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For Chief Ackley, there's plenty of time

By Greg Smith

Publication: The Day

Published August 02. 2014 4:00AM

New London - City records indicate Police Chief Margaret Ackley has earned more than $100,000 in paid time off in less than two years, a number that exceeds the salary she was paid during her regular work hours. Documents contained in a Freedom of Information request received by The Day show that between Sept. 2, 2012, and Aug. 31, 2014, Ackley was paid for the equivalent of 1,814.25 hours for a total of $101,605. Those hours came from a mix of compensatory time, sick leave, injury time, vacation and other paid time off. Ackley was paid $36,678 in comp time alone, or the equivalent of 689 hours, records show.

The total number does not include a category marked "w/comp taxes - fire/police" for which she was paid an additional $18,806, records show without explanation.

During the same time period, Ackley's regular paid hours totaled 1,731.75 for a total of $92,187 in payments.

Documents released by the city coincided with the announcement Thursday that Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio had suspended Ackley until an investigation could be completed into a host of allegations that include claims she interfered with union negotiations, misrepresented financial information about the department and targeted union officials for discipline. There were no claims that her time off had anything to do with the decision to suspend her. While she is on paid suspension, Ackley is not using any of her remaining comp or vacation time.

Finizio declined to comment Friday.

Ackley's suspension was announced one day after Ackley, as part of a pending lawsuit against Finizio and the city, filed a request for an injunction against Finizio, claiming the mayor had essentially marginalized her and stripped her of police powers. Her attorney, Leon Rosenblatt, was not immediately available to comment Friday but has said in the past that Ackley had earned all of her time and was using compensatory time rather than losing it.

Controversy surrounding comp time in the city dates back to at least 2011 when Ackley, in her lawsuit, claims she announced her intention to retire but was requested by Finizio to stay on until Dec. 31, 2015. Part of the agreement to stay on, according to Ackley's suit, was a signed contract that would pay her a $110,725 salary with an agreement that she retain 2,000 hours of comp time.

The agreement, later rejected by the City Council, stated she would be paid as wages the financial equivalent of 1,196 of work hours at her regular rate of pay. Ackley claims that in February 2013 the city breached the contract by reneging on the promise to pay the remainder of her 1,196 hours of wages.

Finizio replaced comp time with flex time in August 2012 and ordered that all comp time be used before the end of that fiscal year.

Ackley was issued an extension to use her accumulated comp time by former Chief Administrator Jane Glover. The extension was granted because of the significant amount of time Ackley was out or working light duty after she was injured in an October 2012 incident in which she was hit on the head by a window that blew open during Superstorm Sandy. A memo from Glover indicates Ackley had 1,584.5 hours of comp time to be used before July 1, 2014. Ackley had used more than 300 hours of the time off, sick and comp time in the first three months of this year, records show. At the time she still had more than 1,000 hours of comp time left.

Finizio, in an April 24 memo released Thursday, granted Ackley until the end of the year to take the remainder of her time.

With Ackley now on paid leave, the issue of comp time may be moot, and it is unclear how much time she has left or plans to take off. But an email from Ackley to Finizio dated June 13, 2014, gives some indication. The email shows she planned to take off July 13-31, Aug. 1-15, Sept. 17-30 and Dec. 24-31.

"I will be using my comp time that is above the 1,012 hours that still needs to be paid out to me in my income," according to Ackley's email. "During any of the scheduled time off, I will be available should a situation warrant my being called in."

"Duly noted," Finizio responded.

g.smith@theday.com

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