NORWALK, Conn. Tuesday night's Common Council meeting began with an uncommon plea: A senior citizen took the microphone to ask council members to help her stay healthy by keeping her blood pressure low.
Ganga Duleep then endorsed Erik Anderson for assistant city clerk. So did Norwalk Fire Department Deputy Chief Edward Prescott, the Rev. Nicholas Lang and historical commission members David Westmoreland and Peter Bondi. One speaker, the Rev. Bobby Burgess, endorsed Tammy Grimes-McPherson.
But even though the majority of the speakers favored Anderson, the Common Council voted to make McPherson the next assistant city clerk. Eight council members voted for McPherson, five voted for Anderson and two abstained.
The Democratic caucus had selected Anderson for the position. But Democrat Carvin Hilliard, council president, nominated McPherson at the Dec. 13 meeting. With two candidates presented, the matter was tabled after the Republicans asked to see their resumes. Mayor Richard Moccia called the situation unprecedented and said that by tradition the vote is a formality, because the minority party has always voted for the person nominated by the majority party.
Every Republican that voted Tuesday night went with Hilliard, against the majority of Democrats.
"This seems to have gotten more attention than the primaries in New Hampshire," Republican Doug Hempstead said before the vote. "In reality we have two very qualified people who have resumes, and look, there's a reality. There has been some misinformation in some of the newspapers. The reality is this is purely a council appointment. The council gets to nominate, anyone of us can nominate anyone we wanted, who gets the most votes is who wins. ... There's never been any rule that we stay out of it, there's never been an abstention rule about this. I can't think of any council member on any side."
Republicans David McCarthy and Joanne Romano abstained. Democrats Michael Geake, David Watts and Hilliard voted for McPherson.
Democratic Councilman Matt Miklave made the motion to renominate Anderson after the matter had been put back on the table.
Republicans did not say why they voted for McPherson. Democrats mentioned Anderson's community activities, working with the Friends of Ryan Park, and LGBT youth as well as organizing anti-bullying rallies. "I think it would be extremely beneficial to have someone in that position who is not only competent in that job but has a serious understanding of the type of behavior that's basically pervading many aspects of our lives, whether it's political, whether it's through the schools, you name it, it's there," Bruce Kimmel said, referring to bullying. "And I think Erik has a good feel for that. It adds to his resume here."
Warren Pena said Anderson's resume stood out. Anna Duleep said she had seen bank customers smile broadly at Anderson, in spite of the current economic conditions.
Her mother, Ganga Duleep, said she was motivated by Tuesday morning's article in The Daily Norwalk when she opened the meeting with her public comment.
"I am disabled and I'd like your help in keeping healthy," she said. "Please help me maintain my blood pressure by refraining from giving me any more blow-by-blow descriptions of anything that happens within the confines of your respective caucuses. I'd like you to duke it out to your heart's content, but please don't make me privy to any of that.
"I have no problem with Mr. Hilliard heartily recommending anybody for any post. I will have no problem with any priest, any mullah, any rabbi, any pastor, any Norwalker recommending anybody for any political appointment. But I do have a problem with a group of religious institutions who get together and officially endorse a candidate for a political appointment."
She asked whether there was a policy of maintaining a separation of church and state. Moccia said, "There is a separation of church and state, but anybody who is in the ministry has the right to say anything they want and make it official. I get requests everyday. They have the right to give their opinion, which they have done."
City Clerk Erin Halsey said she did not know when McPherson would start in her new job.
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