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Leave it to the mayor

Published September 12. 2012 4:00AM

The New London City Council should leave it to the mayor to explore whether Police Chief Margaret Ackley violated any city or departmental rules when she discussed personnel issues and department controversies in a long series of emails with a private citizen. Todd Lynch, president of the city's police union, said the emails provide evidence the chief disciplined him because of his criticism of her performance.

Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio said he ordered the city attorney to review the matter and has received a preliminary report, which he is reviewing. Mayor Finizio said a final report will be available and made public soon.

As the chief executive, the mayor has supervisory responsibility for the police chief and other department heads. It appears he is making a good faith effort to gather all relevant information before deciding whether the chief's conduct warrants any disciplinary action. It also appears this process will be transparent.

It makes no sense that the council should launch any parallel investigation. Mr. Lynch has filed a lawsuit against the city claiming the chief's actions violated his civil rights. It would not help the city's legal position to have two branches of city government going in different directions on the matter.

We recognize the political shadow that hangs over the issue. At the time Chief Ackley was emailing back and forth with Kathleen Mitchell, a city activist known for weighing in on controversial policy matters, New London was in the midst of the campaign to elect its first mayor under the charter change. Then candidate, and now Mayor Finizio, was running against some sitting council members and could have arguably benefitted from negative revelations about department personnel.

That thin thread of a connection to the election, however, does not trump the authority that rests with the mayor to oversee the police department. Let the process play out. Unless the council has reason to believe the mayor did not fulfill his responsibilities, it should stay out of the matter.

The chief's electronic communications were, at the very least, inappropriate and reckless. We await the mayor's judgment whether they also violated rules of conduct.

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