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Finizio orders written reprimand of New London police chief over emails

By Sasha Goldstein

Publication: theday.com

Published 10/22/2012 12:00 AM
Updated 10/23/2012 12:25 AM

New London — Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio ordered a written reprimand for police Chief Margaret Ackley Monday after finding she violated a department general order by sending emails to a politically active citizen that were "outside the boundaries of proper managerial conduct."

In a letter dated Monday and addressed to Ackley, Finizio wrote that the chief did not violate a chain of command general order because "the policy was vague and unclear."

But, he found, the emails did violate a "divulging information" order that prohibits discussing "information relating to official business of the department unless authorized by a superior officer."

"Such communications, if allowed, could target individual department officers unfairly and would serve to seriously undermine confidence in any Chief's ability to effectively lead the department," the mayor wrote.

In a letter dated Friday, Ackley, who had a pre-disciplinary hearing Oct. 11, rebutted the notion she violated any policy and stood by her comments.

"Although perhaps I could have exercised more prudence regarding the communication, my comments in that particular email raised issues of public concern and were important to furthering community relations and dialogue between the citizens of New London and their government," she wrote.

In a statement, the police union applauded Finizio "for taking our concerns seriously." Once results of the investigation are fully reviewed, a vote of no confidence in the chief could be coming, the statement said.

"All members of the New London Police Department are guided by a code of conduct which includes integrity, leadership and respect which has been violated by her actions," Dave McElroy, the union vice president, said in the press release. "Chief Ackley has said on many occasions she insists her officers must be held to a higher standard of conduct yet she failed to meet those standards or follow her own policies she's set forth. It's important to have positive morale and a strong belief in their leadership and today it's not there."

The September 2011 email discussed Officer Todd Lynch and Police Community Relations Committee Chairman Jay Wheeler. With a subject line "Circle the wagons," the email asks resident Kathleen 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 five-year veteran of the city force and president of the police union, and has been an outspoken critic of Ackley. He has a pending lawsuit against the chief and requested the city investigation after receiving copies of the communication sent from Ackley's private email address.

"I'm really tired of fighting Wheeler," Ackley's email read, "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." It also urges Mitchell to request publicly available disciplinary and personnel files of certain officers.

The PCRC forwarded the investigation request to the City Council and ultimately to Finizio, who in June directed the city's Law Department to conduct an investigation. It was completed Monday with the letter informing the chief of his decision.

"If such communications were allowed to occur they could serve as a disciplinary tool outside the proper forum for such proceedings," the mayor wrote, before concluding that he is "confident that these types of communications will not occur in the future."

s.goldstein@theday.com

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