Norwalk Common Council Rejects Call For Internal Investigation

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M. Jeffry Spahr, deputy corporation counsel who was speaking as a Norwalk resident, urged the Norwalk Common Council Tuesday to try to be more civil with each other.
M. Jeffry Spahr, deputy corporation counsel who was speaking as a Norwalk resident, urged the Norwalk Common Council Tuesday to try to be more civil with each other. Photo Credit: Alfred Branch

NORWALK, Conn. – A resolution aimed at supporting a free press – that also called into question what some believe is a conflict of interest between Mayor Richard Moccia and Corporation Counsel Robert Maslan – failed Tuesday night to pass the Norwalk Common Council following an emotional discussion on the role of the press and the differences between public and private speech.

Democratic council members David Watts and Anna Duleep co-sponsored the lengthy resolution, which ultimately was defeated when fellow Democrats Bruce Kimmel and Carvin Hilliard joined the majority Republicans against it.

Both Moccia and Maslan, the subjects of the resolution, removed themselves from the council chambers before the vote.

“Since this motion is basically about me, I will not sit here and try to moderate this,” Moccia said, adding “I don’t believe I did anything wrong.”

At issue is the ongoing case involving a former reporter for The Norwalk Daily Voice, Nancy Guenther Chapman, who said she accidentally recorded a conversation at a council meeting in June of last year among Moccia, Norwalk teachers union president Bruce Mellion and Norwalk school administrators union president Tony Ditrio.

Moccia believes the conversation, which took place during a recess, was private and he filed a criminal complaint regarding the matter that the state police are investigating. Chapman is facing the possibility of arrest for violating state laws that prohibit eavesdropping.

The Watts/Duleep resolution called for Moccia and Maslan to be investigated for possible conflict of interest because Maslan is Moccia’s personal attorney in addition to being the city's attorney.

Watts said the resolution has nothing to do with politics, as Republicans contend.

“I’ve heard that I’m some sort of Democratic boogeyman, out to destroy the Republic Party,” Watts said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Watts said the issue was with what he believes was an attempt by Moccia to silence the press, a move that makes Norwalk look bad.

“We shouldn’t arrest a journalist for trying to do a story,” Watts said.

M. Jeffry Spahr, deputy corporation counsel who made a point to say he was speaking as a Norwalk resident and not associated with his job title, said he has never seen “a higher level of rancor” than what currently exists on the council. He urged the members to try to get along better in the future, stressing he does not want to see “Pennsylvania Avenue come to East Avenue.”

“I’m asking that you all play well in the sandbox,” Spahr said. “The sandbox is ours and we pay for that sand.”

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Comments (35)

If the former reporter for The Norwalk Daily Voice, Nancy Guenther Chapman is standing close enough to record the conversation, wasn't she also close enough to hear the conversation? What makes it private if you are in the midst of others?
A public official in a public building wants to say something not ment for my ears, either ask me leave or take your conversation somewhere else, oehrwise it's not private.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the executive branch agency that regulates the federal government’s human resources functions, has issued a policy allowing federal employees to use government office equipment, including computers and telephones, for a certain amount of personal use. However, the OPM’s Personal Use of Government Office Equipment Policy expressly warns federal employees that they do not have the right to privacy when using any government equipment, including Internet and e-mail services.

Furthermore, the OPM’s policy states that an employee’s use of government office equipment, for whatever purpose, is not secure, private or anonymous, and that the government may monitor or record an employee’s use of government office equipment.

Private citizens as well as various professionals such as government officials, investigators and journalists record telephone and in-person conversations. Regardless of the reasons for the recordings, federal and state laws apply to taped conversations. Improperly taping someone can result in civil and criminal action being taken against you.

According to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, federal law permits you to tape record a conversation if at least one person agrees to the taping. States have additional laws connected to conversation taping. For example, in Michigan you can receive up to two years of jail time and a maximum fine of $2,000 if convicted of illegally eavesdropping and recording a conversation prior to gaining the consent of all parties in a communication. More than half of the states allow people to file civil lawsuits if there is consent from at least one person involved in the communication. Twelve states allow you to file a civil lawsuit if all parties involved in the communication have not given their consent prior to the taping. Additionally, recording conversations without permission of at least one person, whether the recording happens over the telephone on in person, is a criminal misdemeanor or felony in many states. Rhode Island has some of the strictest laws concerning recording conversations without consent. The state mandates that any person who intercepts or who gets another person to intercept a non-consensual conversation via wire, electronic or oral communications or makes public such communications can be sentenced to up to five years in prison.

Privacy is the key factor. Taping a person without their consent might be a violation of his/her privacy. Making the information public via venues like a television, radio, newspaper or Internet program can carry additional penalties. All but nine states assess additional penalties for publishing the conversation. Even if you did not tape a conversation illegaly, you could be punished for making the conversation public. However, states like Tennessee allow you to record and disclose the contents a conversation after you gain the consent of the other party on the call as long as the intent of the recording is not illegal.

Nice that you go to bat for the great OZ but I think you should have someone read and explain my above post to you..It clearly states that employees have no expectation of privacy..I think you would agree that the mayor is an employee of the taxpayer...
Also i find it disturbing that the mayor would not support the first amendment.
Freedom of the press in the United States is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. This clause is generally understood as prohibiting the government from interfering with the printing and distribution of information or opinions,

You make an interesting argument for an employee(moccia) not having any reasonable expectation of privacy on the employer's premises.(City hall). You are, in my opinion, accurate on the law as long as we agree there are exceptions, places in City Hall where moccia has a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as the men's room and, possibly, inside his office, or in his party's caucus room. He clearly does NOT have a reasonable expectation of privacy on the floor of the council chamber, recess or not. He seems to have, long ago, forgotten that he works for us and we do NOT work for him or empower him to make up his own rules about privacy in a public room, during a public meeting.

old timer
100 percent correct I do agree

It is so comforting to know that deputy corporation counsel Jeff Spahr spoke at this meeting, purely as a concerned citizen, in no way influenced by his close relationship with corporation counsel Bob Maslan. That almost restores my confidence in the integrity of the process.
In fairness, I have known Mr Spahr a long time and respect his ability to remain apolitical, through several administrations. I am sure that is not easy. His record representing the City in legal matters is admirable. Trying to speak as purely a private citizen, in his job, is just about impossible.

@Tim - You are NOT the Mayor's boss, or is City Hall your building. Move on from that, quickly!
The Mayor, Council, Police Chief, Fire Chief, or any city employee does not give up their rights because they work for a public entity. If a mayor, or other city employee wishes to hire a private attorney, they have every right to do so. It's not up to you to decide. If you want to change the law, go and give it your best shot! If a citizen (me, a city employee, even you) feel that our rights have been violated, we may pursue legal and criminal action. I'm not sure if you understand that as public employee, they still have rights?
Before you go ahead and put your name on a ballot this fall, why don't you put your name on your comments. Nothing is more pathetic than people who comment and are afraid to identify themselves.
Your comment to Joanne Romano about knowing who she is, borders on creepy.. Come on, identify yourself, so we may know who you are.

You are 100 percent wrong and clearly have no idea what you are talking about..We the taxpayer are Moccia's boss and we the taxpayer do own city hall..Maybe the issue is that you are not a taxpayer in Norwalk...Also NO employee has a right or an expectation of privacy from the ones that employ them when it come the employers buildings, computers, email, phone calls and so on.
Also you say
Your comment to Joanne Romano about knowing who she is, borders on creepy
Just where did you read that as I never said any such thing..Is it just another of your lies??

@ Lhendersn :Just to clarify. I was the one who said I know/I believe I know, as do others who Tim T is...but he won't allow his identity to be known because then he couldn't trash everyone anonymously.Unlike him, I'm not afraid nor need to hide my identity..but your points are well recieved by those of us who understand right from wrong..perhaps someone should record him without his knowledge and then we would see a whole different side of things! I'm willing to bet there'd be a big hoopla with that!

It's ironic to me that I rarely see a post about the positive outcomes of having Moccia as our mayor. Yet he keeps getting re-elected.

Also, this is not some super duper secret back room conversation at the Pentagon. It don't know why Moccia has his knickers in a twist over what happened. Unless he said or did something that he is not proud of. *gasp*

The only outcome is that the Daily Voice lost their best reporter and their stories have gone downhill. There really is no good reporting on our area now. So I'll blame that on Moccia too ;)

The question is was the reporter next to these 3 people with her tape recorder or she stepped away and left the recorder on while she was away from her seat or room. If she did step away it's illegal, but if she was standing next to them and was holding the recorder in front of them
she has every right to publish the report.
Now I find it a conflict of interest having the town counsel being the mayor's lawyer. He should resign as city counsel. Norwalk should look for a firm that has NO DOING WITH THE COUNSEL OR CITY HALL. I mean no donations or has represented any member of the common counsel or Board of Ed or any political office in the area.

Although it was not personal it was confidential. I am sure they would not have had the conversation I the press was standing there next to them. I believe they expected that they had privacy in their conversation, otherwise they wouldn't have done it. The question is was her attempt to use that information legal? Ethical?

M Murray
Now, months later, moccia is claiming it was private and confidential.
The two other participants make no such claim.
There was no "attempt to use".
The reporter's editor decided it should be used and the reporter sent an email to the mayor, advising him. The mayor responded through maslan, scared the editor, and effectively squashed that part of the story.
Now, what is the question about legal and/or ethical use based on ?
Have you, or anybody you know, seen/heard some part of that recording ?
You do know moccia has access to a caucus room right next to the council chamber, for private conversations ?

When you are at your employer’s location you have ZERO right to privacy in regards to phone calls, emails, computers and conversations. This is the way it works in the real world as in the private sector. We the taxpayers are Moccia the Morons employer and city hall is “our” building as taxpayers. This idiot of a mayor needs to get a grip on reality and realize that he works for us and not the other way around.

Not when a recess or executive session is called...get your facts straight before you preach! All audio/video is turned off at those times! Apparently the Einstein in you and while you served public office taught you nothing...I guess wiretaping is legal as well???? Please!!!

The truth is that this is getting so boring and tedious and some of us have a life which obviously you don' seem to know so much about the comings and goings at city hall, could it be because you are a one termer who couldn't even come close to getting elected again when people realized how narrow minded you are? I'm sure you do realize that I must have done something right since I got elected 3X and it was my choice to leave because of equally narrow minded views and nastiness, rudeness and disrespect such as yours! Obviously there's a pattern here...hopefully others will learn from their mistakes because obviously you never will!

Hey T: You are very condecending and rude...Mr. Murray knows what he is talking about and you don't...

Re: Tim T:
"You sit on your high perch and dictate what should be done,"
Sounds to me more like the great OZ

are speaking of yourself perhaps?

Why are you so nasty? Republicans are no different than Democrats except they don't dog and pony everyone to death ...your agenda is so obvious!.

Why don't you do something constructive? Perhaps Mr. Murray can help you learn the laws and you can get a real job since that is his profession and you seem to think you know it all!

Perhaps a job might keep you busy for a while?

Lets not forget that I do know who you are and why you write the way you do , so you do not intimidate me nor do I care what your opinion of me is! Or anyone else for that matter. You can trash me all you want but I am wiling to bet I have done a hel lof alot more for this city than you ever hope to accomplish.

If you plan on running for office again perhaps you may want to be a bit more civil?

NORWALK — A man suffered a gunshot wound in the back parking lot of C & S Grocery, 81 Woodward Ave., last night,seems no one has us the residents back.

This guy Carvin has anyone suggested getting his nose out of the Mayors butt may produce a councilman working with his people?Is this guy real?His last term of office should be now his fate on any city board should be over.

Its sad when the Republicans can defend their turf and not ours the taxpayers,

Kinda of a joke when you here Norwalks fire chief is on a new panel when his own city is out of control with voilence.Maybe its a blessing he will spend less time screwing up Norwalk.He has cost the city money safety and quality of life.

Republicans should be ashamed its the greed that has done them in showing us all now more than ever most of the city doesn't have thier backs covered.

Wanna bet those jerks are learning about this last shooting here while seeing what others think of them?

Thank you to all of the councilors who are helping us all out,South Norwalk is producing voilence Norwalk Republicans along with Carvin and Bill are producing bad politics the Mayor is producing Norwalks next bad story for Bobs real estate market.

Invest in Norwalk buy funeral home stock.

This rant made absolutely no sense! You are kidding right? You sit on your high perch and dictate what should be done, who should be fired and how to run the city! May I ask that we see your name on the ballot in November because surely you will win because you seem to have all the answers and solutions!

You lambast Carvin, you lambast the mayor and anyone who doesn't have your point of view. Why not lambast the so called dedicated councilman who started this whole mess?

Freedom of press goes just so far and whether Nancy left her recorder on by accident or on purpose, the bottom line is, the meeting was in recess, all cameras and sound track was turned off in the room just like they are in any recess/executive session and as is the norm, if you want to record a conversation you walk up to the people speaking and let them know you are doing it! The press tilts the stories to their point of view anyway so why not just tell someone they are being recorded.

I must however come to Nancy's defense in that any conversations I have had with her privately and have told her that our conversations were not for publication, she never once went against her word I am a bit befudled as to why all of this transpired but, it is not and i repeat not an issue that should have taken up the better part of a 3.5hr meeting when the City of Norwalk has much bigger issues and while I am no longer a councilperson, I believe that those who are have bigger fish to fry and need to buckle down and learn to get along and stick to the issues that they were elected to handle. This includes attending committee meetings as well as council meetings because should I need to remind anyone, decisions and discussions happen in the committee meetings and shouldn't have to be replayed on the council floor! So, now that I got that off my chest, for all the Monday night quarterbacks, arm chair leaders or whatever other moniker fits, instead of sitting on a blog, making false accusations, thinking you have all the answers and playing partyline politics...get your names on the ballot in November and show us what you've got big guys! :/

"all cameras and sound track was turned off" ?
If that is accurate, can you explain why the video recording of that meeting is missing from the list of videos available on the City Website ? Is it possible Nancy's recorder is not the only one that captured moccia's remarks ?

"You sit on your high perch and dictate what should be done,"
Sounds to me more like the great OZ

@Tim T. I was referring to your comment(s) below. How disrespectful of you to post pointless, negative comments on an article reporting on the passing of a long-time citizen. How pitiful. "...However at least Mayor Esposito was pleasant and refined unlike Moccia the Moron.
Submitted on January 9, 2013 - 7:42pm.
Tim T: Norwalk has lost the last good Republican..Its such a shame that out current mayor didn't learn anything from mayor Esposito. Submitted on January 9, 2013 - 6:49pm."

Thats a compliment to mayor Esposito..You don't seem to be very intelligent ..Going forward I would have someone read and explain to you.

@Tim T. You couldn't even hold your negative political comments while posting a comment on the article of former Mayor Esposito's passing? You must be a very angry person. Bless you!

I think you may be reading the wrong post as I complemented Mayor Esposito..You may want to have someone read the post to you.

When you are at your employer’s location you have ZERO right to privacy in regards to phone calls, emails, computers and conversations. This is the way it works in the real world as in the private sector. We the taxpayers are Moccia the Morons employer and city hall is “our” building as taxpayers. This idiot of a mayor needs to get a grip on reality and realize that he works for us and not the other way around.

I find this all interesting as the meeting was taking place a cab driver was shot,the fire dept is now sunning themselves with 100,000 dollar jobs(1 of the highest in the state) and the city seem to be selling off parcels to developers for beads and blankets.

Loss of more police cruisers leaving the city understaffed and without cars that function correctly for our officers,firefighters not communicating with the rest of the city suggesting poor leadership and not enough ambulances to go around for taxpayers but the Republicans are still playing games in telling us all they are clueless becuase the news is not getting thru to them.

something to think about,most council members have told us for years only way they learn most facts about the city is thru the media doesn't seem they have the respect that came with the payless job after all and only they can change it or let the media do thier job but in this case some seem to be hiding some things from those who voted them in ,,why is that?

I think because the Media has become smarter and communication has been better along with te fact its obvious Republicans know its going to get harder to give money under the table for votes next election.

This hate city hall has with the press is not confined to one reporter ask any newsroom they are out helping out the city and are all treated like crap unless you are The Hours favorite child.

Maybe the Daily should of broke their own story it would of been to say the least standing up for whats right its not like you have a pipeline to what goes on in the city that effects us taxpayers who patronize your site.Doesn't sound like anyone has anyones back like the council so you are in good company.

Don't worry Sono according to Moccia all is well all is well..It must be as he didn't see the need to get a new chief outside the failed NPD..He had a chance to rebuild a failed police department but the police union endorsement was more important

If moccia and the two gentlemen he was chatting with, inside the council chamber, during a public meeting recess, really needed privacy, they had access to adjoining private rooms. Claiming, after the fact, that there was a reasonable expectation of privacy, holding their conversation at the press table is not realistic. (only moccia has made such a claim) There has been no determination about ethical or questionable to use, but moccia claims it is criminal, and wants the reporter arrested and/or sued. He is apparently using corporation counsel Maslan as his personal attorney and as the City's attorney. There may, at some point, be a conflict of interest that will make it unethical for Maslan to represent both the mayor as his personal attorney, and the City as it's corporation counsel. Maslan is well educated in the law and will avoid being put in that position. Most lawyers would try to avoid being percieved as prosecuting a reporter for reporting, unless there was a an obvious provable intent to commit a crime.

What I don't understand is this: Since Nancy listened to the comments she "inadvertently" taped and then admits that she understood by listening to them that these comments were PERSONAL in nature -- then WHY did she feel it "necessary" to inform her editor about them? Why didn't she just delete the comments (or ignore them) which would have been the COURTEOUS thing to do.

If she had simply done that in the first place, she'd still have her job and the Common Council would be arguing over something else equally as stupid.

Where did you get the idea their conversation comments were PERSONAL ? They were, I understand, relevant to finding a way to resolve an issue all three had an interest in, and have been described as improptu negotiations.
As an employee of the Voice, she believed she had an obligation to tell her boss everything she had and seek advice on what to use and what to NOT use.
Now that Moccia has made a criminal complaint, that recording could be evidence and destroying it could be a problem.
I hope you understand the reporter was not fired, but quit the job at the voice.

If Nancy accidentally recorded it and it was unethical/questionable to use, she should have deleted it. It is time for ALL the members of the Council to stop the grandstanding and do the job that they were elected to do. Norwalk needs positive, forward thinking representatives to help guide our city into the future.

The only one grandstanding is Moccia the Moron..He should really do the right thing and step down.

And you believe supporting moccia in an ill-advised criminal and civil prosecution of a reporter is what they were elected to do ?