NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling said Wednesday he is going to sit down with members of the Board of Education who are involved in a controversy involving race and try to resolve the situation.
He also spoke out against a comment made by board member Jack Chiaramonte.
Rilling, who said he did not want this “playing out in the public arena,” issued a press release Wednesday after taking exception to a published report attributing a comment to him as relayed by a third party – NAACP President and attorney Darnell Crosland.
“There is an inaccurate description of my remarks to Attorney Darnell Crosland in today’s press,” he said in the release. “I have spoken recently with Mr. Crosland and suggested meeting separately with persons on both sides of this issue. I recommended we begin a dialogue and eventually bring both sides together.”
The issue to which the mayor referred involves charges of racism leveled by Board of Education members Shirley Mosby, Rosa Murray and Migdalia Rivas against members of the BOE, including Chairman Mike Lyons.
Lyons has denied the claims and demanded proof, which has not been forthcoming. Lyons has said he would not respond to the charges filed with the NAACP and would not agree to talks with the organization until he was given supporting evidence.
Mosby said Tuesday night she has evidence to back up her claims, but would not make it public unless and until the situation winds up in court.
Complicating the issue was a statement made by BOE member and former Chairman Jack Chiaramonte, who called Mosby “the girl who cried black” in reference to her repeated claims of improper treatment of minorities because of their race. Chiaramonte was given a chance by NancyOnNorwalk to walk his comment back last week, but he chose to stand behind his words.
Rilling said Chiaramonte should not have used those words.
“That certainly didn’t help the situation and was, in my opinion, insensitive and shouldn’t have been uttered,” Rilling said Wednesday.
Several people, some from out of town, made their unhappiness known at Tuesday night’s BOE meeting.
Rilling said he wants to try to bring everyone together even without the “evidence” both he and Lyons originally said should be put forward.
“I feel that at the onset of these discussions, no evidence in support of any underlying claims or allegations would be necessary,” the mayor said.
“You have to get people talking and willing to talk,” he said. “I know all the people involved and I know their best interest is the young people in the school system. We need to refocus.”
Rilling said he agrees with Crosland, who made an observation about the situation.
“Darnell said in our conversation that perception sometimes is reality to people, and we need to find out why they feel this way. I said I agreed.”
“I want to sit down separately with people to get the dialog started. I don’t want this played out in the public arena,” Rilling said. “I just think its caused problems and I think we need to get this resolved and not played out publicly, but to get these things resolved so people can start moving forward with the business of the board.
“I fully expect both sides to come together and return to the mission of service to the children of Norwalk.”