Accidental recording creates civic crisis in Connecticut

Nancy on Norwalk | The Hour | The Norwalk Daily Voice
The Norwalk, Conn., city council defeated a resolution Tuesday evening chastising the city’s mayor and corporation counsel for actions they’ve taken against a reporter who says she accidentally recorded the mayor during a public meeting last June. The mayor’s actions prompted an arrest warrant for the reporter, two Norwalk council members charged.

We shouldn’t arrest a journalist for trying to do a story,” The Hour’s Robert Koch reports Councilman David A. Watts said. “That happens in other countries.”

Nancy Guenther Chapman was a reporter for the Norwalk Daily Voice last June when, she says, she accidentally left her tape recorder running during a recess in a council meeting. The recorder captured discussions between Mayor Richard A. Moccia and education officials. Chapman informed the mayor she was planning to use the recordings for an article. Norwalk Corporation Counsel Robert F. Maslan Jr. told Chapman she violated state eavesdropping law.

The state police wrote a warrant for Chapman’s arrest. She has since left Norwalk The Daily Voice and now operates her own website about Norwalk news.

Maslan is also the mayor’s “private attorney,” Moccia told Koch in October. The counsel’s dual role was of enough concern to Watts and another councilmember that they proposed the resolution and called for Maslan to resign.

M. Jeffry Spahr, the town’s deputy corporation counsel, “said he has never seen ‘a higher level of rancor’ than what currently exists on the council,” The Norwalk Daily Voice’s Alfred Branch reports.

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.”

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  • Anna Duleep

    To clarify: I’m not calling for anybody’s resignation. I’m looking for somebody to step in as staff to our Board of Ethics so they can investigate this. Mr. Maslan cited his status as staff to the Board of Ethics as his reason for leaving the Council Chambers before we debated this resolution on Tuesday. I understand the State’s Board of Ethics usually dispatches an impartial attorney for these kinds of situations.

    When I learned of this situation from Councilman Watts and Mayor Moccia himself, I felt we had to address this as a full Council. I am disappointed we lost the vote to send this matter to the Ordinance Committee, where we could have crafted a bipartisan resolution with enough votes to pass.

    Councilwoman Anna Duleep, co-sponsor of the “Resolution in Support of Freedom of the Press”

  • Mark Chapman

    Nancy Chapman, who informed the mayor by email that she had inadvertantly recorded the conversation in the very heavily populated council meeting area during a recess in the meeding, and asked for comments on the conversation, took the info to her editors at The Norwalk Daily Voice. The editors received a call from the mayor complaining about the proposed story. Nancy also forwarded a threatening email from corporation counsel to her editors. The editors decided not to run the story. Neither the recording nor its contents were ever made public.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Hi Al, a paragraph dropped out of the story identifying Hour reporter Robert Koch; we’ve restored it but it doesn’t answer all of your questions. I couldn’t find out whether Chapman actually used the material for a story. The arrest warrant, Koch reported Jan. 4, “has yet to be signed by a prosecutor or a judge”: Thanks so much for the comment.