Ledyard cop says he will fight firing

Ledyard — A Ledyard police officer who learned Monday that he was fired from the police department after being arrested twice is vowing to get his job back.

James Grzesiak, 48, who had been in the department for 19 years, was arrested in October and January. He said the town is rushing to judgment and hasn't given him due process.

Donald Steinhoff, the town's administrator of human resources, said the decision to fire Grzesiak was made following presentation of evidence Friday at a disciplinary hearing.

Grzesiak, he said, left the hearing before he could hear the decision. Grzesiak, however, disputes that claim, saying he was outside Town Hall for 15 minutes after the hearing was closed. He said he intends to file a grievance on the termination.

Steinhoff said a certified letter of termination was then sent by mail, and the letter was delivered Monday by state police.

Steinhoff said he could not provide The Day a copy of the termination letter, saying it was personnel matter and because there are pending grievances and a complaint with the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. He said he anticipates more grievances to be filed as a result of the termination.

Steinhoff said there was a history of disciplinary issues with Grzesiak that were not just limited to the two arrests.

In January, Grzesiak was charged with third-degree assault and disorderly conduct after he had a fight with his girlfriend's son, Joshua Thibeault, who was also charged with disorderly conduct. Thibeault is scheduled to appear Wednesday in Norwich Superior Court .

At the time, a protective order was issued, and Grzesiak was ordered to turn over his weapons, including his work-issued firearm. He was suspended without pay.

The charges in the domestic incident along with the protective order were dismissed on Thursday.

"How can you take action when the court cases were going through the process of the legal system?" Grzesiak said. "I was innocent of the charges and acted out of self defense."

At the hearing Friday he expressed a desire to return to work now that the charges were dismissed and he was able to possess firearms since the protective order was lifted.

Grzesiak was arrested in October for disorderly conduct after police said he sent an email to his former landlord in Ledyard that made a threatening reference about the caretaker of his property.

Grzesiak said he could not comment on the case because it is pending.

For the October incident, Grzesiak said he was suspended for 30 days without pay and filed a grievance, which is pending.

Grzesiak said he had to talk to his union representative before showing The Day his termination letter. He said the letter stated several reasons for his firing, including conduct unbecoming an officer, uncivil conduct, engaging in domestic violence, that he was unable to carry his service weapon and that he was not forthcoming with state police on how many firearms were in the home when police responded to the domestic incident.

It was not clear if the letter stated additional reasons for the termination.

"I feel that I'm being treated like I'm guilty until I prove that I'm innocent," Grzesiak said. "It's my life. All I ever wanted to do since growing up is be a cop."

i.larraneta@theday.com

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