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Probe: Montville lieutenant didn't harass female officer

By Jeffrey A. Johnson

Publication: The Day

Published October 26. 2012 4:00AM

Montville - A comment made by the police department's top lieutenant did not warrant a finding of harassment, according to an internal town investigation, but investigators concluded the lieutenant has routinely intimidated officers in the department.

Lt. Leonard Bunnell, a 35-year police veteran and the town's highest-ranking officer, was accused of threatening conduct, intimidation and harassment over a 10-month period by Karen Moorehead, the department's school resource officer.

Moorehead alleged Bunnell made an inappropriate comment about her appearance. The town assigned its equal opportunity officers and a town attorney to investigate.

Their report details an interview with Bunnell in which he admitted making the comment. The report also included interviews with at least five other police officers whose testimony led investigators to conclude that Bunnell acts in a condescending way to both men and women and has verbally intimidated other officers.

While the report found this behavior to be inappropriate and acknowledged it could lead to future conflicts, the investigators did not find that Moorehead was treated differently from other officers. They also found the evidence did not support Moorehead's claim of harassment based on gender.

Mayor Ronald K. McDaniel Jr. suspended Bunnell on Oct. 4 for two weeks without pay for a separate incident. In that case, Bunnell was found to have violated the terms of use for a computer criminal database with improper background checks on town employees and others.

McDaniel said Thursday Bunnell has completed his suspension. The mayor said he considers the matter between Bunnell and Moorehead to be closed.

Both Bunnell and Moorehead declined to comment Thursday.

The internal report shows that disputes between Bunnell and Moorehead, who was hired by the department in March 1999, stretch back to her early years as an officer.

They disagreed on her use of vacation days and accrued time off and whether it was in her job description as a school resource officer to work in the town's elementary schools. Moorehead works with high school students and has an office at Montville High School.

On Oct. 17, 2011, Moorehead accused Bunnell of being on a "witch hunt" to get her. Bunnell alleged that Moorehead told him to "watch his (butt)."

Then-Mayor Joseph Jaskiewicz later ordered Bunnell to avoid direct contact with Moorehead. Bunnell ignored that directive in part by sending Moorehead a Christmas card.

The internal report also questioned Bunnell's credibility in recounting his dealings with Moorehead. One interview with an officer whose name was redacted in the copy of the report provided to The Day by Town Attorney Eileen Duggan claims that last November, Bunnell said "that Karen is not going to ruin his career and that really - she isn't worth it."

One officer described the department's working conditions as "terrible." Another officer described Bunnell as a bully.

The report also presents a chronology of Moorehead's career. She received a superior performance appraisal in 2006 for performing CPR on an infant and received commendations for work as the D.A.R.E. officer.

Moorehead was suspended for two days last year for repeated failure to complete police reports in a timely manner. Performance reviews also show she damaged department police cruisers on six occasions from 2000 to 2007 and in one instance got in an accident as she used an onboard computer while her police cruiser was in motion.

The names of seven witnesses interviewed in the investigation were redacted to protect their privacy. At least five were police officers.

The Day filed a Freedom of Information request in April seeking documents pertaining to the harassment investigation and filed a complaint on May 22 with the state Freedom of Information Commission in an effort to compel the town to release the report. The town did so a day before a hearing was to be held before an FOIC attorney in Hartford.

jeff.johnson@theday.com

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