Former police captain targets city in lawsuit

New London - Former Capt. William Dittman, who retired from the police department in January after a 35-year career, is suing the city, alleging that the chief offered to pay him "any consideration necessary to induce him to retire.''

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in New London Superior Court, also names Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio, Police Chief Margaret Ackley, and Bernadette Welch, the city's personnel director.

Dittman claims that Ackley and Finizio agreed to take "any action necessary" to remove him from the force. He is claiming fraud, breach of contract and civil conspiracy, among other things.

In the civil conspiracy count, Dittman alleges that Finizio, Ackley and Welch agreed to induce Dittman to retire, as a "quid pro quo" for Ackley, who supported Finizio's campaign for mayor.

Dittman is suing for more than $15,000, claiming he sustained financial losses, including attorney's fees. He is being represented by Jason Burdick of Messier and Massad of New London.

In January, Finizio announced that Dittman and Capt. Michael Lacey, a 28-year police department veteran, were retiring. The mayor also announced that Deputy Chief Marshall Segar's one-year contract was not being renewed.

Dittman agreed to a settlement package in which he would receive his base salary of $89,811 through June 30, 2012; he would be paid for all accrued vacation, holiday and compensatory time at his hourly rate; and his family health insurance and a supplemental plan would be paid by the city for the next seven years. The city also would cover the health insurance for his wife until she becomes Medicare eligible and for his children, until they are deemed ineligible due to age.

In February, the City Council, which had no knowledge of the settlements until they were signed by Finizio, refused to fund the enhanced benefits for all three officers.

According to Welch, the payout cost for Dittman's retirement was nearly $150,000, about $37,000 more than what Dittman would have been entitled to if it were a standard retirement package.

The lawsuit claims Dittman has not received a paycheck since Feb. 3.

Dittman claims in the lawsuit that Welch assured him the agreement was binding. Finizio said he had "sole right and exclusive authority" to execute the agreement, the lawsuit claims, but Finizio should have known he needed council approval.

Finizio's office would not comment on pending litigation.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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