Rilling fires back at speaker’s accusation

Norwalk Democrats 101712 096
State Sen. Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) and former Norwalk Police Chief Harry Rilling chat during a presidential debate last October, shortly after Rilling registered as a Democrat.

NORWALK, Conn. – A public comment made by a spectator at Tuesday night’s Norwalk Common Council meeting has drawn an angry response from a Democratic candidate for mayor – and a belated response from Mayor Richard Moccia.

At the meeting, a woman who had come to advocate for a Zoning Commission appointment ran through a list of other people appointed by Moccia.  “(The mayor) has newly appointed Harry Rilling, who is now running against him for mayor after saying he would not do that if given the zoning position,” she said.

“Why would I agree to accept a Zoning Commission position under those circumstances, knowing I was thinking of tossing my hat in the ring?” Rilling asked.

He said there was no discussion of his political plans when Moccia approached him about the seat on the Zoning Commission.

The woman’s comment went unchallenged by Moccia, who later, when questioned by NancyOnNorwalk, said no deal was made.

“How could I, how would I, say that when I already had consulted with two people about running for mayor?” Rilling said, adding that people in both parties had been suggesting it “for years.”

Rilling said he checked with state Sen. Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) to see if he was planning to challenge Moccia. “I told him if he was running, I would not challenge him.”

Rilling said he also called former Mayor Bill Collins to ask what he thought of him running, and got a positive response. Then he heard from Moccia.

“The mayor called within a week,” Rilling said Tuesday. “He said ‘Would you be interested in the Zoning Commission?’”

Rilling said Wednesday he wondered if the offer came because Moccia heard he was considering a run for mayor and that the zoning post was an attempt to short-circuit the plan. “I asked him to give me a couple of days to think about it,” he said, and he consulted Collins about whether he should accept. Collins, Rilling said, “thought it would be a good experience for me and would help if I did decide to run.”

“I called the mayor back and accepted. End of story. No promises, no deals, no discussion at all about whether or not I was considering a run.”

Contacted Tuesday by email, Moccia admitted there was no quid pro quo.

“My conversations with Harry were, for the most part, private,” Moccia wrote. “All I have ever said prior to his appointment was that he indicated at that time he was not interested in any political office. I believe that is what she (the woman at the council meeting) was trying to put forward. In fairness to both Harry and myself, there were no deals of any kind made.”

Rilling again disputed Moccia’s assertion that he gave the mayor any indication then that he would not be running.

“We never had any discussion of me running or not running. I never told him I would not run for mayor. There were no promises or deals attached to the offer,” he said. “In the past we talked about how busy the mayor was and I told him I didn’t know how he did it. I never told him I would not ever run.”

Rilling said Moccia should have spoken up when the woman spoke at the meeting.

“Why did the mayor not correct that public speaker like he has corrected others in the past?” he asked. “He had a chance to set the record straight and apparently didn’t.”

He also questioned where the woman got her information, given that she was not present during their discussions.”

“If our conversations were mostly in private, how would this woman have been trying to put anything forward?” Rilling asked. “She was never present when the mayor and I spoke on ANY subject.”


19 responses to “Rilling fires back at speaker’s accusation”

  1. Hobbes the Calvinist

    A real leader would have corrected the lie. A politician takes advantage of a lie.
    Norwalk needs a leader and not another politician.

  2. Chuck Ramsay

    Not a great start for a mayoral candidate to attack a speaker at a council meeting for what seems to be the most trivial of mis-statements. The mayor is taking the right track here. Not every one knows every detail when they speak, it isn’t a court of law and all are entitled to their opinion.

    If Mr. Rilling wanted to voice an opinion, he had that opportunity and should have done so.

  3. Suzanne

    This story has little context if “the woman” is not identified.

  4. M Allen

    This warranted a story and investigative reporting? At what point in the meeting did the unknown woman make her comment? Was she speaker #1 or speaker #27? Perhaps the Mayor didn’t hear it clearly, or at all. Did the Mayor or anyone else on the council acknowledge this or any other question/statement made by the speaker via a response? Or even a perfunctory nod of the head to acknowledge her presence at the microphone? The whole thing sounds like a non-issue and there seems to be quite a bit of context missing. And was Harry’s response actually “angry”? It doesn’t seem like him to be “angry” over such a non-issue.

    1. Mark Chapman

      Re: context

      I intended to add a paragraph regarding the following, but forgot to do so. To further explain the genesis of the story:

      The public comment followed multiple attempts by an anonymous commenter to assert the same story line – that Rilling promised the mayor he would “lean right” in his decisions, and that he “double crossed” Moccia by not following through. The comment contained libelous statements and thus was rejected. However, because serious questions had been raised, NancyOnNorwalk chose to address the accusations and the public comment with Rilling. After receiving Rilling’s response, we asked the mayor for his version. When Moccia’s reply included the implication that Rilling said at the time he was not interested in political office , we went back to Rilling for his response.

      Re: speaker’s name

      While Nancy was at the meeting she did not clearly understand the woman’s name. She was not someone who is a regular at the meetings.

  5. notaffiliated

    Ah politics. Where should we move?

    Nice letter to the editor today in The Norwalk Hour. Must be nice to be a city employee in Norwalk – same old, same old.

    1. Mark Chapman

      What letter are you referring to? Checking online, I see one, from Peter Berman, the same letter that appears on this site today.

  6. ScopeonNorwalk

    The question is who is Harry hustling? Did he hustle Moccia and the Republicans to get a Zoning seat. Or is he currently hustling the Democrats to sabotage the November elections?

  7. EveT

    Unfortunately there are people who believe unfounded rumors and spread them. Some people don’t understand that you shouldn’t believe everything you hear. This unidentified woman did not have proof that her accusation was true. She committed slander by making this accusation.

    People write unfounded accusations in the comments here and on all sorts of other online forums. Some people are just full of hatred and will say anything to vent their hatred.

  8. NorwalkLifer

    “Congratulations on your anticipated nomination,” Rilling told Moccia. “Thank you for being a great boss.”
    Full story: http://www.thehour.com/news/norwalk/gop-nominates-moccia-for-top-spot-again/article_551d0290-dfe9-56f4-a222-03cf5afae561.html

  9. NorwalkVoter

    First, Nancy should know that all speakers who step up to the podium at the beginning of the Council meeting are supposed to sign in then the Mayor calls them by name to the podium. Secondly, their names and addresses are part of the record. Do a little investigating. It all should be on the record. If not, then she should have been asked clearly for her name and address.

  10. M Allen

    Maybe it was one of the many anonymous commenters from here. 🙂

  11. The speaker’s name was Olga Arteaga. I sent City Clerk Erin Herring an email yesterday seeking to confirm that. She just got back to me.

  12. Joe Espo

    The Mayor is not supposed to comment on the comments made by commentors during the public comments portion of the Council meeting. He did right not commenting.
    But then the underlying point here is that if the Mayor knew of Rilling’s plans to run why would the Mayor give his putative opponent a forum from which to campaign. It makes no sense to appoint Rilling to “short circuit” his plans because that stratagem wouldn’t (and didn’t) work to placate Rilling. Rilling is not telling the truth.

  13. Don’t Panic

    @espo. Mr. Moccia not only routinely comments on the points made by citizens who speak during the public comment portion, but he also cuts off those with whom he doesn’t agree. He even gets snarky and personal about the speakers. Watch the tapes sometime. If he chose not to comment on this, it was either not audible or he was being political, not honoring decorum. It is sometimes hard to hear in there.

  14. Joe Espo

    Don’t Panic: Not only is it difficult to hear in that chamber, but – casting no aspersions – that woman who spoke has an accent. But, nonetheless, it’s not the mayor’s job to correct every factual error spoken during public comments. Most certainly no one should expect him to come to his political opponent’s defense on a nuanced point.

  15. Norwalk Lifer

    What I am concluding from this article is that familiarity breeds contempt, it is clear, that politics make strange bedfellows.

    What we need is clearly new blood in Norwalk, let one of our newer, more vibrant citizens step up and seek nomination; it’s clear change must occur, this reads like a insider column in the beltway in Washington DC, we’ve had enough of that comic relief, it’s time to get serious about moving this city forward. Every faction of citizenship is suffering from economic blight in Norwalk, it does not matter if your well to do and are furious about the tax base, or middle class and cannot move in a positive way financially, or the poor who cannot get proper assistance to lift out of the cycle of poverty; there is no clear venue for any of the three basic lifestyles and group of people in this town right now. I am concerned that the latest good idea about bringing big box revenue to Norwalk might not have the positive effects others would think. It’s not that I am against it, I just have not seen the objective benefits of doing this. Maybe its time to seek lessons learned from cities like Milford on this kind of revenue building, it would be better to understand the empirical, especially since those on the PZ at least one, has stated the experience level is less than average. Use what experience there is in our surrounding towns and determine whether those models continue to feed a city where people want to live, and maybe work also.

    This article is a quid pro quo commentary, it’s final result does not produce anything for this City.

  16. Suzanne

    Excellent comment, Norwalk Lifer and spot on suggestions.

  17. Tim T

    Seems to me that Rilling has the same bad attitude as Moccia when challenged
    As I have said all along
    Moocia is Rilling
    Rilling is Moccia

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