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Chief Ackley: Prepared to hand in her badge?

By Kathleen Edgecomb

Publication: The Day

Published April 27. 2013 4:00AM
Dana Jensen Day file photo
New London police Chief Margaret Ackley speaks during a law enforcement press conference at Camp Niantic in East Lyme on April 3.
Finizio, City Council to meet in private session on Monday

New London - Police Chief Margaret Ackley, who was hired with much fanfare in 2009 as the city's first female police chief but more recently has been at odds with the city over money, may be looking to retire.

Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio has requested a closed-door meeting with the City Council on Monday to discuss "the employment of, and a retirement proposal from attorneys representing, Police Chief Margaret Ackley ... ''

A second item on the agenda for the 6:30 p.m. special meeting is "the status of pending and/or threatened litigation by Police Chief Margaret Ackley ... "

Both items are exempt from Freedom of Information laws because they pertain to strategy and negotiations for pending claims or litigation.

Finizio's office said Friday that Ackley has not filed a lawsuit against the city, but he declined to comment further. The threat of a claim is also exempt from FOI laws.

Council President Michael Passero said Friday that he had no information on the agenda items. The executive session was requested by the administration, he said.

Ackley's tenure with the city has not been smooth. About a year into her leadership she accused a city councilor who was running for mayor of harassing her and undermining her authority.

An independent review by a Superior Court judge in 2011 found that the city was not liable for actions or negligence in connection with the complaints against former City Councilor Michael Buscetto III. At the time, Finizio, who was the newly elected mayor, agreed to pay the chief $25,000 to settle the complaint and avoid potential legal costs if Ackley went forward with a lawsuit.

But in January 2012, the City Council rejected the agreement and the $25,000 settlement. It also rejected a four-year employment contract adjustment with Ackley, which would have paid her $63,000 in accrued compensation time pay.

And last October, the mayor reprimanded Ackley for violating department general orders after she sent emails to a politically active citizen that were "outside the boundaries of proper managerial conduct." Ackley denied she violated any policy.

Most recently, the chief was injured during Superstorm Sandy in October and worked part-time for several months before going out on full-time medical disability. She returned to work at the end of March.

The police department also is facing a $1.4 million cut to its budget, which could result in the layoff of 20 police officers, or about 25 percent of the staff.

The council's Finance Committee has restored about $400,000 to the police budget, saving about four positions, and will meet again on Monday to try to find more money to avert the layoffs.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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