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New London firefighters, police receive pink slips

By Chuck Potter

Publication: theday.com

Published May 26. 2012 8:00PM   Updated May 28. 2012 11:46PM

New London — Several police officers and 25 firefighters received layoff notices in the mail Friday, including firefighter Alfred Mayo, who was just this month hired back after being fired in December.

Todd Lynch, head of the police union, lambasted the city administration Saturday for the layoff notices.

"I can confirm that members of our union received notices as of today," Lynch said Saturday evening. "I cannot confirm the number at this time, but I have to assume it is the 10 that the administration previously discussed. As of yet, the chief of police has had no communication with or offered an explanation to these employees."

Police Chief Margaret Ackley said in an email Saturday night that the notices "are to prepare in case we are not able to reduce our expected expenses by way of adjusting schedules.

"Depending on our actual month to month expenditures, (we) will determine if layoffs are necessary. We intend to do everything possible to avoid even one layoff."

Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio announced two weeks ago that the city would have to lay off 25 firefighters and 10 police officers to stay within the confines of next year's proposed $83 million budget. The layoffs would save about $1.2 million.

Finizio told the City Council last week that he did not want any city employee to lose their job and suggested the council add about $600,000 to the budget and raise taxes to save the 25 jobs in the fire department. The savings for laying off 10 police officers is about $580,000.

The council last Monday did not add any money to the proposed budget.

Lynch said the union first became aware that layoffs were looming in a newspaper story.

"We were not informed by the administration of the city, or the administration of the police department," he said.

Lynch said the layoffs would have a negative effect on public safety.

"Prior to the issuance of the notifications, the number of police personnel in cars and on foot downtown has been decreased," he said. "The union remains open and hopeful that we can reach an arrangement to avoid these layoffs. In saying this, the union position is unchanged that there are sufficient funds for all 10 affected officers in the current budget's salary line item. The reason the city gave the union for the layoffs is to increase the budgetary overtime line item that already has $500,000 in it."

Meanwhile, Rocco Basilica, president of the city's firefighters' union, confirmed Saturday that 25 members of his department had received layoff notices.

Basilica said only that the union and the city are continuing to negotiate possible contract concessions.

Mayo, the first black firefighter hired by the city in 34 years, said the layoff notice states layoffs are effective June 30 but that the city and union are continuing to negotiate.

Mayo's bumpy relationship with New London came to a tentative end when he was rehired by the city on May 2 and graduated from the state fire academy Wednesday.

Finizio fired Mayo in December for, among other things, alleged poor performance at the state fire academy. He offered Mayo his job back after he said new information had come to light, including a report on the state fire academy that concluded Mayo may have been treated unfairly during his training last year.

The issue ignited race-based controversy between the city and fire department, the local and state NAACP and state Rep. Ernie Hewett (D-New London).

Mayo said Saturday that his hope rests with the union's efforts to stave off the job cuts.

"Timing is just bad, I guess," Mayo said. "I'm relying on Rocco and the union."

c.potter@theday.com

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