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Groton Town Council candidates complain police union president plotted 'October Surprises'

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Groton — Two candidates for Town Council — a male Republican and female Democrat — submitted civilian complaints against town police union President Sgt. Stephen McAndrew during last year's election cycle, alleging he shared information tantamount to an "October Surprise" designed to derail their candidacies.

The complaint brought by Republican candidate John Goodrich three days after he lost the Nov. 5, 2019, election also named police Chief Louis J. Fusaro Jr. It was deemed "unfounded" after the department's second-in-command, Deputy Chief Paul Gately, investigated with assistance from Ledyard police Chief John J. Rich.

Sitting Town Councilor Juliette Parker, a Black woman employed as secretary to Groton City police Chief Michael Spellman, complained that McAndrew attacked her personally and professionally, in a manner she considered sexist and possibly racist, in an October 2019 email sent to all members of the Groton Town and Groton City councils.

Parker declined to comment on her complaint, which remains under investigation.

McAndrew did not respond to a voice message left on his extension at town police headquarters about both complaints. Fusaro declined to comment.

Goodrich, the Republican candidate, alleged that Fusaro and McAndrew told two council members that police in California had a warrant for his arrest for failing to attend a child custody hearing, and that the information was going to be used against him in the election. Fusaro and McAndrew both denied the assertion.

Goodrich also claimed McAndrew and State Marshal Travis Romano had told people in Mystic that Goodrich and a housemate were "squatters and deadbeats" residing in a Beebe Cove rental home that was being foreclosed.

A 15-page report of the investigation conducted by Gately and Rich indicates that after interviewing or taking written statements from Goodrich, two patrol officers, Romano and two town councilors, and reviewing body camera video, Goodrich's allegations could not be corroborated. During an interview with Gateley and Rich, Goodrich spoke of "informants" within the police department and members of the Republican Party, but didn't provide specifics.  

The allegation about the "arrest warrant" involved a bench warrant issued by a judge in Santa Clara, Calif., after Goodrich failed to appear Sept. 23, 2019, on a child custody matter. The judge issued the warrant but "stayed" it while scheduling another court date. Groton Town police were unaware of the matter until Goodrich provided them with a copy during the investigation of the complaint.

Goodrich, reached by phone this past week, said he was "absolutely not" satisfied with the outcome of the civilian complaint investigation. Learning that Gately would investigate his superior, Fusaro, Goodrich said he had asked for an independent party, and learned that the person who was enlisted, Chief Rich, served on the state police with Fusaro before both became municipal police chiefs.

"If you have a chief's best friend and a subordinate investigating him, how effective is that investigation going to be?" Goodrich said.

He also expressed little confidence in the New London State's Attorney's Office, which was consulted during the investigation.

Earlier in 2019, Goodrich had filed a complaint about the way police handled his child custody matter that also was deemed unfounded.

Parker's complaint is before the state Board of Labor Relations. It was provided to The Day by New London NAACP Vice President Tamara Lanier, who said NAACP is monitoring its progress.

In the Oct. 29, 2019, email, McAndrew wrote that Parker had "talked down" to Groton Town police officers during phone conversations about coverage of a planned protest outside Electric Boat during the christening of the USS Oregon. The union members were apparently upset that Chief Spellman had enlisted assistance from state police, and not town police, to help with the event.

"There are members of the Town of Groton Police Local #3428 who were displeased with the way they were spoken to by the secretary of Chief Spellman," McAndrew wrote. He added that Parker "seems to have an inflated sense of self with regards to her position," and that the union believes it is a "major conflict of interest in this regards as it is apparent she believes her position as Councilor gives her the ability to talk down to officers and order high ranking union members of the Town Police Department to carry out certain tasks."

In her complaint, Parker said there are recordings of the courteous and professional phone calls she made to Groton Town police about the submarine christening coverage. She said McAndrew had turned it into a personal attack containing false information.

She wrote that McAndrew's comment about her "inflated sense of self" is "a sexist comment, and at best a racially insensitive one."

"Should I as an African-American woman 'know my place' and step away and let Caucasian men like Sergeant McAndrew make all decisions?" she wrote in the complaint.

k.florin@theday.com

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