Opinion: Oaths, details and facts – the little things that count

(This story has been updated as of 11:33 p.m. Oct. 15 to reflect return calls from Republican Town Committee Chairman Art Scialabba and state Rep. Larry Cafero  and Harry Rilling’s response.)

NORWALK, Conn. – Loyalty oaths. Gotta love ‘em.

Remember the Democrats asking their mayoral candidates to sign what was characterized as a loyalty oath last spring? Wow. The outcry was fast and furious. How DARE they? Swearing allegiance to the Democratic Party instead of the people of Norwalk? How wrong is that?

So wrong that three out of four candidates refused to sign, including eventual nominee Harry Rilling. Only that quintessential Democratic Party loyalist, Vinny Mangiacopra, signed the oath, the pledge, or whatever. Of course, Mangiacopra is not so loyal that he has come out publicly in support of his party’s candidate, but that’s another story. Maybe he’s saving it for later.

Last week, the oath thing emerged again, having jumped the aisle.

Common Councilman Fred Bondi (R-At-Large), a candidate for constable, expressed his unhappiness Wednesday over having had to sign a Republican loyalty oath last summer before the party would nominate him.

Bondi said he was the only one who was told to sign, although a respected GOP source tells us there were others. He pointed out the Republicans nominated two Democrats to run for Common Council without asking them to pledge their fealty. Funny, considering the lack of loyalty they displayed to the Democratic Party that nominated them two years ago and to the Democratic voters who elected them based on their party affiliation. Both left the Democratic caucus after being elected and eventually joined the Republican caucus. Geake gave up his “D” until just prior to the Democratic mayoral primary, when he signed on again so he could vote. Kimmel clings to his “D” like a child clinging to belief in the tooth fairy.

It seems funny that the Republicans would not ask two gentlemen with a history of jumping the fence to pledge allegiance. It’s like appointing someone who has been convicted of stealing from taxpayers to an authority that handles taxpayer money.

Oh, right.

And it’s like castigating the other party’s mayoral candidate for calling for the city to settle a lawsuit when your own party, sans one person, voted to do the same thing.

But, hey, don’t let details get in the way of some good, old-fashioned mud-slinging.


Last week in a story in The Hour, Mayor Richard Moccia dismissed the significance of challenger Rilling’s lead in fund-raising with the following: “(Rilling) had a little head start because of the primary,” Moccia said. “I started later, once I got nominated later, and we’ll be doing more fundraising.”

As the mayor would say, not true.

Moccia announced his candidacy for mayor Feb. 5. Rilling announced his candidacy Feb. 24. Moccia had no competition for the Republican nomination. He also had the advantage of being the incumbent and having the bully pulpit. He also had no competition for Republican donations. Rilling had three other people competing for Democratic Party donations.

Nominated later? Moccia was nominated at the Republican nominating convention July 22. Rilling won his party’s nomination Sept. 10.

And both candidates continue to hold fund-raisers.

Ah, facts. They do get in the way of the narrative sometimes.

Here’s another: The false claim that the Norwalk Federation of Teachers has endorsed Rilling for mayor, a claim that is made over and over with nothing but “well it looks like it” to back it up.

“We categorically did not endorse anyone,” NFT President Bruce Mellion said. Mellion said the NFT never endorses candidates, it does not have a Political Action Committee. “It’s not true.”

Rilling told us the same thing a few days back, but the commenter did not want to accept that. In fact, he won’t accept this either. It is reminiscent of the birther movement. The proof doesn’t matter.

Mellion has urged voters in the union newsletter, The Vanguard, to consider voting out the Republican administration. He has urged his union members to listen to what Rilling has to say. “We’ve seen what Moccia has done over the past eight years. We should pay attention to what Harry has to say,” he said.

Mellion is listed as a $750 contributor – as an individual – to Rilling’s campaign. Mellion also has regularly slammed Board of Education member Susan Haynie in The Vanguard and has urged membership to vote her out of office. But those are his opinions, he said. The NFT does not give endorsements.

One other point we’d like to clear up, but we really would like something concrete, or at least some verbal verification of an assertion made by one of our commenters. That person stated that Rilling approached Republican Town Committee Chairman Art Scialabba and Republican state Rep. Larry Cafero a year ago about getting the Republican nomination for mayor. We reached out via email to both Scialabba and Cafero to see if that is true. Neither responded. Neither immediately responded. We also reached out to Rilling, who, in fact, suggested asking Scialabba and Cafero. Rilling said it never happened.

Scialabba contacted NancyOnNorwalk Monday evening and said he had not been approached by Rilling, but that Rilling had a conversation with someone else “high up” in the party. He did not give us a name so we could confirm it.

Wednesday, state Rep. Larry Cafero called and said that, two years ago, he was sitting with Rilling at a Republican fundraiser at the East Side Cafe and, in what he called a casual conversation, Rilling asked Cafero how he thought the Republicans would feel about supporting Rilling for mayor.

“I told him Dick was our guy, and we expected he would run again, but if he didn’t, then the party would probably be open to any Republican who wanted to run.”

Cafero said Rilling had not contacted him to ask him about it, and “I wasn’t aware of his affiliation.”

Rilling, who called Scialabba’s statement “a blatant lie” late Monday night, said Wednesday, “That never happened. In the first place, why would I go to a Republican fundraiser? I’m not a Republican. And I never asked anyone about running for mayor as a Republican.”

Rilling pointed out the timing of the story and asked, “Why is all this coming up now? Anybody can throw something out there” to try to damage a candidate.

The trouble with this story is that it is a “he said, she said” story with no way to verify it either way. We will be more vigilant in monitoring comments to kill rumors before then get into circulation.

Speculation is one thing. Democrats will give away the store to the unions if they are elected. Republicans will sell out to the big box chains if given two more years. Those are common claims that are perfectly acceptable personal opinions.

But making stuff up to rewrite history, or to plant doubt in people’s mind over nothing more than rumor?

Let’s not go there.


13 responses to “Opinion: Oaths, details and facts – the little things that count”

  1. LongTimeDem

    “It seems funny that the Republicans would not ask two gentlemen with a history of jumping the fence to pledge allegiance.”

    Just so the record is straight, Fred Bondi also switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican while serving on the Common Council during a term to which he had been elected as a Democrat.


    That said, while constable is an elected position, it is not really political. So I don’t know what the point of having a constable sign any pledge of party support would be.

  2. Don’t Panic

    The Constable is one of the few elected positions that stands to earn money (not just a small stipend) from the position, as Constables are permitted to charge for their services. Do the math!

  3. NorwalkVoter

    Fred Bondi was a Republican before becoming a Democrat and became a Republican after becoming a Democrat. This seesaw act is all about the $$$ with Fred and his family.

  4. Suzanne

    Oh boy, NON. Clarification and facts are dangerous things in this political environment. We, the people, we are supposed to swim in the stew and make profound guesses at the polls with the winning personality, depending upon who you think that is, getting the vote. Facts? Those pesky things. Partisans can come up with ten, no a dozen, reasons why a fact isn’t a fact depending upon what you mean “is is.” Thank you for the clarifications above. “Shining the light on Norwalk” can’t possibly be easy. Getting to what really happened near impossible/improbable. Loyalty oaths? Garbage. They have nothing to do with the people, their votes and intentions and everything to do with the bickering and secrecy that surrounds governance today.

  5. Daisy

    So if they basked for loyalty oaths – even score, it’s a non-starter. Hard, but not impossible, to believe Harry would ask Scialabba and Cafero about running on GOP ticket, unless he meant if Moccia didn’t run again. They’re both great supporters – and personal friends – of RM.

  6. Daisy

    I meant to say – if they BOTH asked, NOT if the basked. Hate it when that happens.

  7. Tim T

    I commend Mangiacopra for not supporting Rilling as Rilling is a carpetbagger that will say anything to get elected. He has proven not to be a leader in his position as police consultant, so why would anyone think he would be a leader as mayor. If somehow Rilling pulled this off and became Mayor, hold onto your wallets as we will we see taxes double and get ready for the famous Rilling excuses.

  8. John J

    Tim T your misinformed. Harry is a lifetime Norwalker. Obviously your not or you would know that fact. Read and learn,
    Carpetbagger > http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/carpetbagger

  9. Oldtimer

    Carpetbagger, in politics, is someone newly arrived, trying to take over. It was originally used derisively after the civil war when anyone running for anything who was not a local native was a “carpetbagger” (just arrived with his bag in hand)
    Dick Moccia has been in Norwalk a long time, but comes from Stamford. Harry Rilling has lived all his life, to date, in Norwalk except when he served in the US Navy.
    If the best you can do is call names, try to be accurate.

  10. Tim T

    Carpetbagger fits Rilling perfect as you state Carpetbagger in politics, is someone newly arrived, trying to take over..

  11. Daisy

    Tim is right. Nobody – including Dick Moccia – can help where they’re born. He moved to Norwalk as soon as he could and has been a loyal Norwalker ever since.
    Harry…was apolitical and suddenly thinks he can be mayor?

    (This comment has been edited to comform with our comment guidelines.)

  12. Oldtimer

    Harry was a police officer, bound by the rules, at that time, of the Norwalk Police Manual that specifically prohibited taking any part in politics. That rule was invoked against Donnie Sellers when he first ran for council and was found to be unconstitutional. By that time, even with an opinion it was unconstitutional, it was highly recommended by the police commissions that officers stay out of politics, especially those with any hope of promotion. Harry obviously had promotions on his mind and stayed out of politics until he was out of the police department.
    That hardly makes him a carpetbagger. He is better informed on the City and it’s residents than anybody I know. A true carpetbagger arrived in a community carrying everything he owned in a suitcase made of carpet fabric and announced his candidacy before leaving the RR station or stagecoach terminal.

  13. John Frank

    Your story suggests Moccia cannot always be relied on to be completely honest. As hard as that may be to believe, his record on appointments makes it believable. A certain homeowner on Tonetta Circle applied for a permit to build a pier ramp and dock from his property out into the harbor. The bottom there is part of a natural shellfish bed and the shellfish commission strenuously objected to the size of the project and was supported by the harbor management commission. This was several years ago. Since then the mayor has made several appointments to the shellfish commission, one being that same homeowner. A second application for essentially the same project has been applied for and was brought up before the shellfish commission at it’s October meeting. Action on it was tabled. The application this time was in the name of a construction company with the same last name as the homeowner. The homeowner and shellfish commissioner is Dwight St John who also was one of the captains of the Island Belle when it was staying in Norwalk, in violation of the permit for the visitor’s dock. The agent for the project, Jim Bajek, made at least one phone call to a harbor management commissioner expressing his hope that there would be no problem this time, with John Frank off the shellfish commission.
    And there is his “temporary” appointment of Robert Virgulak to the Oak Hill commission, despite being reminded, when Oak Hills was apparently going broke, of Mr Virgulak’s prior felony conviction for stealing from the 2nd taxing district commission when he served on that board.

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