Norwalk Council Grapples Over Election Of New President

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Common Councilwoman Anna Duleep (D-At-Large) called on the council to elect a new president Tuesday night.
Common Councilwoman Anna Duleep (D-At-Large) called on the council to elect a new president Tuesday night. Photo Credit: Alfred Branch

NORWALK, Conn. – Doug Hempstead, a longtime Independent and Republican Common Council member in Norwalk, was elected president of the council Tuesday night, an unexpected move that followed a confusing course of events.

Often, the election of a new Common Council president is a smooth transfer of power. But Tuesday night’s action bordered on spectacle as disagreement among council members took hold during the last council meeting of the year.

Councilwoman Anna Duleep, a Democrat who wanted to nominate someone instead of waiting until January, essentially stopped the meeting in its tracks when she wanted clarification over whether the term of the current president, Carvin Hilliard, had expired and whether she could nominate someone else.

Typically, the council votes on a president in the second meeting of November, she said, but Republicans wanted to wait until January. Republicans did not disclose a reason for wanting to delay until next month.

“I’m confused why there is no item on agenda about the election of council president,” said Duleep. Democrats were ready to vote and she had five votes for the person she intended to nominate, she said.

That nominee turned out to be Nick Kydes, a Republican, but he was not put into nomination until after a 15-minute recess and a couple of testy exchanges between Duleep and Mayor Richard Moccia over the process. Republicans hold the majority on the council, and the parties sometimes work out such votes before the full council meeting to avoid holdups and surprises.

Duleep said she was nominating Kydes, in part, because he represented “diversity of thought” among council members, which she said she respected.

“I’m very appreciative of Ms. Duleep’s statements,” Kydes said. But he withdrew his nomination and seconded Councilman Fred Bondi’s nomination of Hempstead.

For his part, Hempstead was genuinely surprised by the turn of events and was elected in a 9-5 vote. Council members David McCarthy, Jerry Petrini, Bruce Kimmel, Michelle Maggio, Kydes, Michael Geake, Bondi, Hilliard and Hempstead voted in favor. Duleep, Warren Peña, Matt Miklave, David Watts and John Igneri, all Democrats, opposed.

After the vote, Hempstead declined to give a speech but said he hopes 2013 will usher in a more peaceful council.

He was recently elected majority leader of the council. But following his election as president, Hempstead will relinquish the majority post, and the party will chose a new majority leader.

“I hope that in the New Year, we can reach out to one another and have conversations,” he said.

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Comments (12)

Our form of government is known as strong council/weak mayor for good reason. The mayor cannot spend a dime of city money without council approval. He seems to have managed to take a great deal more power than was originally intended. I give him credit for trying to maintain enough control of council meetings to keep them from degenerating into shouting matches that drag on until the wee hours, but assuming control, by whatever means, to limit what subjects may be discussed, or not, goes beyond his powers as presiding officer. Few people are qualified to know if eliminating a traditional rank in the police dept makes sense. A little public discussion, including explanation by those in favor and those opposed, would be a legitimate public service. Further explanation of a pay grade in the present contract, above captains, for inspectors, when there are no inspectors, would also be a public service. I understand, when someone has been in office for a long time, how easy it is to forget that you are elected to do public service, but that is a basic requirement of the job that some seem to have not only forgotten, but to resent when younger members remind them.

At least Hempstead seems to be in favor of conversation, so both sides of an issue will be heard, unless the great OZ tables eveything he doesn't want discussed.

I have admired her attempts at civility, in that regard at least she is a shining star compared to Watts and Pena. However she used some truly appalling language at last night's meeting. At least she had the decency to apologize for it.

As I've stated elsewhere, I thank you for your feedback. I agree wholeheartedly that the term "dickish" is inappropriate for a legislative meeting. Right after I said it, I realized it was a juvenile response; I should not have allowed my temper to flare following Mayor Moccia's repeated interruptions. I shall henceforth endeavor to hold myself to a higher standard than that to which my 7th-graders descend!

Regardless of the apology, Anna, I am confused about the tone of this council. The very word you used should NEVER have surfaced. You, being the teacher you so often claim to be, should understand that Norwalk's students view these recorded meetings to witness city government in process. Attributing your language to that of your seventh graders can in no way validate its use by a public official at a formal meeting televised for a wide audience. I find the general tone of these meetings appalling.

Thank you for paying attention and acting on the other party's illegal attempt to prolong Hilliard's term, probably so they could count on his vote. Don't let them make the discussion be all about you and your little linguistic slip, provoked by the mayor's rudeness. That is an ancient tactic "when you are not happy with the message, kill the messenger".

It is a simple thing, the council president's term is one year and that is not in dispute. Hilliard became council president more than a year ago, it is past time to elect another, and the mayor and Maslan have the gall to pretend they have no idea there is a problem. Thank you for taking the role of the only adult present and refusing to be silenced.

Old Timer, I totally disagree with what you are saying here. Not all of us have political reasons for responding in news blogs. I read this news source and I occasionally view council meetings on cable. They are outrageous, in a word. Whether you chose to believe this or not, many Norwalkers do not vote party line; rather, they vote for candidates who seem to be honest good people. Many Norwalkers know individuals on the council. There isn't a thing you can say to make people feel differently about the volunteers we know and trust. You want to tell me WHO you would support in this venue, or are you motivated strictly by your hatred for Mayor Moccia? Obviously, there must be good reason for the emotional swill and ongoing responses.

Norwalk Native
You are entitled to your opinion, as I am. Disagree all you please, but the facts speak for themselves. Garvin's term had expired and both the mayor and the corporation counsel had no business acting surprised that it was time to elect somebody else. Ms Duleep, to her credit, refused to be shushed by the mayor who kept rudely interrupting her.
The rules were followed and a good man was elected.
I am a little puzzled about your little lecture about how people vote. I have no interest in changing your opinion about anything. Frankly, your opinion means very little to me, despite how much you seem to think I should be impressed by the fact we don't agree. If your reasons for your stated opinions are not political, what are they ? Political is not a dirty word.

@Norwalk Native

I agree wholeheartedly that most Norwalkers do not vote a party line. As evidence, look at the fact that the largest portion of Norwalk voters - forty-seven percent - are unaffiliated with ANY party. The partisan bloviating, preening windbaggery, and the general tone we have seen of late at council meetings is disappointing. Miklave, Pena, Watts, and now Duleep are all part of the problem, and the Mayor would also benefit from taking a kinder and more reasonable tone. It almost seems that many of the antics by Miklave, Watts, and company are specifically designed to elicit his anger. He shouldn't take the bait.

I appreciate any Council member who makes up his or her mind independently of a caucus and, most important, independently of any desire to play "gotcha" politics. Certain members of council are depriving us of honest, objective representation and should be ashamed.

Thank you, L Witherspoon. I am in complete agreement with you. What some of these contentious types fail to understand is that they hear reinforcing platitudes within their own circle while the general public knows full well who is not performing effectively and who consistently seeks negative attention. Your reference to windbaggery applies to the council floor as well as to some of these consistent posts by small-minded individuals who have very specific agendas. Respect is a two-way street and little can come from playing devil's advocate for the sake of demonizing healthy and productive debate. Affiliated voters are affiliated for very good reason, as I'm sure you'll agree. I think what incenses me most about the political slurs frequented on these local news blogs is the attempt to discredit the likes of Mr. Kimmel, Mr. Hilliard, and Mr. Geake. Obviously this is because they are recognized as defectors from their own caucus. To that, we say... take a hint, Buckaroos! Mr. Kimmel, Mr. Hilliard, and Mr. Geake are intelligent, thoughtful gentlemen who are known to vote their own conscience. Attempting to discredit the longevity, credibility, and the history of productivity of these council members is a desperate and crude intra-partisan strategy by those who want power without paying their mentee dues. Ironically, Mr. Kimmel and Mr. Hilliard are the last breath of any credibility in the life of Norwalk's Democratic party.

Norwalk is a hot mess. From the Common Council to the Mayor's office to the Board of Ed. This town is self destructing and there is nothing we citizens can do but watch it all happen. Answers are hard to come by, and no one can seem to work together, and all the mayor does is huff and puff.

For shame!

While it may be amusing watching this council work things out anyone have any idea why the remediation of soil at the train station is Taking so long and why only a few hours a week?

Its sad to watch jobs in Norwalk after thay have been awarded fall so far behind.You would think a company would come in and work every day until the job is done.

Maybe next election the taxpayers can get what they vote for,Kimmel Geake and Hilliard should run as Republicans and leave the Democratic party for those who care about the taxpayers not the deals the Republicans pass out for a vote.

Shame the toll this is taking on our Mayor he could do the right thing and leave early as well.His caustic and abrasive ways have no place in Norwalks politics anymore.

Republicans hold the majority on the council, and the parties sometimes work out such votes before the full council meeting to avoid holdups and surprises

Now thats a good one,we all know how Norwalk has run for years and now most of the city is tired of it council members voting on things way over their head and calling it a good decision.

You think the YMCA and Norwalk Hospital deal just happened last week? Doug knows better to stand up and try to save something that was in the bag for years but just the same it looked good.