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Police chief wants union lawyer banned

By Kathleen Edgecomb

Publication: The Day

Published 12/07/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 12/07/2013 12:11 AM
New London's Margaret Ackley files workplace violence complaint against attorney Eric Brown, bans him from department buildings

New London - The police chief has banned the police union's lawyer from all police buildings, alleging that he "went berserk" last month and verbally assaulted her prior to a meeting at the police station.

Chief Margaret Ackley also filed a workplace violence complaint with the city and is asking the city to ban attorney Eric Brown from all municipal buildings.

The chief and the union, headed by Officer Todd Lynch, have had a contentious relationship for years. It came to a head most recently over contract negotiations and an internal investigation into an alleged leak of information to the media during an open investigation. Each side has publicly accused the other of lying.

On Friday, Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio announced that he had fired police Officer David McElroy on Ackley's recommendation. Finizio said McElroy had leaked a document about an alleged sexual assault and was later "untruthful" during an investigation into the leak.

Ackley said Brown used foul, vulgar and sexist language, "and made me feel that he was going to physically attack me." She asked that the city take "a pro-active stand" and "take all actions necessary" to assure her safety.

"As the police chief, I should not have to fear for my personal safety as it relates to the police union attorney," Ackley wrote in a Nov. 27 email to Chief Administrative Officer Jane Glover, who is investigating the incident. "I deal with members of the public who are not always happy with police services, yet I have NEVER had a member of the public at large conduct themselves in such a threatening manner as Attorney Brown displayed."

Finizio first brought up the incident with the chief during a meeting Monday with The Day's editorial board and later included it as part of a press release criticizing the union.

On Monday, he said the chief was "afraid" after her confrontation with Brown.

"I could hear it in her voice," he said.

Ackley, through Deputy Chief Peter G. Reichard, sent a copy of her complaint to The Day on Thursday. The complaint the incident took place Nov. 25, prior to the start of a disciplinary hearing at the police department.

"All parties present were in the immediate area of Brown when this took place and he was clearly heard by ALL," Reichard wrote.

He said the department had no further comment.

Under the city's workplace violence policy, updated in November 2012, discipline could include dismissal, arrest and prosecution. It is not clear what action the city can take against Brown since he is not an employee.

In an interview Friday, Brown said that since he does not live near the city, he had asked to reschedule three disciplinary hearings so that they would be held back-to-back rather than at separate times during the day, a request that Ackley refused. When he arrived at the first hearing half an hour late, he said, Ackley prohibited him from entering the conference room.

He said she was standing far away from him, and he had to speak loudly.

"This is just typical of your incompetence," he said he recalls telling her. He said he could understand why the comment would have offended Ackley, but he denied using any foul, vulgar or sexist language, saying he does not use those kinds of words.

"I was never verbally abusive," he said. "I just plainly told her she was incompetent."

He added that there were six police officers present who could have taken action if he were out of line, but there was no need to do so.

"It was simply typical of the labor discussions and negotiations we have been going through for the last 10 months," Brown said. "I'm not surprised by her making these allegations."

k.edgecomb@theday.com

Day staff writer Kimberly Drelich contributed to this report.

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