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Norwalk Political Tug-of-War Coming to a Head

NORWALK, Conn. – A rift within Norwalk's Democratic Party has led to the mayor's office being short-handed since early December, and two Common Councilmen are now providing details about the problem.

David Watts, a freshman councilman, and Carvin Hilliard, president of the council, say they nominated Tammy Grimes-McPherson for the position of assistant city clerk after Councilman Matt Miklave objected to supporting Erik Anderson for the position.

"I'll tell you the truth," Hilliard said. "What happened was, in our caucus, Matt Miklave said he had a problem with this guy, with Erik Anderson. ... So I introduced this girl. I introduced her, and they changed their mind. This girl, to me, is a better-qualified candidate, and I just kept her in. That's what happened."

The majority of the caucus voted for Anderson, and Majority Leader Anna Duleep presented him to the Common Council on Dec. 13 for a vote that is customarily a rubber stamp – the minority party traditionally votes for whomever the majority nominates, sources say. But Hilliard nominated McPherson, a move, presenting a second candidate, that appears to be unprecedented . Mayor Richard Moccia, who has lived in Norwalk for more than 30 years, cannot remember another time when the majority party has been without an assistant since Oct. 28, when former assistant city clerk Karin Beggan, a Republican, resigned in advance of the November election.

Watts and Hilliard say they went looking for another candidate when Miklave objected to Anderson. Then Miklave changed his mind and supported Anderson.

Miklave declined comment.

"I had introduced this girl at the time. He changed his mind, and I just decided I was going forward with her," Hilliard said. "He flip-flopped. I'm being very candid, he flip-flopped, and I think she's a better candidate anyway. I just think from knowing her – and I know Erik, too, for a long time – she's a better candidate."

"We went looking for another candidate, at Matt's urging ... he was very vocal about it," Watts said. "Then Matt had some kind of epiphany at the end. ... I said, 'Just because you change your mind doesn't take back all the things that you said.' "

Hilliard and Watts are campaigning for McPherson to get the job. On Monday, she was endorsed by the Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship of Norwalk and Vicinity. "It is our understanding that Ms. McPherson's qualifications will be an asset to this position," the Rev. Roosevelt Ewell, IMF president and pastor of Canaan Institutional Baptist Church , wrote in a letter.

Other members of the IMF are listed at the top of the letter: the Rev. Gwen Stewart, the Rev. Kenneth Dubose, Sr., the Rev. Joyce Lee and Elder Sylvester Williams.

"We think she's a fine candidate and she'll be an asset to the city," Watts said. "She's competent to do the job ... it's not about politics, it's about finding the best person to do the job. We're putting Tammy forward and we started to go out to the community and talk to people about the job. It was great for the ministers to endorse her."

Moccia expects the vote to go on as planned Tuesday. There are eight Democrats on the Common Council and seven Republicans. With Watts and Hilliard supporting McPherson, it appears that Anderson already has six of the eight votes needed to become assistant city clerk at Tuesday's meeting.

"I want to do this job and I want to do it for the betterment of City Hall and the betterment of Norwalk," Anderson said.

Anderson confirmed that he has Miklave's support and said there needs to be an assistant city clerk. "I think that every position in that office is integral. It is a central point for not only customer service but it is the most public facing office. ... That position is not important because it's assistant city clerk but because it's a position in the mayor's office."

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