In honor of Mayor Boughton playing politics by self-appointing Jean Natale as Legislative Assistant of the City Council without posting the position to the public or offering anyone a chance in applying for the position, here's the first in a series of posts that highlights the gross incompetence of the present City Clerk.
From not being available for the public in her office, running her department in a highly partisan and unhealthy manner, and not assisting Common Council members with requests, to either being cited for not giving proper notice to meetings and/or being accused of not notifying certain members of the Common Council on meetings, Jean Natale has, without question, earned the title of worse City Clerk in the history of the City of Danbury.
This write-up was part of a larger post I did back in 2009 on Natale's outlandish activities at City Hall as well as her laughable presentation in front of the charter commission.
If there is one moment from the City's Clerk's testimony in front of the Charter Revision Commission that sticks out the most for me, it's her comment regarding notifying individuals on the Common Council of upcoming meetings. In fact, this portion of the City Clerk's testimony is so misleading, that it requires me to break it up into several parts.
Here's Natale in her own words:
Part 1: For now, lets put aside her notion about emailing council members and lets just take a look at her statement regarding the filing of public notices in accordance to state statue.
In order to better understand the incompetence of Natale in regards at least one instance when it comes to properly filing meetings, lets review the Freedom of Information Act: Section 1-225(d), G.S, which relates to what I'm getting at:
Notice of each special meeting of every public agency … shall be given not less than twenty-four hours prior to the time of such meeting by filing a notice of the time and place thereof ... in the office of the clerk of such subdivision for any public agency of a political subdivision of the state.
In other words, whenever there is any type of meeting that involves the Common Council, whether it's a public hearing, ad-hoc committee meeting, common council meeting, the clerk (in terms of Danbury, the City Clerk), MUST file notice of the meeting at least twenty-four hours before the start of the meeting.
I bring this to your attention because on at least one occasion, an individual filed a complaint with the Freedom of Information Commission which resulted in the commission admonishing the City of Danbury and the City Clerk for violating Section 1-225(d), G.S.
Back on March 7, 2007 beginning at 7:15 p.m., the Common Council held a grant agency budget ad-hoc committee (a budget meeting that focuses on the city distributing grants to different social agencies in the area). It's worthy to note that meeting where the Hispanic Center funds for the 07-08 year were frozen AND (in a rare move) members of Elise Marciano's whack-pack (who have a long history of hatred towards the Hispanic Center and then executive director Maria Cinta-Lowe) were allowed to speak and launched into a tirade against the organization.
Although this meeting is critical in the history of the anti-immigrant community's war against the Hispanic Center (including what many view as conspiracy between elected officials, individuals in the media (primarily commentators on local access television) and those in the anti-immigrant establishment), rather than go down that timeline, lets focus on why this meeting is important in regards to the competence of the City Clerk.
On July of 2007, the Freedom of Information Commission heard a complaint filed by the person who represented the Hispanic Center at the grant agency meeting, John Gogliettino, against the City of Danbury and the City Clerk about the meeting. Here's the final decision by the Commission which admonished the actions of the City Clerk and is a TOTAL EMBARRASSMENT to the City of Danbury (take note of the portion in BOLD):
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
FINAL DECISION: Docket #FIC 2007-171
In the Matter of a Complaint by
John Gogliettino, Complainant
City Clerk, City of Danbury; and
Common Council, City of Danbury,
March 12, 2008
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on July 6, 2007, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.
After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:
1. The respondents are public agencies within the meaning of §1-200(1), G.S.
2. By letter of complaint filed March 22, 2007, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by failing to post timely notice of a budget workshop.
3. It is found that the respondent Common Council held a special meeting on March 7, 2007 beginning at 7:15 p.m.
4. It is found that notice of the special meeting was stamped received for record by the respondent City Clerk on March 7, 2007 at 8:53 a.m.
5. Section 1-225(d) provides in relevant part:
Notice of each special meeting of every public agency … shall be given not less than twenty-four hours prior to the time of such meeting by filing a notice of the time and place thereof … in the office of the clerk of such subdivision for any public agency of a political subdivision of the state.
6. The respondent Common Council contends that the notice was actually delivered to the City Clerk sometime between 4:00 and 4:30 p.m. on March 6, 2007. The respondent Common Council further contends that its efforts to deliver timely notice to the City Clerk were delayed by the illness of the Clerk of the Common Council, who is also the City Clerk, and that the Clerk had to engage others to complete the task of delivering the notice.
7. Although there appear to have been circumstances explaining the delay in delivering the notice, it is found that the respondents failed to overcome the presumption that the notice was received at the time and date it was stamped received.
8. It is concluded that the respondents violated §1-225(a), G.S.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. Henceforth the respondents shall strictly comply with the requirements of §1-225(a), G.S.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of March 12, 2008.
Because the FOI Commission concluded that the City Clerk failed to properly file notice of the meeting twenty-four hours before the meeting, Jean Natale (the very person who glowingly talked about how she provided notice of all meetings to the charter revision commission) was found in violation of FOI law and admonished by the FOI commission in their final report on the matter.
Which brings me to...
Part 2: Jean Natale's role in what was called the by the media as the "racially motivated" Hispanic Center controversy.
News-Times editorial, 06.06.08:
Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton badly mishandled a discussion about funding for the Hispanic Center at Tuesday's Common Council meeting.
Boughton runs council meetings. It was clear some council members were not notified of a committee meeting on the funding.
Instead of recognizing the need to send the issue back to committee for a full public airing, Boughton tried to limit critical comments -- especially from council member Jane Diggs, a fellow Republican.
"This is the Common Council," Diggs said. "It is not a club. You do not exclude me because I don't have the same views as you."
The mayor's instinct to shut down discussion was wrong. It also is puzzling.
Boughton has repeatedly told The News-Times that city contributions to the Hispanic Center would be restored if the center reorganized itself and concentrated on community service.
The center has done that, and yet it became a political football at Tuesday night's council meeting because some council members, notably President Joe Cavo, don't agree with the views of some of the center's board members.
"I think it was all racially motivated," Diggs said.
Too harsh? Well, the actions of the mayor, Cavo and City Clerk Jean Natale invite harsh judgments.
Natale's behavior is especially troubling. She failed to notify all council members of the committee meeting and now is blaming them for not doing their "homework."
The people of Danbury deserve better than this. If Boughton, Cavo and Natale can prevent a full discussion on this public issue, they can do the same on any other public issue.
Mayor Boughton, let's do this over and get it right.
During her presentation to the Charter Revision Commission, Natale made a big issue over the fact that she provides weekly emails to each member of the Common Council regarding upcoming meetings for the next week...a VERY BIG issue. Now, it's important to remember that the City Clerk is not legally required to provide weekly emails to the members of the council BUT since she made this part of her presentation, it's clearly fair game to point out her incompetence in this area which created an uproar at last month's common council and resulted in widespread criticism in all the newspapers (not withstanding a News-Times blistering editorial which severely criticized Natale for her role in the Hispanic Center controversy).
Here's a copy of the email Natale sent to all the Common Council members (note the date of the email):
With taking the date of Natale's email into account, read this section on the Hispanic Center saga filed by the Fairfield Weekly
City Clerk Jean Natale, a Republican, counters that she posted notices for the ad-hoc meeting in City Hall and gave announcement via the city's website as usual. She faxed us a meeting noticed stamped May 19 at 9:35 a.m. and an email to an IT assistant to have the notice posted online, May 20 2:12 p.m., as proof.
By Natale's own admission she:
A: Provided to the Weekly (a) notice of the meeting to the Town Clerk that was stamped on Monday June 19 and,
B: Provided to the Weekly an email she sent to the IT department over 24 hours later requesting that the meeting be posted on the city website calendar for a meeting held on Thursday the 22nd.
Based on what Natale provided the Weekly, several things immediately pop into mind that should have resulted in the media asking follow-up questions.
If Natale sent an email to all the Common Council members on May 15 about the meetings for the next week and,
A: Giving her the benefit of the doubt when it comes to her receiving notice of the Hispanic Center meeting after she sent the initial e-mail AND,
B: Natale had the notice of the meeting stamped on Monday May 19th at 9:35 am AND,
C: Natale had informed the IT department to post the meeting on the city website on Tuesday May 20th at 2:12 pm, THEN,
1.: Why didn't Natale send out another revised email notifying the members of the Common Council of the Hispanic Center meeting on the 16th, 19th, OR 20th (although she was able to take care of her legal public notification requirements on the 19 and able to "alert" the IT department on the 20th) AND,
2.: If Natale brought up the fact with the Charter Revision Commission about how she emails members of the Common Council about meetings, why did Natale NOT provide the Weekly a copy of the email she sent to all the members of the Common Council that DID NOT HAVE THE HISPANIC CENTER AD-HOC MEETING POSTED (which I presented above).
3.: Why did it take Natale over 24 hours from the time the meeting was stamped in the City Clerk's office to alert the IT department to have the meeting posted online?
4.: Did Natale make sure that the IT department actually placed the meeting online after her request. Miscommunications between the City Clerk and the IT department is nothing new and has been noted on this site in the past...
This brings us to the comments from the members of the Common Council who were COMPLETELY unaware of the Hispanic Center ad-hoc meeting. As a side note, let me personally state that I (like all but one Democratic member and one Republican member of the Common Council) was completely unaware of the meeting. Let me also note that I check the website daily and DID NOT SEE ANY NOTICE OF THE AD-HOC MEETING. If I saw the notice (and given the fact that I followed the tensions between the members of City Hall that had a axe to grind with the Hispanic Center for the last year in great detail) I would have been there to video tape the event. In fact, I was actually at City Hall during the time of the meeting at a different event (open space forum in the Common Council chambers).
Again, EVERY SINGLE DEMOCRAT (for the exception of Fred Visconti who was a member of the ad-hoc committee and probably received written notice), as well as Republican Jane Diggs had no idea that the meeting took place on the 22nd of May. But SOMEHOW anti-immigrant organization leader Elise Marciano and followers not only have knowledge of the meeting, but were in attendance, and were able to speak (for the public to speak during an ad-oc meeting is extremely rare) and free to spread misinformation about the role of the organization without ANY rebuttal from those who would have been able to point out Marciano's misleading claims, which played a deciding factor in the ad-hoc committee recommendation to deny the Hispanic Center's funding. Several people called this event, which was called "embarrassing" by the chairman, as a secretive meeting which further fuels the notion that there is a connection between those in the anti-immigrant community and elected (and appointed) officials at City Hall.
From the Weekly:
On May 22, Cinta-Lowe's successor, Eva Colon, came into an ad-hoc committee, chaired by Reilly, that the U.S. Citizens for Immigration Law Enforcement knew about and some of Common Council say they didn't.
"This hate group always seems to have inside information," says Reilly. "It's really a group that, for some reason, has an axe to grind with Latinos."
Meanwhile, "quite a few members were unaware," [of the meeting] says Democratic councilman Paul Rotello...
During the June Common Council, questions surrounding the City Clerk's role in certain members not knowing about the Hispanic Center ad-hoc committee came out. Although several members of the Council spoke out in frustration in not knowing about the meeting, in an effort to keep this post as short as possible, we'll focus on Councilwoman Jane Diggs written criticism directed at the City's Clerk's incompetence.
In her statement to the public, Councilwoman Diggs shed light on what she called the "underhanded" and "secretive" nature of certain members of the Common Council as well as the City Clerk in regards to the entire Hispanic Center debacle which she described as "racially motivated". Unfortunately for all of us, Diggs was unable to enter all of her remarks (three pages worth) into the record due to the repeated interruption and objections of the mayor. Since Diggs has now refused to release her full remarks to the public, we'll never fully know what else she was going to say about her encounter with the City Clerk and other officials including Common Council President Joe Cavo, other Republican leaders, and possibly Mayor Boughton himself.
Given that disappointment, Diggs was able to get some rather important points into the record and it's very revealing. Here, for the first time, is a transcript of what Diggs said about the City Clerk, her lack of knowledge of the Hispanic Center ad-hoc meeting and what she viewed as "racially motivated" intentions by certain members of the council as well as the City Clerk.
DIGGS: This ad-hoc meeting was not properly posted in a manner that it should have been by the City Clerk and to include persons who they wanted in this ad-hoc meeting, and may I add, individuals from the community who have downplayed the importance of diversity in the city.
I checked with Corporation Council regarding with constitutes a legal meeting but at this point...I'm fully beyond that point, I'm fully beyond that issue and I really want to speak this evening on the process...I'm talking about the process that transpired almost two weeks ago.
My remarks are really about inclusion and about race because this is what the denial of funding for the Hispanic Center is all about. I know I was denied access or even knowing about this meeting because it was promoted in a very secretive and underhanded manner by quite a number of the Republican leaders and the City Clerk's office.
I contacted the City Clerk after learning of the meeting and she stated that she was too busy during the course of the week to post the meeting. I contacted the Council President the day after the meeting was held and he simply stated that it was posted in the Common Council chambers..."
At this point (where Diggs was giving a inside detail in what actually happened in regards to the process among the members of the council and City Clerk who she later described as "racially motivated" when ONCE AGAIN, Mayor Boughton interrupted in an effort to stop her from getting her entire statement on the record.
BOUGHTON: The issue as it relates to whether it was posted or not posted is really germane to the funding of the Hispanic Center...
DIGGS: It really is focused on the funding of the HIspanic Center because I think it was all racially motivated...
Finally, I compiled a video that outlines a majority of the points I just raised (and includes video of Diggs' remarks).
To this date, NO ONE from the Mayor's office, the City Clerk, or the leadership of the Republican-controlled Common Council (Pres. Joe Cavo) have responded to any of the points Diggs made in her statement with the most important being where Diggs states that in her conversation with Natale about the Hispanic Center ad-hoc meeting, that the City Clerk informed her that "she [Natale] was too busy during the course of the week to post the meeting."
Unfortunately, as of this date, the mainstream media has failed to question the City Clerk, Cavo, and Mayor Boughton about Diggs' conversation with Natale which seems to DIRECTLY contradict Natale's statement to the Fairfield County Weekly as well as Cavo's defense of the City Clerk at the Common Council meeting. Also, to this date, Natale has not denied, when confronted by Diggs about the HIspanic Center) that she told Diggs "she [Natale] was too busy during the course of the week to post the meeting." Given Natale's thoughts on immigration, questions surrounding her role in this controversy should concern everyone.