Captains' retirement deal angers New London police union

New London - The city police union is "up in arms" about the city's negotiation of retirement packages for two former police captains and has filed a Municipal Prohibited Practices complaint.

The complaint, filed Jan. 12 with the state Board of Labor Relations and the city personnel department, says that the retirement packages for captains William Dittman and Michael Lacey were not seen or negotiated by New London Police Union Local 724, which the union says is required.

"I want to know why other union members were not given the same (retirement) contract," Todd Lynch, the union president, said Monday. "If you are eligible to retire, you should have been offered the same type of packages. There's quite a few (officers) that have 25-plus years and those people are up in arms."

The complaint asks the state labor board for a cease-and-desist order and seeks attorneys' fees.

"We don't want them to direct deal with our employees," Lynch said. "If you want to impact bargain, do it through myself, the executive board and our attorney. The union should be notified first. I was notified at the conclusion."

The complaint alleges city officials contacted the two captains Jan 4. and "inquired if they would be interested in accepting a retirement package with incentives and immediately retire ... The Union was informed of the package offer(s) but was not given an opportunity to see the package nor were there any negotiations between the City and the Union."

On Monday, Zak Leavy, the mayor's administrative assistant, wrote in a statement that "the union was notified during the negotiation process of these retirement packages. The Law Director's office and Personnel Coordinator negotiated these retirement agreements and informed the Mayor that they were valid. The Mayor believes they are fully lawful and will be honored by the City of New London."

At a press conference Friday on the city's projected budget deficit, Finizio said the retirement contracts for both captains were negotiated "in good faith" and are binding contracts.

"When those agreements were entered into, we had a very different picture of what our financial condition is, but obviously with this new information being confirmed for us, no further such arrangements will be made with any city employee because of our current condition," Finizio said.

Police Chief Margaret Ackley did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

On Friday, Finizio also announced a freeze on hiring, except for essential personnel. That includes one police captain and a deputy police chief. Former Deputy Chief Marshall Segar, a nonunion member, did not have his contract renewed earlier this month.

"I think they knew they were going around the process but it was more important for them to rid themselves of these employees," Lynch said.

Lacey, a 28-year veteran of the department, and Dittman, who was with the department for 35 years, each will continue to earn about $1,700 a week through July 1.

Lacey will receive his full salary for the next 4.5 years under the agreement, which requires the city to make up the difference between his base wage and his pension benefit.

Dittman also will receive family health insurance for the next seven years, until he turns 65 and becomes eligible for Medicare.

Both will be paid for accrued vacation, holiday and compensation time.

"How can you pick just two captains?" Lynch said. "These two captains were perceived by Ackley as someone very critical of her leadership or as an enemy. You can't pick people who you just want out of the department without dealing with the union."

s.goldstein@theday.com

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