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New London — For the second time in less than a month, the city has announced plans to rehire a fired police officer.
Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio on Thursday said the city will rehire Officer David McElroy — an outcome of his ongoing negotiations with the local police union to settle a backlog of pending grievances filed by the union on a host of labor-related issues.
McElroy was fired in December on the recommendation of Police Chief Margaret Ackley on grounds he had leaked an internal police document about an alleged rape and then lied about it. McElroy had denied the allegations and the union was preparing a court battle to fight for his reinstatement.
But following months of head-butting between the city and union that has led to stalled negotiations, Union President Todd Lynch said tensions have miraculously eased up as of late.
"We've obviously gone through some rough water. Both sides have made an effort to work better together and while it's early in the process, I'm pleasantly surprised we're doing just that," Lynch said. "From a union standpoint, I certainly hope it continues in this fashion. We're working together for what's best for the union, the administration and most importantly what's best for the city."
Finizio, who has also taken the helm in ongoing contract negotiations, issued a statement saying the two sides had resolved most of the pending grievances.
"Our talks today clearly indicate we are entering a new era in labor relations with the New London Police Department," Finizio said in the statement.
Finizio displayed similar optimism in an announcement less than two weeks ago about headway in police contract negotiations. The previous contract with police expired in July.
McElroy will return to city service per the terms of an agreement reached among the city, the union and McElroy, Finizio said. The Day has requested the terms of the agreement. The request had not been fulfilled by late Thursday.
Lynch said he expects McElroy to return by next week.
"I speak for our members in saying we all welcome Dave McElroy back to his job at the New London Police Department," Lynch said.
Thursday's news comes on the heels of a vote by the City Council earlier this month to halt a court appeal that had blocked the return of another fired officer, Thomas Northup.
Northup was fired March 22, 2012, after an internal investigation into an Aug. 24, 2011, shooting. Northup had shot and wounded an unarmed man who stole and crashed an ice truck. While the state Board of Mediation and Arbitration ordered Northup to be rehired, the city had filed an appeal of the ruling.
The appeal was officially withdrawn last week. Police officials say Northup's return to duty is contingent on a physical.
Northup and McElroy join Officer Josh Bergeson on the list of terminated officers hired back under the Finizio administration. In April 2013, Bergeson was rehired more than a year after his firing in January 2012. The firing followed an administrative hearing into his role in a Dec. 14, 2011, incident in which witnesses said officers assaulted and used pepper spray on an intoxicated man, 31-year-old Reuben Miller, outside the Southeastern Connecticut Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependency facility on Coit Street. Finizio, at the time, said Bergeson's firing was due to work absences and his involvement in the incident.
Bergeson's rehiring came during an agreement reached between the city and union officials following a grievance filed by the union.