Under the impression that he was conducting public business out of earshot from the public, Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia began negotiating to a pair of local labor leaders during a break in a city council meeting, a conversation which should be of high interest to the public.
Especially when it was discovered that a local newspaper reporter had left her tape recorder running during a recess of a city council meeting. According to EAGNews, that does a great job of bitch-slapping Norwalk officials over these charges.
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Moccia is outraged that Nancy Chapman, a former reporter for the Norwalk Daily Voice, accidently left her tape recorder running June 26 during a recess of a city Common Council meeting, according to a report from TheHour.com.
The recorder picked up a conversation in the room between the mayor and the presidents of two public labor unions, who seemed to be having “an impromptu negotiation session” regarding school district labor issues. Chapman published a story regarding the conversation, which the mayor considered unethical. But the public has a right to be outraged by Moccia’s reaction to the incident.
He met with the city’s corporate counsel, who in turn filed a criminal complaint against Chapman for “unlawful eavesdropping.” A state police detective subsequently issued a warrant for Chapman’s arrest, which thankfully has not been signed by a prosecutor or judge. Such harassment of a reporter is a clear violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees freedom of the press.
It’s also a blatant attempt at government censorship that the courts should reject in a heartbeat if Chapman is eventually arrested. Beyond those obvious legal truths is the troubling thought process of the mayor. How can he believe that he has the right to engage in any sort of conversation in a public place and have his words considered private? What’s even more bizarre is that he was discussing a public matter with two union officials.
Any conversation between the mayor and labor officials regarding the terms of employment for school personnel is very much the public’s business. That would be like President Obama having a conversation with House Speaker John Boehner regarding budget matters within earshot of a White House reporter, and expecting the reporter to ignore it. That’s not going to happen, and it shouldn’t. If Moccia wants to negotiate privately with union officials, he should do so behind closed doors during a designated bargaining session. If he chooses to negotiate in a public place, he is taking the risk that the conversation might indeed become public.
Chapman, the reporter, left a comment in the story that she never wrote anything based on the recording, but she still had that right. Here are the Connecticut laws regarding the wiretapping/eavesdropping issue.