New London official, not ex-FBI director, will lead probe of Chief Ackley

New London — A day after the City Council rejected his $92,500 request to pay the former director of both the CIA and FBI to investigate the conduct of the police chief, Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio announced the appointment of the city’s personnel administrator to handle the job.

In a written statement Wednesday, Finizio said he has appointed Personnel Administrator Tina Collins to head the investigation into Chief Margaret Ackley.

“I have instructed her to proceed deliberately and thoughtfully to ensure the results of this investigation are as comprehensively prepared as possible,” Finizio said in the statement. “I have also instructed her to act on this matter only within the confines of the approved budgetary line items for her department and only during her normal work hours. This investigative work will be in addition to Ms. Collins’s other duties.”

Finizio on Tuesday had proposed to the City Council the appointment of William Webster, a former federal judge and former head of the FBI and CIA, to lead the investigation into allegations that led Finizio to suspend Ackley with pay in late July.

The City Council balked at the cost, the use of funds from an economic development account and the way Finizio had presented his nominee. Finizio said he respected the concerns of the council and said an internal investigation was a more cost-effective approach.

The allegations that led to Ackley’s suspension, as outlined by Finizio, include claims she targeted union leaders for discipline, misrepresented financial information and deliberately increased overtime spending in the fourth quarter of the fiscal year.

The suspension came a day after Ackley took the unusual step of asking a Superior Court judge, as part of her pending lawsuit against Finizio, for an injunction barring Finizio from interfering with her job duties. A hearing on that request is scheduled for December. Ackley is suing Finizio for an alleged breach of her contract.

Ackley’s attorney, Leon Rosenblatt, called Finizio’s proposed appointment of Webster “absurd” and what he called an example of Finizio “grandstanding.”

“The personnel director is much more appropriate,” Rosenblatt said sarcastically. “Anything the personnel director comes up with is going to be predetermined by the mayor.”

Rosenblatt said Finizio’s accusations against Ackley that led to her suspension are unfounded. Ultimately, Rosenblatt said, it will be a judge who decides whether there is just cause to fire the chief. “Just cause,” by state statute, protects police chiefs and other certain other employees from arbitrary firing without proof of misconduct.

“There is no just cause, period,” Rosenblatt said. “(Ackley) should be at work and left alone to do the job of the chief of police.”

Finizio declined to comment outside of the written statement, which indicates no timeline for completion of the investigation.

Rosenblatt said he was willing, but not hopeful based on past experience with the city’s law firm, to meet to try and hash out terms of a settlement in the ongoing lawsuit.

Deputy Chief Peter Reichard is acting chief during Ackley’s absence.

g.smith@theday.com

Twitter: @SmittyDay

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