New London police chief's job status remains muddled

New London - The police chief is apparently looking for some modifications in her working arrangements with the city, but officials continue to be mum on what that means.

Their silence has fueled rumors and speculation that police Chief Margaret Ackley, who has been with the city police department for 25 years - including the last two as chief - may be retiring. She does not have a contract with the city, and her employment is governed by state statutes, according to City Law Director Thomas Londregan.

"The police chief has a job for life unless there is just cause (to remove her),'' Londregan told the City Council Monday night.

During Monday's council meeting, Councilor Rob Pero attempted to clear the air on the issue, but Londregan advised him to wait until Wednesday, after he's met with Ackley and her lawyer.

"The problem is, the community is coming up to us and asking questions,'' said Pero, who suggested the document be made public immediately. "We want to take the air out of the room. This continues on to be a crisis that doesn't need to be a crisis.''

Londregan agreed. When the facts come out, the public will see why there was a need for executive session, he said.

The City Council and Ackley, along with their attorneys, met in a closed-door meeting last Wednesday to discuss the chief's employment. Following the two-hour meeting, councilors refused to talk about what took place, saying they were precluded from talking because of a confidentiality clause in a document between Ackley and the city.

The revelation that the chief had some sort of agreement with the city, and that it was confidential, came as a surprise to many, including some councilors.

"We found out there is some sort of agreement between the administration and the police chief, so we went into executive session to hear about it," Councilor Michael Passero said, adding later, "That's where we heard it's confidential and we are precluded from saying something about something that happened months ago behind our backs."

Councilor Michael Buscetto III, whom the chief tried unsuccessfully to keep out of last week's closed-door meeting, said he agreed not to discuss the meeting in public at Ackley's request.

"If she wants to keep it confidential, I respect her wishes,'' he said.

He said he voted to go into executive session because he did not know what Ackley was going to say.

"Eventually, it will all be public,'' he said.

The chief, the first woman to head up the 96-officer police force, has so far refused to comment and did not respond to an email request Monday to discuss the topic.

At Monday's meeting, several residents spoke out in favor of Ackley.

"I support Chief Ackley,'' said Sara Chaney. "She's done a phenomenal job. I'm so proud to have her in this town.''

Resident David Hayes, a frequent contributor at council meetings, said he'd like to see Ackley remains in the city.

"I hope Chief Ackley gives us a few more years, at least until my 87th birthday, which is July 2013,'' he said.

The Day filed three Freedom of Information requests on Friday for documents pertaining to Ackley's employment and for any communication between the chief, or her attorney, and the city. The city has four business days to respond to the requests.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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