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New London police committee seeks probe of Ackley

By Sasha Goldstein

Publication: The Day

Published May 02. 2012 4:00AM
Panel votes to ask mayor to investigate email

New London - The city's Police Community Relations Committee voted Tuesday to ask the City Council and Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio to investigate an "inappropriate" email sent last year from police Chief Margaret Ackley to Kathleen Mitchell, a local political gadfly.

In making the motion for the investigation, committee Chairman Jay Wheeler said the email "seeks to undermine me and this committee" and shows "poor taste" and violates the department's code of conduct.

The committee voted 5-0, with two abstentions, for Recording Secretary Marianna Gaynor McGuirk to draft a letter to the mayor and city councilors asking for an investigation into the email and to return the findings in writing.

The email - copies of which were included in committee members' packets for the meeting - is dated Sept. 29, 2011, includes Ackley's personal email address, has the subject line "Circle the wagons," and asks Mitchell to bring people "who are not afraid to stand up to Todd Lynch and Jay Wheeler," to attend a future PCRC meeting.

Lynch is a four-and-a-half-year veteran of the city force and president of the police union, and has been an outspoken critic of Ackley.

"I'm really tired of fighting Wheeler," the email reads, "it's never ending, call your friends, people need to be there to make sure that Wheeler and Lynch can't trick people into letting this committee be disbanded or becoming a police commission where Jay and company can determine which complaints are accepted and who gets investigated."

Ackley did not attend Tuesday night's meeting, nor did Wade Hyslop, who is the City Council's public safety liaison. Mayoral Executive Assistant Zak Leavy attended on behalf of Finizio.

"I'm not just going to let it go," Wheeler said of the email.

Lynch, who attended the meeting as the union representative, abstained from the vote. So, too, did committee member Kris Wraight, who later questioned what an investigation would achieve.

"I understand why it upsets you, but I'm not sure what an investigation is going to do," Wraight told Wheeler. "If these are the chief's words, it's her opinion and I don't see where an investigation is going to get us."

Committee member Wayne Vendetto said "an apology is due."

"I think it's a serious matter," he said. "I wasn't privy to this (email) until just last meeting and I know how (Wheeler) feel(s) because if I was sitting in that chair, I wouldn't be so quiet."

Lynch said that if a police officer had done a similar thing, the conduct would be investigated.

"If you hold officers accountable, administrators should be held to the same standard," he said.

Lynch filed a lawsuit in March against the city and the chief. The suit includes allegations of similar "libelous" emails sent between Ackley and Mitchell and alleges that Ackley disciplined Lynch at work for being an outspoken critic.

Leavy told the committee that Finizio repeatedly has said that "no one is above the law," and if an investigation is warranted, it would be conducted.

He sided with Wraight, though, saying that rather than undermining the committee, the email, which he noted was private correspondence, points to Ackley's "commitment to civil rights" because of her desire to keep PCRC meetings open to the public.

"Citizens (regardless who they are) can be assured that they receive the same investigation as anyone else and it doesn't matter who (which cop) they made the complaint against," the two-page email reads. "This was designed to assure that every citizen has the same rights."

The email concludes by asking Mitchell to "get the word out that citizens need to be there to keep Wheeler and Lynch in check."

Ackley did not respond Tuesday to an email seeking comment.

s.goldstein@theday.com

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