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We would like to remind New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio of a few of the promises he made to the citizens in his campaign platform, "A Vision for New London."
• "Our community must have the highest confidence in the honesty and transparency of whomever occupies this high office of public trust."
• "All … executive documents not required to be withheld by state or federal law, should be released to the public …"
• "A free press is also an essential check on governmental excess and corruption. Our mayor should have an open door policy with the media, so the public can gain as much information as possible about the workings of their government."
If Mayor Finizio persists in refusing to release the report on alleged interference in the workings of the New London Police Department, he will have reduced those assurances to empty rhetoric and raised doubts about the sincerity of any of his pledges.
This matter began back in August when, with the September primary election only a couple of weeks away, police Chief Margaret Ackley leveled serious charges against then-Councilor Michael Buscetto III, Mr. Finizio's opponent in the race for the Democratic nomination. Mr. Buscetto, she charged, was guilty of "unethical conduct, discriminatory treatment and improper systematic interference in the police department." The councilor's actions, she said, "created an environment of hostility."
The prior administration, according to the chief, did nothing when she complained about the situation. Matters became so intolerable, the chief said she decided to step down, signing a severance deal. But Chief Ackley left an out that would allow her to remain if conditions changed.
The rest, as they say, is history. Mr. Buscetto lost the primary and subsequently a write-in candidacy in the general election. His opponent went on to become Mayor Finizio. To what degree the chief's accusations damaged the Buscetto campaign and helped the Finizio candidacy is impossible to say, but it was unquestionably a factor. Chief Ackley did not leave and this week signed a new contract.
Yet that's not the whole story. Faced with Chief Ackley's accusations back in August, the prior council authorized hiring a former judge, Beverly Hodgson, to investigate the claims. It is her report that now sits on the mayor's desk. It is that report that could explain whether the chief's accusations, which may have well changed the course of a critical city election, were credible or not.
But Mayor Finizio refuses to release it, even thus far denying council members copies.
How can the public have "confidence in the honesty and transparency" of this administration when the mayor covers up such critical information? What "state or federal law" prohibits the report's release? We contend there is none. Quite the contrary, state law compels its release. How can the journalists covering this city provide to the citizens "as much information as possible about the workings of their government" if the mayor blocks their requests for the facts?
Mayor Finizio contends the report is covered by attorney-client privilege and is part of pending litigation. But no associated litigation has been filed against the city, not even an intent-to-sue document. Chief Ackley did provide a letter to the city back in August, apparently outlining her alleged grievances, but the prior administration and Mayor Finizio have refused to release that as well.
And where does this supposed threat of litigation come from - the chief who the mayor just handed a new contract and a raise to? If Chief Ackley's legal threat against the city is truly serious, then the mayor had no business awarding her a new contract before the city could settle the matter.
Release the report, Mayor Finizio. Clear the air, be transparent - do as you promised.