NL council reacts: You want who for how much?

New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio's proposal for a third-party investigation into the administrative conduct of suspended police Chief Margaret Ackley was excessive and the City Council made the right decision in unanimously rejecting the money to pay for it.

The price tag, $92,500, was far too much and the proposed source for the money, the economic development account, inappropriate.

On July 31, Mayor Finizio suspended Chief Ackley with pay, "pending the outcome of an investigation into her conduct as chief." The mayor pointed to allegations of harassment of union leadership and the basing of administrative decisions not on public safety but gaining an advantage in internal budgetary politics.

It was clear at the time Mayor Finizio was building a case to dismiss the chief, no easy matter in Connecticut, where the legislature has set a high "just cause" threshold for firing police chiefs, recognition that politicians sometimes want meddling police chiefs removed for self-serving reasons.

Mayor Finizio has at his disposal a chief administrative officer, a city attorney and a Personnel Division. They should be able to flesh out the details of the alleged misconduct.

Indeed, on Wednesday the mayor named Personnel Administrator Tina Collins to head the investigation.

The mayor's choice for an outside investigator was excessive - William H. Webster - a retired federal judge who formerly directed both the FBI and CIA. New London is not trying to find the remains of Jimmy Hoffa or uncover terrorist networks; it's trying to detail the alleged administrative missteps of a small-city police chief. Little wonder the council said no.

Chief Ackley's public admonitions aimed at a city councilor and mayoral candidate benefitted Mayor Finizio politically in his victorious 2011 election. She had been set to leave the city's employ, but Mayor Finizio lauded her performance and decided to keep her on. Now the relationship has turned sour.

Chief Ackley has sued the mayor and the city for reneging on the compensation package she was promised when she agreed to stay (the council refused to approve it). More recently, she sought an injunction preventing the mayor from interfering in her duties - that was before the suspension.

We remain convinced the best outcome would be the administration reaching a settlement with Chief Ackley and finding four votes on the council to approve it, allowing her to move on.

Better that than spending the money on a long, drawn out and ugly legal battle.

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