NORWALK, Conn. – With the race for mayor sprinting toward the Nov. 5 finish line, it is not surprising to see attacks popping up over certain hot-button issues. The proposed Al Madany Mosque is one of those issues.
Democratic candidate Harry Rilling, who was appointed to the Zoning Commission by Republican incumbent Mayor Richard Moccia, has had to keep a tight lip regarding his feelings about the project. He was not on the commission when the project came before the board, so he had no vote. Now, with a federal lawsuit filed by the mosque against the city, he is not talking about the project, he says.
What is known is he voted, along with all but one commission member, for the following resolution:
“Subject to an agreement on the terms and conditions of the final settlement agreement, we consent to a resolution to allow for zoning approval for the mosque and accessory use building.”
That vote has been used by his opponents despite the fact that Zoning Commission Chairwoman Emily Wilson, who authored the resolution, and fellow Republican Jill Jacobson voted the same way. The vote was 6-1 in favor, with only Joe Santo voting against.
Also cited as evidence that Rilling supports the mosque being built on Fillow Street in West Norwalk – a $250 campaign donation from Farhan Memon, a Norwalk resident and spokesman for the mosque.
Individuals are allowed to give up to $1,000.
Commenters on this site and elsewhere have excoriated Rilling for taking the money and have assured readers that, should Harry Rilling be elected mayor, it means the mosque will be built.
Maybe Rilling should give the money back. As he has said about the perception that Norwalk is an unsafe city, perception becomes reality even when not borne out by facts. If people feel they are unsafe, there is a problem. So, too, if people think a $250 campaign donation buys a mosque, then maybe he should not take the money.
Now let’s flip that coin.
Moccia has, according to his campaign’s report:
- Accepted $1,000 from Jessica Fogg of Spinnaker Real Estate, which has business in front of the city, including 95/7.
- Accepted $1,000 from Carole and Stanley Seligson of Westport, with business before the city, including Waypointe.
- Accepted $1,000 from Robert Maggard of New Canaan, president, New York Bituminous, a paving company doing business with the city (two contracts worth $260,000-plus for sealing cracks in city pavement, approved in June).
In Moccia’s 2011 campaign finance report, these stood out:
- Accepted $1,000 from Carole Seligson of Westport (Waypointe)
- Accepted $1,000 from Michael Ferro Jr. of Stamford, owner of City Carting
- Accepted $1,000 from Anthony Terenzio of New Canaan, sales executive at City Carting
- Accepted $1,000 from Robert Oxer of Darien, president of City Carting
That’s $3,000 from City Carting executives. Eight months later, City Carting was awarded a controversial 10-year contract for trash hauling and extended through 2023 contracts for recycling and the transfer station. The Common Council OK’d the contract 9-6, with all council Republicans plus Michael Geake and Bruce Kimmel, current Democrats who are running in November on the Republican ticket, voting in favor.
The merits of the contract can be debated. By some accounts, the city will save $17 million over the life of the deal. By other accounts, the savings are all on paper and the contract could be a wash or a loser. Time will tell.
But what is indisputable is the appearance of impropriety. City Carting executives hand over $3,000 and, months later, get what has been called an unprecedented (for Norwalk) 10-year contract.]
Some people have dismissed the Moccia donations as normal, something to be expected. The same people slam Rilling for accepting $250 from a city resident who is the spokesman for the mosque. This smacks of hypocrisy.
Now, let’s go there.
During the 2011 campaign, Moccia was asked during a debate about how closely outside vendors bidding for major contracts with the city were vetted for ties to organized crime. Moccia refused to answer and attacked the question, claiming it was aimed at raising questions about him and organized crime because of his Italian heritage.
In a story that ran July 3, 2004, in the Journal News in Westchester County, N.Y., it was reported that City Carting and Recycling of Stamford, which owned City Carting of Westchester, had originally been denied an $85 million contract with the county because of concerns over past ties to organized crime.
Read the story here: City Carting story Westchester Journal News
According to the report, City Carting owner Ferro was among six garbage haulers and 19 individuals charged by the Connecticut attorney general in 1988 with illegally dividing territories. Ferro said the charge against him was dropped, although Bruce Berger, executive director of Westchester’s Solid Waste Commission, said Ferro paid a $50,000 settlement to the state, according to the Journal News.
Joseph Fiorillo Jr. and Carl LaCavalla were to run the Westchester operation, the report said. Both had been vice presidents of Suburban Carting of Mamaroneck or a subsidiary company, the report said, when company president Thomas Milo admitted to participating in an illegal system that gave extensive control of northern New York City suburb trash hauling to the Genovese and Gambino crime families.
Milo got a three-year prison term and paid $3.2 million in fines and restitution in connection with his tax fraud conviction; Suburban paid a $5 million fine, $800,000 in restitution and was put under court control.
Fiorillo and LaCavallla were not charged, but their association was questioned by Westchester authorities. Greenburgh legislator Thomas Abinati called Fiorillo “part of organized crime’s corruption of the waste industry,” according to the newspaper report.
Ferro removed the two from City Carting of Westchester, but said Fiorillo would continue as a consultant for the parent company in Stamford. Removing the two men from the Westchester operation was enough to convince the county to pass the $85 million contract.
Fiorillo continues his association today in Norwalk and is a principal in Meadow St. Partners, which owns the real estate used by City Carting in Norwalk.
Leave a Reply
You must Register or Login to post a comment.