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New London mayor: Police union spreading half-truths

By Greg Smith

Publication: The Day

Published December 04. 2013 4:00AM
Negotiations surrounding probe of officer in case of leaked information questioned

New London - Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio claims the police union has spread half-truths about what's going on behind closed doors between city and police union attorneys - further intensifying the acrimony between the city administration and union.

The latest episode, Finizio said during an editorial board meeting Monday at The Day, surrounds the internal investigation into information leaked to the media about a reported downtown rape that has already led to the suspension of one officer.

The union contends Chief Margaret Ackley demanded the retirement of union President Officer Todd Lynch in exchange for a more lenient punishment for Officer David McElroy, the officer who is currently suspended and the focus of the investigation into the leaked information. The news of the offer was initially released last month in a press statement from AFSCME, Council 15, Connecticut Council of Police Unions, titled, "Ackley, New London P.D. Coming Unhinged."

Finizio said he, not the chief, made the offer through the city attorney, but only after Lynch made several prior offers - to resign as union president, to retire from the department and to make the dozens of grievances on file disappear in exchange for leniency for McElroy. The offers were made and then taken back, Finizio said.

"My assessment of that situation was that the union would not offer all of this, and the union president offers all of this if, perhaps, they did not share in the responsibility for it," Finizio said.

Finizio said he instructed the city's attorney to relay to union attorney Eric Brown "that if Mr. Lynch was involved in this, that if they all admitted what happened, and were honest," that Lynch could retire and McElroy would be allowed back with a reprimand.

The leak of details of the reported rape was a contentious issue, more so after police said they determined the sexual assault had not occurred as first reported and the investigation ended. Until that point, safety in New London had become a key focus of both politicians and union officials. It was an election year for the City Council members, and the union was and remains in negotiations for a new contract.

Lynch did not dispute Finizio's claims about the offers made by Brown in the closed-door meeting, but he said he was not present and declined to comment on what may or may not have been offered.

"I never agreed to step down as president or quit the department. I never agreed to anything," Lynch said. "The negotiations are done between attorneys, but I wasn't going to quit the police department. It appears that is more important to the mayor than anything else. To get me is more important than the facts of the investigation. He's intimidated by me because he can't control me. It's not about me. It's about the city and the police department."

Finizio said rocky relations between the city and union are not likely to be repaired while Lynch, who has a pending lawsuit against Ackley, is union president,

"He is the worst union president I have ever seen," Finizio said. "He has a personal war against the police chief and me. This is just a nasty, nasty agenda that Mr. Lynch has."

Finizio called the leaks, and other unspecified union activity over the summer "very questionable."

"And it's hard to imagine that a union president who claims to control what his union does would have no knowledge or involvement in what was a coordinated public campaign," Finizio said.

Lynch said he has no plans to leave and has an open invitation to the mayor and police administration to sit and talk to correct some of the problems that have led to low morale and officers leaving the department. He said Finizio has the power to call such a meeting.

Finizio said he has yet to see the recommendation from the chief about McElroy following a predisciplinary hearing last month. Brown could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

g.smith@theday.com

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