Norwalk town clerk: ‘Things have to be done differently’

Norwalk Town Clerk Rick McQuaid March 13 2013 187
Lifelong Norwalk resident Rick McQuaid was an interventions specialist at Naramake Elementary School before being elected town clerk in 2011. His City Hall office is decorated with a banner the children gave him on his last day there.

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk Town Clerk Rick McQuaid said Wednesday that he uncovered the irregularities in bookkeeping that lead to a Norwalk Police investigation of an employee in his office. Former Town Clerk Andy Garfunkel, who would like to be the Democratic nominee for mayor, said he knew nothing of it until the investigation became public knowledge Tuesday, and that he trusts McQuaid to handle the matter correctly.

According to a source, the investigation involves missing money. McQuaid confirmed Tuesday that an employee had been placed on leave, but said he could provide no further details. Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik confirmed Wednesday that there is a police investigation under way. He could provide no further details.

On Wednesday, McQuaid said he had discovered irregularities while he was still in “the period of learning.” He said that was in November 2012, less than a year after he was elected.

“We’re putting in different systems and ways of doing business,” he said. “We were on that road. The changes we were making brought it to light. Things have to be done differently.”

He has done nothing wrong, he said.

“If I thought that I did anything wrong or I let down my staff by doing something wrong I would leave,” he said. “I was elected to do a job and I’m doing my job.”

Garfunkel said he understood the investigation is in the “fact-finding” phase, but that all of his information came from McQuaid on Tuesday.

“I have not had any notice of any investigation in the office until all of this came to light,” he said. “I talked to Rick, but there isn’t much he can tell me while it is going on.”

Garfunkel said he had noticed during recent visits to the town clerk’s office that a certain employee was missing, but “only recently started questioning why.”

He wasn’t expecting this. “I’m surprised, I’m shocked, there some disappointment if the accusations are substantiated. … There’s betrayal in there,” he said.

Garfunkel did not run for re-election as town clerk in 2011; instead he ran for mayor against incumbent Mayor Richard Moccia.

On Wednesday, he said he will propose “term limits across the board” as part of his mayoral campaign this year.

“Sometimes you need a new person to come in, a new set of eyes,” he said. “It often improves the level of service … That’s part of why I left. I knew it was time to step down. I had reached my capacity. I know when it’s time to move on.”

Being in office too long leads to “a stagnation of ideas, thoughts and process,” he said.

He has full faith in McQuaid, he said.

“Rick McQuaid’s a good guy, he’s a good man,” he said. “I’ve known him most of my life. I trust his judgment.”

It’s a trying time for the newest town clerk, he acknowledged.

“I believe Rick is handling it as best as he can under the circumstances, from what I am told,” he said. “… I will support him 100 percent if what is being found is substantiated, and it will be unfortunate.”


25 responses to “Norwalk town clerk: ‘Things have to be done differently’”

  1. Aunt Marjie

    Good story. Unbiased and factual. This is your calling, Miss Nancy.

    1. You always were my favorite aunt! Thank you.

  2. notaffiliated

    It’s good to see this coming to light. As someone in the private sector, what does strike me is that Mr McQuaid is still in “the period of learning”. If you work in the private sector and are qualified to do a job, you wouldn’t use these words 12-15 months into your job. What will be interesting is seeing how long these irregularities have been going on.

    Also, I’m about to google to see how long Mr Garfunkel was Town Clerk. I like term limits and I wonder if he’d apply that to being Mayor.

  3. Joe Espo

    The tenor of the article might be different if a democrat mayoral candidate weren’t implicated.
    Most certainly, the tenor would be different if the Mayor were implcated.
    Just sayin’

  4. Bryan

    @notaffiliated. You can’t compare a private sector job or for that matter even a public sector job to the Town Clerk’s position. It is an elected position. I can’t name the town clerk before Andy Garfunkel, but there are very, very few Norwalkers who would be immediately qualified as no one could possibly have experience doing the job before they get it outside a few of the staffers in the department who chose not to run for it. This goes back to our 1913 charter.
    Given the tough situation, I think Rick is doing a fantastic job and protecting the public’s trust. I wish him and the whole office well in this challenging time.

  5. Tim T

    You make a good point. In the private sector as in the real world if you still learning the job after 12-15 months you would most likely be let go from the job.

  6. Tim T

    Should be
    if you were still learning

  7. Tim T

    Term limits would be a great idea for ALL elected positions. I feel one of the biggest problems in Norwalk is the old boys club that has been running the city into the ground forever. This should also most definitely apply to Council members.

  8. Orange U. Glad

    McQuaid uncovered serious financial irregularities. He found the irregularities by diligence. Seems like he’s on top of his game.

  9. Joanne Romano

    Just for clarification…this wasn’t just found yesterday. Since Ricks election, the Town Clerks Office has had a very large Federal Election plus 3 separate primaries, so basically most of the last 1.5 years has been on the job training and having run for that position, I don’t care what anyone says, the learning process is an ongoing thing as laws change, as things need to be updated and improved constantly plus Town Clerk certifications take two years! Apparently everyone is trying to box this in to the last 1.5 years and its just not feasible. The former Town Clerk was in office since 2002. he main thing here that people should realize is that while all of the above has been transpiring Rick has been diligent in updating and maintaining all aspects of the office as well as improving others which allowed him to uncover these misappropriations and bring it to the forefront for a full internal/criminal investigation and hopefully all the bodies will be found from here on in. Rick takes great pride in everything he does and would most surely resign his position if he had been the cause of such discrepancies. So if anyone is trying to make this their campaign …not happening…it won’t get you anywhere because of Rick all of this has come to the forefront ad has been exposed so please find another bandwagon if in fact this is the direction all of this is heading. I have been close friends with Rick for the better part of 18 years and if there is one thing I can attest to is that he is honest to a fault..

  10. Tim T

    No one has said that Rick was not honest…Why do you keep acting as if someone has???? What taxpayers are questioning is the management of the office. Joeann please stop putting words in others mouths in an attempt to redirect from the article. Also if what you say is true about the learning of the office being on the job training..Maybe its time we do away with the town clerk being an elected position and have it be one where a qualified manager is hired as is done in the real world as in the private sector. Also on that note maybe its time Norwalk does away with a mayor and hires a city manager with real world experience and some meaningful education as many towns, cities and Moccia urban centers have done .

  11. Joanne Romano

    Tim, please stop commenting on my posts if you don’t want me to come back with an answer…Please show me any new person on a job who knows everything there is to know about the company when first hired…are you living in the real world? You may have the qualifications an employer is looking for when you are hired but you always have to learn the inside workings and procedures of the company/organization you will be working for. So to say taxpayers ar questioning the management is a bit far fetched…Do you really think that a qualified manager would know more than someone going in there for the first time as an elected official? Please, I’m not twisting anything nor putting any words in anyone’s mouths, what I am doing however is stating facts, something some people can’t seem to accept. Please call any Town Clerk across the state and ask them how much they knew before being elected to office? I’m willing to bet not as much as Rick since he has been in City hall in one capacity or other and is more than qualified to run that office since he knows the recorde etc.and he knows what is expected and what is not allowed.

  12. Tim T


    I will ignore the bulk of your post as it is of no importance.

    I however I will respond to this.

    Do you really think that a qualified manager would know more than someone going in there for the first time as an elected official?

    The answer is YES

  13. Joanne Romano

    NO! The Town Clerk’s office is not one that just any qualified manager can plop their butt in and know all…
    (Editor’s note: This comment has been edited to conform with our comment policy)

  14. Joanne Romano

    What was wrong with my comments? its ok for him to say what he wants when he wants but not me…thats fine..I’ll conform to rules that don’t apply to all…have a great day!

  15. oldtimer

    I have no doubt the police investigation will come up with all the facts pretty soon and charges will be filed, unlike the BoE situation with their IT guy. It won’t be the first time somebody working for the city betrayed a trust, and probably not the last. Why don’t we all stop speculating and see what develops ?

  16. Avatar

    Well written article. As is so often the case these days, the issue is with those who comment.
    1. Ms. Romano was or is currently employed by Mr. McQuaid’s wife. Doesn’t mean she isn’t entitled to her opinion.
    2. Mr. Meek almost always touts private sector over public so interesting that he sees a difference in this situation.
    Complete confidence in Mr. McQuaid and others involved. Too bad his supposed defenders aren’t taking the same high road.
    Answer to Bryan’s question: Mary Keegan

  17. Bryan Meek

    @Avatar. Mary Keegan, Thanks. Nothing to do with the current situation, but in the past I’ve told Rick to his person that I don’t believe the Town Clerk should be an elected position. It is what it is and has been that way since 1913. I’m sure 100 years ago it made sense but there is really nothing you can do about it without a charter change. Until that happens or doesn’t happen it really doesn’t matter, Rick was obviously the right man for the job. I’m glad he’s there.

  18. Joanne Romano

    Avatar, my employment has nothing to do with my opinion, my opinion stems from my long time friendship with Rick. I started out just wanting people to wait until all of the cards are on the table and the investigation shows the evidence but as is always the caseon blogs, we get carried away by comments from other postersand for that I appologize…some of the untoward comments have been removed so there is no way of explaining what the response comments are for and directed at who…I don’t follow anyone’s lead, I speak my mind as I see fit and if at times others don’t agree with me, I respect that, but I also reserve the right to disagree as I see fit. with you I agree, it is nice to see an article with truths and unbiased, non sensational headlines.

  19. John E. Tobin

    @Avatar @Bryan Kevin Fitzgerald was Town Clerk after Mary Keegan and before Andy Garfunkel.

  20. Avatar

    @John Tobin, of course you’re right though Fitzgerald served for such a relatively short time my memory lapse is perhaps understandable. @Bryan prior Charter Revision Commission (convened by former Mayor Knopp, current Mayor Moccia was among the members) agreed with you and others about Town Clerk position. Unfortunately the proposal didn’t pass when it came to a vote.

  21. Joanne Romano

    Avatar-Kevin served one term -While it was put to vote to turn the Town clerk position into an appointed position, the voters refused to allow that, some going so far as to say they didn’t want anyone to get too comfortable. Unfortunately 2 years is not enough time to have a person in that capacity serve.

  22. NorwalkVoter

    Very interesting discussion in this municipal election year. Let’s wait for the investigation to be completed.

  23. Sandra

    I have recently been dealing with Rick McQuaid, on a very serious injustice,that took place, and i have found him too be one of the most honest person, i am very fortunate to be dealing with Rick, very honest man, although i donor live in Norwalk, i can say he is an assert to the town.

  24. Cathy

    Rick McQuaid is the most loyal , caring person there is.. I Have had the pleasure of knowing him for 2 years since he has been elected and he is the person who found this discrepency in his office and came forward. All I can say is letthe investigation continue and the real person will be held responsible for this crime. I just want people to understand Rick is NOt the one to point fingers at…His office is working under pressure now, holding down the office with smiles for each taxpayer who enters the door… Give credit to those who deserve the credit.. It is an election year and the Mayor will do what he has to do with this, this is his Job, not to be swept away…. Justice is weeks away…hold tight…

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