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Seen and Heard in Norwalk: ‘Suspicious’ DTC bookkeeping

Norwalk Democratic Town Committee 091613 007
Norwalk Democratic Town Committee treasurer Peter Thor.

Correction, 2:25 p.m.: $6,418 not $6,419

NORWALK, Conn. – Here are some items of interest that were seen or heard recently in Norwalk:

Detective work by telephone

A Derby man was unusually generous with the Democratic Town Committee this campaign season in a donation that could get the DTC in trouble, according to DTC paperwork.

Sean Bender contributed $6,418 at a fundraiser, according to the Oct. 10 filing with the Connecticut Secretary of State . That’s raised some eyebrows, considering that the limit for contributions to a town committee outlined in state statutes is $2,000.

Joshua Foley of the SEEC compliance office said the state had not caught the red flag.

“Somebody has to file a complaint,” he said. “We would bring the complaint before the commission at the next meeting, which is Dec. 18. Then we would have to decide whether to investigate.”

DTC treasurer Peter Thor seemed aghast in a voice mail left in response to a NancyOnNorwalk inquiry. “I must have added a zero,” he said.

Well that didn’t add up. But something else did – Sean Bender’s zip code is 06418.

Notice, that’s the same number sequence as the alleged $6,418 donation.

“That’s exactly what I did,” Thor said in the second voice mail on the topic. “I’m really glad you called because I was having trouble trying to figure out what the heck was wrong. Sean Bender wrote out a check for $25. I’m going to obviously be filing an amended report.”

Norwalk volunteers deserve respect

Department of Public Works Director Hal Alvord was talking with members of the Tree Advisory Committee this week when he diverged into commentary about another Norwalk governmental body.

“I sympathize with the Oak Hills Authority because they’re all volunteers, just like all of you are,” he said. “They don’t make a penny from this and they field some ungodly wrath from people and some obscene wrath from people, quite honestly.

“They’re trying to make up for things that may or may not or should or should not have been done in the past, but an enterprise authority in the city of Norwalk is required to be self supporting, financially. It’s not supposed to be subsidized by the city.”

He went on to list the city’s three enterprise authorities: the Norwalk Parking Authority, the Water Pollution Control Authority and the Oak Hills Park Authority.

“(OHPA is) struggling to get into the black and there all kinds of political impacts and influences going all over the place, when you’re trying to make a business decision you can’t truly make a business decision,” he said.

Priorities, priorities

The tree committee went on to give its blessing to an Oak Hills plan to remove 23 trees, all said to be in poor condition, from the course. Park employees will remove 20 trees while a tree company will take down the remaining three.

Alvord said each tree had been marked to give people the opportunity to protest to the tree warden — Alvord — and force a public hearing on the matter.

“Only one gentleman (protested),” he said. “A very persistent gentleman by the way — very courteous, real gentleman, but very persistent. Shelley (Guyer) spent a lot of time with him, Jim (Schell) spent a lot of time with him. Shelley donated his office to me one morning — he didn’t stick around for the meeting but he let me meet with this gentleman. At the end of the day, he withdrew his protest. It turned out that he wasn’t a member of the Sierra Club, he wasn’t with Greenpeace or anything like that, he just liked the trees where they were because he thought it helped his (golf) game. He plays out there four or five days a week.”

Powerful tree trimming

Alvord was concerned about the forecast of high winds and heavy rain Thursday. There had been some strong gusts the previous Saturday, he said.

“We and CL&P have done some serious tree trimming in Norwalk in the last couple of years,” he said. “We only had six power outages last Saturday and that was from limbs that fell on the service drops, in other words, private electric lines going into the house, not taking out distribution lines on the street.”

What a difference two years makes

Former Mayor Richard Moccia hated anonymous posters. Any visit to his office by this reporter included inquiries and complaints about the comments left on The Daily Voice by people using pseudonyms.

Then there was the end of his victory speech after he won re-election in 2011.

“To my friends on the blogs: I do not live in Stamford! John Connor, I know who you are. The ‘Oldtimer,’ I really know who you are. All of your innuendo, all of the lies that you put on the blogs with your anonymous names — you lose!” he shouted.

Mayor Harry Rilling sat in that same office three days after being elected and answered a question about a letter to the editor published the day before in The Hour.

“There’s going to be people taking potshots for the next two years,” he said. “We’re going to move forward and try to do everything that we possibly can. I didn’t even bother reading his letter, to be honest with you. I’ve got many, many more important things to do.”

He went on to mention the anonymous posters.

“I always say that if a person doesn’t have the courage to attach their name to something then what they have to say really doesn’t have much value,” he said.

Comments

22 responses to “Seen and Heard in Norwalk: ‘Suspicious’ DTC bookkeeping”

  1. LWitherspoon

    Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

  2. LWitherspoon

    @Nancy
    .
    On a serious note, which letter to the editor did you ask Mayor Rilling about and what was the question?
    .
    Just a few weeks into Mayor Rilling’s administration, I’m a little surprised that the Mayor would tell a reporter that he “didn’t even bother” to read a Letter to the Editor from a citizen who was concerned enough about some issue to take the trouble to write. Is this the civility Mayor Rilling promised? Someone writes a letter to the editor and his response is that he didn’t even bother to read it because he has many, many more important things to do?
    .
    If Mayor Rilling doesn’t deign something worthy of a response, that’s his choice. But I don’t think it’s politically smart or particularly civil to tell the media that you didn’t read a Letter to the Editor from a concerned Norwalker because you have many, many more important things to do.

  3. Oldtimer

    “The ‘Oldtimer,’ I really know who you are. All of your innuendo, all of the lies that you put on the blogs with your anonymous names — you lose!” he shouted.” WHAT ?
    He thinks he knows. For the record, I don’t use “names”. I either post as Oldtimer, or, once in a while, I post under my given name. I didn’t lose anything. I supported Harry Rilling and Harry won. I never posted any lies on this or any other site. Anytime he wants to point out one of the lies he blames me for, he should feel free. Anytime, when two compete for the same position and one wins, there has to be a loser. In this case, Moccia lost and he should accept that fact with as much grace as he can muster. It would be interesting to see what other poster’s pen names he thinks are mine. He tried hard and did a much better job than I ever expected. In my opinion, he made some serious mistakes that will probably come back to haunt him. He, and Esposito, are strong examples of the value of term limits.

  4. M Allen

    OT – it was from 2011.

  5. LongTimeDem

    The story about the Zip code-turned-contribution amount is cute and funny, though I suspect that the only eyebrows that were raised belonged to someone named Nancy, since no one else seems to have noticed the error previous to her.
    .
    But is it really fair to Peter Thor, an honest and honorable person, to put his picture under a headline that reads “‘Suspicious’ DTC bookkeeping”?
    .
    Nowhere in the article does anyone refer to the mistake as “suspicious”, so it is a bit of a wonder where that the quoted characterization originated, other than perhaps with the reporter herself (and if that is true, should reporters be quoting themselves in articles or headlines?).
    .
    More importantly, one actually has to click past the fold and read the article all the way through to see that the headline is a joke. Anyone who just reads the headline in passing, or indeed reads the headline and two paragraphs above the fold, would be left with the impression that the guy in the picture is suspected of some sort of bookkeeping impropriety.
    .
    This may seem minor, and the article as a whole is all in good fun, but many people don’t take the time to read past the headline and first couple of paragraphs. I think you could be a little bit more careful about someone’s reputation — especially given the current context, in which we read almost daily stories about financial irregularities coming out of NEON. You may wish to revise the headline to remove this implication.
    .
    PS: I’m not Peter Thor. 🙂

  6. Oldtimer

    Thanks, Matt, I saw that, but felt obliged to respond to it being in this message today.

  7. MGeake

    The fundamental problem with the DTC report is that it was supposed to have been reconciled with their bank statement. Either that wasn’t done, meaning Peter Thor certified a report he hadn’t actually balanced, or it was done, meaning there is now nearly $6400 unaccounted for.

    Either situation is a violation of state election laws.

  8. Joe Norwalk

    It sounds like he just made an error transcribing the numbers onto the state required form. I am thankful for all of the campaign treasurer volunteers, democrat and republican. It is a thankless job, especially in a town like Norwalk that is full of nasty people always ready to criticize others who selflessly give of their time.

  9. LongTimeDem

    Joe Norwalk – Well said.

  10. Onion Roll

    Calls go out for an investigation of the alleged misappropiation of thousands in DTC donations.

    Alleged master thief of the local democratic committee treasury apparently misplaces, looses or pockets $6,000 in cold cash. The 6 grand was noted in one book but disappeared in another. The treasurer pleads incompetence and is indicating he mis-transcribed the 6 grand with a zip code and that he will check his books a little closer, correct the spreadsheet and make an appointment with the eye doc. Some republicans are calling for a full scale forensic audit and ans state investigation into the missing 6 thousand. No word if the city or parties will actually begin compensating all the volunteers with something, other than,,, a hard time.

  11. Potter

    Much ado about nothing. Would be great to read something of importance like an introduction to our new School Communications Director Benda Williams. But alas it is a holiday weekend, which we devote passionately all our attention, energy and money to knock eachother over standing in lines and traffic to spend, spend, spend. Who has time to read anything important anyway? Now, where did I put that darn big blue handicap parking pass? Had it last year, hid it right under the seat. Darn shelf elfs stole my handicap parking pass. Again..

  12. Tim T

    “He went on to mention the anonymous posters.

    “I always say that if a person doesn’t have the courage to attach their name to something then what they have to say really doesn’t have much value,” he said.”

    I GUESS THE NAME TAXPAYER IS NO IMPORTANCE TO RILLING….TYPICAL….

  13. You may want to check your facts

    LOL I KNOW, TYPICAL TIM T…

    You are so brave and are obviously out there trying to right the wrongs in the city of Norwalk. Thank you for your service.

  14. @LWitherspoon
    The letter was written by David Park in response to an op ed about infrastructure written by Council member David McCarthy.
    Mr. Park mentioned the sidewalk issue. So I asked the mayor about it. He said, “I’m not paying attention to any of those things. My campaign promise was to look at a lot of different things that weren’t being done. One of them was sidewalks and potholes. It was expressed to me by the constituency. If Mr. Park wants to take issue with that that’s fine.”
    Mayor Rilling then said, “There are sidewalks that are the responsibility of the homeowners but sidewalks are supposed to be inspected on a regular basis,” which was something he said at his Oct. 2 campaign press conference.
    He went on, “Potholes are the responsibility of the city of Norwalk. I think I’ve shown quite handily the different potholes that existed so I will be meeting with the Department of Public Works and see how we can best handle this pothole issue. There was even discussion on how we might be able to work with other communities to look at these trucks – that if we can get a regional grant, a truck that has a self-contained heating system in it that would heat the asphalt so you wouldn’t have to use cold patch. I may want to take a look and see if that’s a doable thing and we can discuss that with Mr. Alvord.”

  15. Tim T

    You may want to check your facts
    That’s correct and you may want to try the same instead of the propaganda.

  16. Conundrum

    The man who made the error and wrote $6419 because he accidentally put his Zip Code in the as the amount is a Derby resident? I am confused as to why it was $6419 when Derby’s Zip Code is 06418, not 06419. I know it kind of silly to note that. Just struck me as odd.

  17. LWitherspoon

    @Nancy
    Thank you. So Mayor Rilling’s statement that he “didn’t even bother” to read the Letter to the Editor because he has “many, many more important things to do” applied to the letter from David Park?
    .
    Where did the letter from David Park appear? I don’t remember seeing it in NoN or the Hour. I would like to understand what it is that Mayor Rilling dismissed as a potshot.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @LWitherspoon

      The letter appeared in The Hour on Thursday, Nov. 21. The “potshot” reference was part of a broader conversation about people criticizing — not to him directly, but through letters to the editor and anonymous blog comments in general.

  18. @Joe Norwalk & LongTime Dem
    (aka “The Democrat Cheerleading Squad”)
    Dismissing the violation of state election laws as a transcription error is ignorant and then to get all pious about the volunteers is sycophantic.
    *
    It didn’t take long for Rilling to get defensive and rude.
    *
    How astute of NoN to justify Rilling’s position on posters. If Rilling doesn’t “pay attention” to anonymous posters then he doesn’t like to read the writing on the wall. He is a one-termer.

  19. Keen Observer

    I would like to begin by thanking Peter for his years of service to Norwalk’s DTC. Peter has been a mainstay and voice of reason with the Norwalk DTC for decades. Serving as one of Norwalk’s representatives to CT’s Democratic state party committee, Peter has acted as a vital liaison between Norwalk and CT’s state party sturcture. He has also served with distinction as the Norwalk DTC’s connection to union organizations.

    Unfortunately, the DTC accounting situation is only the latest symptom of massive incompetence in the DTC Treasurer’s office under Mr. Thor. It also points out the state’s inability to enforce political finance laws on its own.

    Granted, it is certain that the initial entry for Mr. Bender’s contribution was a simple typo. A review of the report itself, however, will reveal that all the contributions listed on a page are totaled at the bottome of that page. The contributions on all pages are then totaled again on the master contribution page. This figure is then reported on the page 2 summary in “Contributions received from individuals”. This flows into “Total Monetary Receipts” and then, finally, into “Balance on hand”, which MGeake points out is intended to equal the balance in the committee’s bank account, excepting any recently-received contributions that have not yet been deposited.

    Certainly, a small clerical error might make it through all these sub-totals and totals and still be missed if there are some undeposited contributions outstanding. But $6,400 is close to what the Norwalk DTC receives in an entire year. It is NOT a small error. It is incredible that a figure that large could have passed through all these checkpoints and not have raised an eyebrow or two.

    Mr. Geake rightly points out that the “Balance on hand” is a key figure in the report. No competent finance person should have submitted an official report to the SEEC, a state regulatory body, without checking that the Balance on hand did, indeed, match the committee’s bank balance. To be out by more than $6,400 should have put an immediate halt to the reporting process until the error was found and corrected.

    It would be one thing if this were a one-off error. Mr. Thor points out that SEEC reporting does allow for the amendment of reports to correct errors. This was not, however, the Norwalk DTC’s latest financial report to the SEEC. A later report was filed several weeks later, on October 29, that continued to carry the $6,400 outage. This can only mean that in the time between reports that the mistake was not discovered, and that in the latest report errors that should have been glaringly obvious were once again either not noticed or were simply ignored. Let us not forget that Mr. Thor signed a pledge in each of these reports that the information in these reports was true and complete to the best of his knowledge, under threat of civil penalty.

    The problems with Norwalk DTC finances go even deeper than these last couple of reports. It is quite likely that it has been several years since the reported Balance on Hand has accorded with the actual bank account. The DTC could possibly be unaware of this as it has allowed Mr. Thor to continue to serve as Treasurer without insisting that he publish official reports at its meetings. Rather, Mr. Thor simply reads off figures to the body, figures that are not entered into the minutes of DTC meetings. There is thus no record that even members of the DTC itself could check against Mr. Thor’s reports to the SEEC. The DTC has allowed a critical audit channel to be short-circuited.

    The reactions of many posters on this site is disheartening. Rather than investigate the implications of Nancy’s story, Nancy is castigated for pointing out what they refer to as an oversight or clerical error. An error of this magnitude, lasting this long (and only discovered by Nancy’s intrepid snooping. If she hadn’t reported this story the error would persist) is evidence enough that Mr. Thor is simply out of his depth as Treasurer.

    Also, those who call this a volunteer position are mistaken. The DTC Treasurer is an elected position, one that Mr. Thor has actively pursued for many years.

    The DTC can take pride in helping to elect a Democratic mayor in Norwalk. It is now time to begin the hard work of cleaning up its own house.

  20. @Conundrum
    You are correct, 06418. It’s my mistake. Correction made.
    You can read the filing at http://seec.ct.gov/ecrisreporting/Data/Attachment/Unassigned/SEEC20_October_10_Filing_22885.PDF
    The Sean Bender donation is on page 11.

  21. Joe Norwalk

    So Peter Thor is not a volunteer, because it is an “elected” position? Does it come with a big salary, insurance and a Ford Edge? This is nothing more than silly, nasty partisanship. The guy made a mistake on the form. Get over it and go find something else to snark about.

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