NORWALK, Conn. – A Norwalk Democrat touted the efficiency and proficiency of threatened Norwalk Republican Registrar Karen Doyle Lyons Friday, but two Republican leaders said it was time to make public why they believe a new registrar is needed – and has been for years.
Doyle Lyons, despite 13½ years on the job, did not win her party’s endorsement Thursday. Hours later, Deputy Democratic Registrar Bob Sodaro lauded Doyle Lyons’ work on elections and talked of the cohesiveness of the registrar’s office, while Norwalk Republican Town Committee Chairman Pete Torrano and former RTC Chairman Art Scialabba focused on Doyle Lyons’ lack of contributions to campaign efforts and said the Republican registrar should be working for Republican candidates, not helping Democrats.
“There is a reason why the Republican Town Committee didn’t endorse the sitting Republican registrar. If you polled most of the executive committee you would probably find out that they’re happy that it turned out this way right now,” Torrano said.
“The leadership of the Republican Town Committee has not been pleased with Karen for a number of terms,” Scialabba said. “We haven’t had a strong candidate that was willing to try and take if from her from a convention standpoint for a while, until John (Federici) decided he would take it on this time.”
“We kept it in house, but she has turned this into a public spitting contest and I think people need to hear this,” Torrano said.
The major issue is the information Doyle Lyons provides to Republican candidates, they said, but they also painted a picture of a dishonest and manipulative woman.
Doyle Lyons has “ticked off so many people,” Torrano said. People won’t go into her office because they don’t like her, he said. He also said she spends her time wandering City Hall rather than working.
“Karen is not known for her truthfulness. She will turn it around completely and make it sound like you said something terrible about her,” Torrano said.
He quoted Doyle Lyons as saying she would bet her grandchildren on being re-elected, and said he replied, “You will lose your grandchildren.”
“She took that little slip and turned it into me saying her grandchildren are dead,” Torrano said.
Doyle Lyons goes around saying she was told by Torrano she couldn’t work with veterans in her role as registrar, said Torrano, a Vietnam veteran. He told her she needs to spend her time getting the information the Republican Party needs, that work on veterans issues should be done on the side, he said.
“We’re concerned because, quite frankly, we want the best information we can possibly have in running our campaigns,” he said. Republican candidates last fall were given information that “was not updated, it was not correct, people have been moved out of town,” Torrano said.
“A good 85 percent or more of the phone numbers are no longer valid. It’s something that could be verified and just isn’t … and it should be verified. So we don’t have accurate records,” Scialabba said.
Scialabba said he had, as chairman, sat down with Doyle Lyons for long conversations on multiple occasions, to no avail.
“She has her defenders, but about 80 percent of the town committee — they don’t know the truth,” Scialabba said. “They don’t know the back story, all the phone calls, all the things the executive committee and other people have had to deal with over the years with Karen.”
And Doyle Lyons was supposed to retire, Scialabba said.
“She indicated to a number of us that, after the discussion we had with her a couple of years ago, that would have been her last term,” Scialabba said. “She just re-upped and we didn’t have anyone to challenge her so we allowed it to go through.”
Then she went to the Common Council and asked for a raise, they said.
There was an issue with voters who were registered in District B and should have been in District E, they said. They asked Doyle Lyons to fix it, for 2½ years, Torrano said. Democratic Registrar Stuart Wells finally got the voters registered in the right district, he said.
Sitting in her office Friday afternoon, Doyle Lyons was prepared to rebut some of the talking points going around about the need to get her out of office.
She said Federici had been telling people he would Google people to get their phone numbers and update their public records, before Wells set him straight.
“You can’t just go onto Google and put someone’s telephone number onto the voting list. It is optional. We have a ruling from the Secretary of State’s Office that it would be illegal to just look up someone’s telephone number and put it on someone’s registration,” Doyle Lyons said.
Torrano told her he didn’t want her working on the Memorial Day parade, she said. Former Mayors Frank Esposito, Alex Knopp and Richard Moccia gave her that job, she said. It’s a city parade, organized on city time, she said.
Most of the work for the next election has been done for three months she said. Sodaro confirmed that.
It is Wells’ job in the “cohesive office” to do redistricting, she said. Sodaro confirmed that.
Wells has gone on at length about this in the past – it takes a lot of time to redistrict, he said. The lines were made long before Global Positioning Systems and Geographic Information Systems (GIS), he said.
Doyle Lyons said Councilman David McCarthy (R-District E) wanted voters moved into District E. Wells had already been working on it, she said. Wells had to go through the tax assessor’s office, the Information Technology (IT) department, the Department of Public Works, the U.S. Post Office and Corporation Counsel, she said. It also cost money, as, for instance, new maps have to be printed, she said, so it went to the Common Council.
That process did not take more than a year, she said.
“We don’t take just one individual street or two and change them around, without doing the remaining ones,” she said. “We can’t do it because an individual says we should. We are here to serve the voters, not any individual.”
“They say she’s not organized. They say she’s not professional, these are all not true,” said Sodaro, describing Doyle Lyons as “phenomenally organized.”
Republicans say Doyle Lyons hasn’t done enough to build the voting base, Sodaro said.
“Not only is that completely inappropriate, it’s actually illegal,” he said. “We are not an arm of either party. We are here, checks and balances, both parties. She can’t proselytize for the Republican Party anymore than I can – it’s illegal.”
The idea that Doyle Lyons doesn’t get along with others is repudiated by the mood in the office, they say.
“We’re not Democrats, we’re not Republicans,” Sodaro said. “Karen knows the law. She is very, very familiar with the law and the procedures, the rules and regulations. Stuart is very familiar with the technology and the SEEC rulings. He has actually gone through and read all the rulings and see how they apply to us. He’s a lawyer and he knows how to look that stuff up and do that, but he also understands the data base and the spreadsheets and the technology. So it’s very interactive. You have to work with each other. There’s two of them, they have to work with each other. It makes sense to do it cohesively as a unit because otherwise you’re working at odds with each other. It behooves the voters; you’re not helping them out.”
As an example of her ability to get along with others, Doyle Lyons brought up Wells’ first weeks on the job, after he replaced Betty Bondi in 2008.
“Luckily I had done my due diligence and prepared the materials for the election, because when Stuart came in his office was an empty shell. He had no poll workers, he had no files, he had nothing,” Doyle Lyons said.
“There was not one piece of paper. There was not one electronic file. There was nothing to show that his predecessor had ever been in that office. Nothing existed,” Sodaro said.
Bondi cleared out on the Friday before a long weekend, and the office was locked until Tuesday, Sodaro said.
“We now had three weeks before what could arguably be called the most important election of our lifetime to figure out how to run this election,” Sodaro said. “The fact that we weren’t Bridgeport with bad ballots, missing ballots, is a credit to Karen because Karen had double sets of books, she was completely ready to go six weeks in advance. … She never gets rid of any of her filing so we were able to go through all of her paperwork to find who the Democrats had hired for poll workers in previous elections. We had gone through personnel to find people who had contact information so we could contact these people. We managed to pull off an election. It went amazingly smooth.”
“I have no ill feeling to Betty Bondi, (her father-in-law) Fred Bondi, or anyone who was in this office before and for anyone who will come in after me,” Doyle Lyons said.
Scialabba said Doyle Lyons could not work with Betty Bondi. A mediator was sent into the office to try to resolve the situation, Torrano said.
Torrano said Doyle Lyons spent three weeks telling him that Fred Bondi should not be a Republican. He called it a vendetta.
“You really have to be an insider to know what she’s doing” because the average person doesn’t know all of the things that go on in politics, Torrano said.
Scialabba turned the story of Doyle Lyons helping the up-the-creek Democrats against the Republican registrar.
“Here’s the issue with that. That was a Democratic registrars and Democratic Town Committee issue, it wasn’t for Karen to get involved with. The only thing Karen needs to do was register people who come into the office, for whatever party,” Scialabba said. “… It’s not her business, it doesn’t matter. It’s a Democratic Party issue. She wants to make things more her issue when they don’t need to be.”
Torrano said the allegation that he told her not to work with veterans is absurd, given that he served two years in Vietnam in the 298th Medical Company, evacuating wounded soldiers via helicopter.
“I was told months ago that if we tried to get rid of Karen we were in for the battle of our lives. And it is,” Torrano said. “I am not worried. … If she is reelected I will spend the next two years talking to her every day, telling her to take out the (year-round) Christmas tree, sit at her desk and get the information for the Republicans that she has failed to do.”