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Go ahead Mayor Finizio, fire the police chief

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published 07/03/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 07/02/2013 11:55 PM

For her new lawsuit against the city, New London Police Chief Margaret Ackley apparently did some lawyer shopping, not using the local attorney who has represented her so far in her long campaign to be compensated for the fact that one of the previous city councilors didn't like her.

I might have looked for a new lawyer, too, if I were her, after her last one sent out an email to friends pleading with them to vote "no" in an online poll on theday.com that asked whether the police chief should be fired.

That doesn't seem like professional lawyering.

Ackley's new lawyer, Leon Rosenblatt of West Hartford, actually told a reporter asking about Ackley's lawsuit that New London is dysfunctional and that you couldn't "make up" the things that happen here.

It is interesting Rosenblatt would choose to insult New London, since he seems to have a front row seat to so many other Connecticut communities that he characterizes in his lawsuits as dysfunctional.

Indeed, Rosenblatt seems to be the go-to lawyer for disgruntled or fired municipal executives in the state.

He has represented individuals who held or hold the following jobs: personnel director of the New Britain Board of Education, chief of emergency medical services in Stratford, assistant chief of police in Hartford, chief executive officer of the East Hartford Housing Authority, the acting police chief in Middletown, the superintendent of schools in Oxford and executive director of the Bristol Housing Authority.

If you want to read about dysfunction and stuff you can't make up, just peruse some of the complaints in Rosenblatt's lawsuits, which string out long tales of political intrigue, from mere backstabbing or promoting friends and demoting enemies to actual corruption.

Here in New London, Rosenblatt is making a pretty simple claim: Mayor Finizio didn't make good on the contract he signed that would have paid the chief for accrued comp time and the $25,000 she claims she is due because former City Councilor Michael Buscetto didn't like her. (A retired judge found no substance to her claim that the councilor harassed and intimidated her.)

Of course, even casual readers of New London news know that the reason Finizio didn't make good on the contract payments is because city councilors balked.

Naturally, the chief knew then the contract terms were not ratified. If that was intolerable, that would be have been a good time to leave. But, alas, she didn't. She stayed on to sue.

Mayor Finizio has proven himself capable, even enthusiastic, in getting rid of the city's police dogs. Why not get rid of the chief, the person responsible for the terrible decline of the department she has led since 2009?

I know it's hard to fire a police chief, because of a 1983 state law that says you have to show "just cause." But when you add up Chief Ackley's miserable performance, I think most reasonable people would find cause.

Who doesn't remember when Ackley allowed Matthew Chew's murder to be officially characterized for days as "drug related" even though police knew full well that it was random and that the killers were on the loose?

I also remember clearly the night Ackley chose to stay at City Hall to work on a cushy departure settlement for herself with city councilors at the same time city police officers were still on the street investigating a shooting in which an unarmed man was shot by an officer.

It is the chief who has made a move to litigate her employment contract, or lack of one. As long as the city is going to have to go to court over the issue, why not fire her and litigate that directly?

The city might win.

And I can pretty much guarantee the mayor it will be about the most popular thing he's done since taking office, win or lose.

This is the opinion of David Collins

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