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A Letter from Councilmember, Heidi Alterman

NPI Note: The below letter was sent to NPI and local media outlets. The content within is entirely her own:


From Mrs. Alterman:


I share others' concerns over misinformation and have filed a formal complaint (below) with the Freedom of Information Commission regarding the current council's improper meeting and caucus practices.


The BOE requested several meetings of NPS with Common Council, but only received 2, each capped at 1 hour, with little time for the NPS explain and defend their budget request. The council spends too much time blaming the BOE for wasted money when the efficiency study stated NPS is spending efficiently. When the city's CFO can publicly announce that 5.2 million dollars was misplaced for two years, and nobody seems alarmed, that is a problem. The city needs to manage money better so that more money is available for our school system. As a parent and a council member, I advocate for increased school funding and better spending practices of the city. The city cannot prioritize new and better things when our children clearly suffer. We need to involve more residents in decisions for the city, including those of over 60% minority student body, students who speak other languages, and students with physical, mental, and emotional vulnerabilities. Despite many challenges, our schools and students are doing amazing things, and our city needs to defend and support the school system, not attack it.

Sincerely,

Heidi Alterman


--


Heidi Alterman

29 Sherwood Street, Norwalk, CT 06851

646-288-4313

and

Norwalk Common Council

Norwalk City Hall

125 East Avenue, Norwalk, CT 06851

Good morning,


My name is Heidi Alterman, and I am currently on the Common Council in Norwalk, CT. I am the Democratic representative for District D. I'm seeking legal opinion via a formal complaint. I believe there has been a violation of unnoticed meetings, and I am unsure whether these types of emailing practices are proper and in full accordance with FOIA.


My concerns stem from several group discussions over email, covering topics at length that I thought was confined to the caucus. I understand that when seven or more council members participate, it should be in a public forum, not closed business interactions. There are lengthy email exchanges where the full council and BET are provided information that was outside our council packet ahead of a public meeting, where the data was supposed to be presented.


In the past month, a budget discussion was tabled, and a council member reached out to the city CFO for information and copied the full council resuming the tabled discussion via email. Additionally, other email discussions included detailed questions being asked by council members, to Board of Education members, concerning budget line items. I believe these are FOIA violations.


I am also concerned beyond the formal violations. Suppose you consider all emails and phone calls made outside of public forums. In that case, the public meetings and questions become scripted and leading instead of genuine and genuinely discussion oriented. The behavior has an air of collusion, which is highly concerning.


At a special Finance and Claims Committee meeting on 2/23/2023 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sE47ooU9Et4 20 minutes in), Council Chairperson Greg Burnett speaks to tabling the presentation of the Grand List information.


At a subsequent standard Council meeting on 2/28/2023 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VR6wG7vMSY – 1 hour 49 minutes), Greg Burnett then speaks about resuming that same Grand List discussion at that meeting. However, the CFO had been involved in email discussions that morning of 2/28/2023 before the council meeting, offering details with the new Grand List and council persons requesting various options for taxes and funding. This email exchange is included in the email archive with the subject "Model Version #20D and Updated Various Alternative Scenarios".


In an email ("State Delegation questions/topics" in the archive"), Council Chairperson Greg Burnett wrote, "Hello Team, As a reminder….please send any questions or topics you would like to discuss with the State Delegation to Darlene by Friday, February 17th. We would like to give the State Delegation the opportunity to prepare and have a productive dialogue.". I believe this contradicts explicitly how this council has publicly referenced that while people have attended the caucus, they do not participate in dialogue, which is why it is allowed. I do find this behavior also concerning.


I am attaching an archive of emails that I have collected for review.

Sincerely,

Heidi Alterman

646-288-4313


Complaint Supporting Emails
.zip
Download ZIP • 12.24MB


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