NAACP 'disgusted' with New London city officials

Members of the Connecticut chapter of the NAACP, including President Scot X. Esdaile, center, New London NAACP branch President Donald Wilson, right, and Criminal Justice Chair Tamara Lanier, not pictured, speak with members of the media after meeting with New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio and other city officials at City Hall Monday to discuss civil rights complaints.
Members of the Connecticut chapter of the NAACP, including President Scot X. Esdaile, center, New London NAACP branch President Donald Wilson, right, and Criminal Justice Chair Tamara Lanier, not pictured, speak with members of the media after meeting with New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio and other city officials at City Hall Monday to discuss civil rights complaints. Tim Martin/The Day Buy Photo

New London - The president of the state chapter of the NAACP called members of the city's current administration "arrogant" and said he was "disgusted" following a City Hall meeting Monday regarding the firing of black firefighter recruit Alfred Mayo.

"I'm disgusted with all three of the individuals that were in that meeting," Scot X. Esdaile said after he came out of a 50-minute meeting with Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio, Fire Chief Ronald Samul and Chief Administrative Officer Jane Glover.

Zak Leavy, the mayor's administrative assistant, said later that City Councilor Wade Hyslop also attended the meeting.

Esdaile, New London NAACP President Donald Wilson and NAACP Criminal Justice chair Tamara Lanier came to meet with city officials about the city's "recruitment, hiring, promotional, and retention practices, in addition to the staggering number of complaints alleging racial profiling," an NAACP press release prior to the meeting read.

NAACP members, including Esdaile, Wilson and Lanier, held a press conference at City Hall on Jan. 20 denouncing the same allegations, but they had yet to meet with any city officials.

Esdaile said most of Monday's meeting revolved around the firing of Mayo, a black recruit pulled and fired from the state fire academy three days before the class's Dec. 22 graduation. New London has not hired a black firefighter since 1978 and was previously under federal directive to diversify the department.

At the meeting, Esdaile said, the city officials told him that the city was having trouble recruiting African Americans.

Part of the discussion dealt with Lance Goode, a black city resident who has accused K-9 Officer Roger Newton, who is white, of planting drugs during an arrest. Newton has been on administrative leave since Jan. 6. Goode gave a copy of the police video of the traffic stop and arrest to The Day on Jan. 5.

Esdaile said the U.S. Justice Department has received a copy of the video as well.

"We're hoping to sit down with the Justice Department and push for that police officer to be fired," Esdaile said.

Esdaile said he was astounded by the "arrogance" of the city's representatives at Monday's meeting. He also singled out Glover and Hyslop, respected black leaders in the community, who Finizio said agreed with the decision to fire Mayo.

After Monday's meeting, Leavy wrote in a statement that "The Mayor has profound respect for the NAACP and the work that they do. He is firmly committed to diversification in City departments but would refer to his prior comments on this matter.

"All City officials reiterated their position on this matter and the City's position has not changed," the statement concluded.

Mayo's 140-page personnel file documents "concerns regarding attitude and growth" during his time at the 15-week, state-run fire academy. Those concerns were included in "an independent review of all relevant information" that showed Mayo's "conduct does not meet the standards that the City of New London looks for in a New London Firefighter," Mayor Finizio wrote in his termination letter to Mayo three days before the class graduation.

Finizio fired Mayo Dec. 19 after discussions with Samul, personnel coordinator Bernadette Welch and an "independent review."

The file shows Mayo was a good student with test scores above passing.

It also documents incidents alleging Mayo made an obscene gesture at a video camera while marching in formation, that he wrote in wet cement and other disciplinary issues that included "unusual" and "egregious" behavior.

Mayo was pulled from the academy and had his conditional job offer rescinded.

"... This is the first time we have ever experienced this type of inadequate behavior, unsatisfactory conduct and poor attitude" by a recruit, Samul wrote in Mayo's termination letter.

Samul declined to comment after Monday's meeting.

Esdaile said that, if necessary, his group will take the issue to court.

"The (fire) chief came up with no concrete reasons to justify firing (Mayo)," Esdaile said. "(The mayor) is not going to change his decisions and he's not going to move backward.

"He doesn't feel we have a good argument in court, but we differ. That's why we have courts."

s.goldstein@theday.com

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