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New London City Council panel could investigate Ackley

By Kathleen Edgecomb

Publication: The Day

Published September 11. 2012 4:00AM
Issue involves police union complaints, chief's emails to citizen

New London - There's a lawsuit pending, the city attorney is investigating, and now a City Council committee is considering its own inquiry into allegations the police union has made against Chief Margaret Ackley.

"I think it's important we don't sweep this under the rug, said Councilor Marie Friess-McSparran, a member of the Administration Committee, which Monday night discussed the union's request but took no action.

"I know there's pending litigation, and an investigation with the law director ... but this committee could hold hearings and get to the bottom of this request from the union,'' she said.

Part of the issue is an email correspondence Ackley had with a private resident last fall. The union has alleged Ackley violated the police department's Duty Manual when she told the resident how to find personal information on a number of police officers.

Officer Todd Lynch, president of AFSME Local 724, has alleged that Ackley used her position as chief to advise a private citizen on how to obtain disciplinary files on himself, Master Patrol Officer Roger Baker, and Officers Charles Flynn, Cornelius Rodgers and Joshua Bergeson. All were targeted because they were active in union activities, Lynch said.

Lynch acknowledged that the information was available to the public under the Freedom of Information Act, but Ackley's intent was to "embarrass, humiliate and retaliate against the officers," he wrote to the council.

Lynch filed a lawsuit in March against the city and the chief, which includes allegations of "libelous" emails sent between Ackley and Kathleen Mitchell, a local political gadfly. Lynch also alleges he was disciplined at work for being outspoken critic of the chief.

"This has to get resolved,'' Council President Michael Passero said on Monday. But he said the council must proceed cautiously so as not violate anyone's right to due process.

Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio said Monday he asked the city attorney to look into the allegations in May and has received a preliminary report. He expects to release a full report to the public in the near future and take disciplinary action, if any is warranted.

He said he asked the city law department to conduct the investigation, even through the union asked for an independent investigator, because it is a personnel matter.

"Nothing in the allegation suggests something criminal, or any kind of public corruption,'' Finizio said. "If there was, I would ask for outside probe. But I feel this is well within the purview of the law department."

John Maynard, chairman of the Administration Committee, said he would seek advice from the city attorney on how to proceed and report back to the committee.

"My thinking is as a city councilor I'm responsible to the citizens of New London as well as to our employees,'' he said. "This can't be taken lightly."

After the meeting he said he had heard a rumor the city attorney was investigating, but had not received any official word from the mayor's office.

Councilor Adam Sprecace, a third member of the committee, said the council has discussed in closed session the pending litigation and questioned whether the council should be getting involved.

"I'd like to hear arguments from the other side on why the council should not be going down this path,'' he said.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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