Ackley vs. Buscetto: The saga will go on

To put in perspective Police Chief Ackley's complaints against former City Councilor Michael Buscetto, I went back and listened to the discussion of her allegations during last September's Democratic primary debate.

"It is a very serious accusation," Daryl Justin Finizio said during the debate, "when the chief law enforcement officer in your community stands up in public, on the record, and says you have engaged in a pattern of threatening, favoritism, undue influence and unethical conduct, and that it has risen to such a level that it has undermined her ability to lead a law enforcement agency."

Indeed, the claims by the chief were, as Finizio went on to say, "very serious, extremely serious" allegations that required a full investigation by an "outside entity."

Curiously, Buscetto that night did not defend himself directly but asserted instead that his name had never come up when the police chief negotiated a retirement deal with city officials.

And, in what became perhaps the checkmate of the election, Finizio went on to suggest that the only way voters could decide the question in Buscetto's favor would be to conclude that the chief "got up and lied."

He was right. Lacking a report from that outside entity, it would have been hard to give candidate Buscetto the benefit of the doubt, since that would have meant concluding that the chief had lied, or at least exaggerated.

Now that Candidate Finizio has become Mayor Finizio and the report by the outside entity is in, it is clear what Councilor Buscetto may have done apparently did not rise to the level of negligence for which the city could be held responsible.

His criticisms of the chief likely would be protected freedom of speech, the report said.

Finizio had suggested during the campaign that the chief's complaints against Buscetto may be something that should be investigated by outside authorities, perhaps the FBI.

When I asked Mayor Finizio, at a press conference last week in which he discussed the report he was refusing to release, whether the report suggested any criminal activity, he said, "No comment."

Now that we've all read the report, I can't understand why the answer to that question wasn't "no."

Voters last fall seemed to give the chief the benefit of the doubt. This week, I get the sense that some feel they've been had.

The new City Council has fixated on the chief's claim to a settlement from the city as their first chance to challenge the mayor, an early detour away from any honeymoon.

An "Occupy City Hall" protest against Finizio has been organized for 7:45 next Wednesday morning outside the Garde Arts Center, before his state of the city address.

"We believe Mayor Finizio used the turmoil at our police department for self-serving political advantage," former mayoral candidate Lori Hopkins-Cavanagh said in announcing her plans for the protest.

My favorite attempt to manipulate public opinion about the chief came from her lawyer, attorney Shelly Graves, who sent out an email last Friday urging people to vote in a poll on theday.com regarding her client.

"I would appreciate any yes votes you can send her way," Graves wrote, after suggesting, incredibly, that the simple news poll about whether the police chief should have been reappointed was somehow foisted on the newspaper by "certain adversaries I won't name here."

Despite the intervention by the chief's lawyer, 362 readers voted that the chief should not have been reappointed, compared to 328 who said she should have been.

Back in the September debate, Mayor Finizio suggested he and Chief Ackley could together build "one of the best public safety apparatuses in the country," provided they get a "community buy -in."

I'd say they both have their work cut out, not just with the apparatus building, but especially with the community buy-in.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

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