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New London — Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio fired police Officer David McElroy on Friday for what Finizio described as McElroy's leaking of a document about an alleged sexual assault and subsequent "untruthful" behavior during an internal investigation.
Police Chief Margaret Ackley recommended McElroy's termination, according to Finizio.
The mayor's office said in a news release that McElroy violated department policies by leaking an internal police memo about the alleged sexual assault to the news media and did not tell the truth both in a memo to the police department and during an interview about the leak.
The document disclosed details of a reported rape last summer, which spurred a contentious debate about public safety in the city. Police, however, determined the reported assault did not happen as originally reported.
Police conducted an internal investigation into the leak, which included a review by a forensic document examiner. The investigation found that writing on the leaked document sent to a news anchor matched McElroy's handwriting. McElroy denied under oath that the writing belonged to him, according to the release.
The mayor's office said it terminated McElroy because of his "demonstration of his lack of integrity" by offering a document that he knew had false information and by lying twice under oath. "The New London Police Department has zero tolerance for this conduct," the release stated.
"This is a sad day for the New London Police Department because, while the City must hold Officer McElroy responsible for his conduct, this incident clouds the fact that the vast and overwhelming majority of our police officers do an honorable job serving our community and upholding the privilege of being called a New London Police officer," said Finizio in a written statement.
Eric Brown, the police union's attorney, disputed the charges against McElroy, saying they resulted from the administration's "attack plan" against the union. He said the city wanted to fire McElroy because Union President Todd Lynch would not resign.
The police union has said that Ackley had offered to give a more lenient punishment to McElroy, who at the time was under investigation, in exchange for the retirement of Lynch, who has pending litigation against the city. AFSCME, Council 15, Connecticut Council of Police Unions, released the information about the offer in a press statement last month.
"We're disappointed but not surprised," said Brown in an interview, reacting to the news on Friday. "This is a police chief and administration that has been trying to stop the police union since coming to office."
"Now a man who has been a dedicated police officer and has always had the highest integrity has to go through the holiday season without a job," he added.
The mayor's office denied that the city was targeting McElroy, the union's vice president, because he is a union officer.
"In an effort to politicize and cloud this issue, the police union has stated that McElroy was "targeted" because of his involvement as a union officer," the release states. "This simply is not the case and calls into question the motives of those making these statements, especially since they are all aware of the independent scientific evidence. The New London Police Department has an obligation to protect the citizens living in and visiting the city, including protecting them from dishonest officers."
The union also issued a written statement Friday afternoon and stated that the city had just proposed last month to issue McElroy a written reprimand for the alleged incident.
"Today's action continues the deterioration of the New London Police Department caused by Ackley and Finizio," the release reads. "... We will fight for Dave and get his job back. The citizens of New London should demand Ackley's termination and Finizio's resignation."
Finizio told The Day's editorial board on Monday that he made an offer for a more lenient punishment for McElroy through the city's attorney. But he said the offer came after Lynch had initiated and then retracted proposals to resign, to retire from the department and to dissolve multiple grievances on file in exchange for the lighter punishment.
"Today is another example of a pathetic leader — Mayor Finizio — who has taken a significant part in the destruction of the New London police department," Lynch said in an interview.
Lynch said the city had offered last week to give McElroy a written reprimand if he quit the police department. Instead, he said the police department terminated McElroy at his home, weeks before Christmas and two months away from his city pension. He said in his 26 years of law enforcement, he has never seen disciplinary action taken in a location outside of the police station.
Lynch accused Finizio of attacking and unfairly punishing the members of the police union while simultaneously classifying himself as a pro-union mayor to striking Lawrence + Memorial Hospital workers.