out of context.

Susan Genovese June 30, 2020 at 2:51 pm

I support Karen Doyle Lyons!
She is not a racist!
She does an excellent job organizing the elections in Norwalk.
She is the biggest supporter to our Veterans, Servicemen, and Police!
Bob Duff and Mayor Rilling should be ashamed of themselves for all that she does for Norwalk.
Just another attack against a Republican!

nils osterberg June 30, 2020 at 3:09 pm

having an open discussion about this is overdue just because someone starts a discussion is not cause for resignation. over reaction to a statement like some kind of drama queen is not the way leaders should be acting.guilty by mob rule,isn’t that what you are against.like it or not there is still free speech and the first amendment so bear that in mind the next time you would like to hollow out our country’s rules to suit your needs.

Drew Ablank July 2, 2020 at 8:57 am

Unbelievable — “not a parade of woke peacocks who sell POC down our pitiful excuse for a river” wow. You can do better Mr Muccigrosso.

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