When Roger Newton, the city police officer accused of planting drugs on a suspect, resigned, Mayor Finizio agreed to let him buy his police dog for $500.
It was one of only six stipulations in the settlement agreement signed by Newton, Finizio and the head of the police union.
That sounds like a reward, the kind of honor you might bestow, for instance, on someone retiring after an illustrious career. It doesn't seem like the way you would treat an officer cited in angry NAACP complaints for planting drugs on a black man first stopped by police for allegedly not using a turn signal.
Then I heard that trained police dogs are worth a lot of money, many thousands of dollars, even older ones that have been in service for a while. I've since learned there is a healthy market for them, and a trained dog can fetch $10,000 or more.
But the biggest surprise of all came when I went to The Day's archives to learn more about Kilo, the police dog that Finizio agreed to sell to Newton.
That's when I came across a 2008 feature story introducing Kilo to readers of The Day. It explained that Kilo, a black lab who became the department's first drug-sniffing dog, cost $6,000 and was donated by former City Councilor Michael Buscetto out of the proceeds from his Bash at the Beach community fundraiser.
Buscetto arranged the donation, the story went on to say, after learning the city police department didn't have a drug-sniffing dog because it couldn't afford one. Kilo was then assigned to an officer other than Newton.
I was a little surprised when Finizio told me this week that he didn't know, when he agreed to sell the dog so cheaply, that it had been donated by his political opponent, the former city councilor and mayoral contender who also has been an object of the police chief's public and harsh criticism.
Why, I wonder, did no one tell the mayor that it wasn't just any old dog he was selling? Why didn't anyone warn him it might look like some sort of political retribution?
The mayor told me this week that it doesn't really matter where the dog came from.
He said he agreed to Newton's request that he be able to buy the dog because the officer's resignation could have saved the city a lot of money in the long run, that it prevented any possible protracted and expensive grievance fight or lawsuit.
I understand and respect the thinking that sometimes it's better to give a little in negotiations if it is going t save you in the long run. Still, in this instance, I think the appearance of giving an officer accused of a serious offense in the line of duty something that seemed to be a reward might have made a protracted fight seem more appealing.
I should add, too, that the mayor said the negotiations over Newton's resignation occurred on the same day that he was in tense talks to ensure the city's credit rating not be downgraded.
Certainly, in the broad perspective of mayoral decisions, selling off the police dog is a minor one.
I didn't have to look far, though, for a similar situation in Connecticut that was handled differently.
It turns out, according to news accounts, when a police officer in Newtown, a dog handler, was charged with embezzling money from the police union, his police dog was taken away from him.
The dog, a lot older than Kilo, was placed back in service and reassigned to a new police handler. Eight officers volunteered for the job.
That would have been a happier ending for Kilo and for the many people in the community who, indirectly anyway, donated him to the police department in the first place.
This is the opinion of David Collins