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New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio places the blame for the continuing controversies surrounding his city's police department and the resulting morale problems squarely on the union and, more particularly, on its president, Officer Todd Lynch.
"The problem isn't on our end. The problem is on their end," the mayor said in a meeting with The Day editorial board Monday.
As for Officer Lynch: "He has a personal war against the police chief and against me; mostly against the police chief, really."
That may well be true, but it has clearly become personal for the mayor as well.
"He is the worst union president I have ever seen," said the mayor. He added at another point in the interview, "Todd Lynch, you're not representing your members. You're not giving your members accurate information. And the approach you have been taking is harming your department and harming your members."
Mayor Finizio wants Officer Lynch gone; there appears no question about that.
"As for relations with the union, I don't think they'll ever be repaired as long as Todd Lynch is union president," said the mayor. He later added, almost wistfully, "We'll just see what the union does."
The mayor is making a mistake in placing so much focus on the police union leader. It led recently to an embarrassing and inappropriate blunder.
Officer David McElroy, union vice president, faces a disciplinary action for allegedly leaking an internal police report about a reported rape last summer to a TV news reporter. The department and Finizio administration were facing criticism at the time for allegedly covering up information about the rape. The mayor contends the union was feeding the criticism, including through the leak.
Ultimately, investigators concluded no crime had been committed. The internal investigation into the leak followed.
The union maintains Chief Margaret Ackley offered to reduce any discipline against Officer McElroy to a reprimand if Officer Lynch would step down - an inappropriate quid pro quo.
In his meeting with The Day, Mayor Finizio conceded the offer was made, but said, "It came from me," not the chief. The terms: Officer McElroy could walk away with a reprimand if Officer Lynch quietly retired, but only if they both admitted involvement in the leak.
In trying to rid the department of the union president, Mayor Finizio, it appears, played a hunch.
"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," Mayor Finizio said.
Further, he said, after Officer McElroy was suspended pending the outcome of the internal review of the leak, "The union president (Lynch) offered to resign. And then took that back. Then offered to resign as union president, then took that back."
All this was an indication to the mayor of Lynch's likely involvement in the leak.
"The mayor is a liar," said Officer Lynch when asked about the mayor's depiction of events. He said he made no such offer, adding that he could not discuss further details of the confidential negotiations involving union and city attorneys.
The mayor concedes he has no evidence of Officer Lynch acting inappropriately. There is no disciplinary action pending against him. Officer Lynch says he had nothing to do with a leak of information.
Absent such evidence, it was inappropriate for Mayor Finizio or the police administration to tie the investigation and potential discipline of Officer McElroy to an attempt to obtain the union president's resignation.
Mayor Finizio may blame the union for the state of affairs, but the job of fixing the situation is his. Admittedly, he faces a difficult challenge in trying to repair the poisoned relations between the administration and the union leadership, a situation he concedes "can demoralize a department."
His gambit did not help. The mayor should have known better.