Editor's Note: In the pdf of the police investigation into the incident at Shrine, attached to this article, there is graphic language and profanity.
Update, 8:30 p.m.:
Mayor Daryl Finizio Friday released several documents related to a $25,000 settlement reached with Police Chief Margaret Ackley and her claims against former City Councilor Michael Buscetto.
In the settlement, the city agrees to pay Ackley the sum for full settlement of her claims to avoid “the cost, burden, and uncertainties of litigation.” The settlement was signed by Ackley and Finizio today.
Finizio announced the settlement at the same time that he said two police captains are retiring and a police officer has been fired. Another officer is on paid administrative leave pending investigation of corruption charges. A more detailed article on these developments will be posted shortly.
Finizio also released an August 2011 letter from Ackley’s attorney, Shelley Graves, to former Law Director Thomas Londregan as well as documents related to the disciplinary action of the fired officer. This documentation included officers' testimony that Buscetto sexually harassed women at Foxwoods Resort Casino in 2009 and Ackley’s suspicion that the department was covering up the incident.
Friday night, Buscetto denied the allegations made against him.
Ackley’s charges against Buscetto
The letter from Graves to Londregan, dated Aug. 24 2011, details Ackley’s accusations that Buscetto had sought to undermine her authority in the department. Ackley specifically charged gender discrimination, harassment, and improper conduct by Buscetto “aimed to impede Chief Ackley’s ability to effectively function as police chief and create a hostile working environment.” Ackley also said the city failed to take proper action to investigate or address her complaints “despite its knowledge of discrimination, defamatory remarks, threats, undue influence, improprieties and other systematic interference orchestrated by Councilman Buscetto.”
Ackley’s complaints say that Buscetto:
- Made “numerous public and discriminatory statements” at City Council meetings and in the media suggesting that she was unqualified and “getting special treatment because she was a woman”
- Met with other city employees and officials to say that she would not get any financial support requested from the council
- Violated the City Charter by dealing with subordinate police officers at the rather than her
- Held only two meetings of the Public Safety Committee, which Buscetto chaired during his four years on the council, while prior meetings were held monthly
- Lobbied members of organizations and the public to blame Ackley’s leadership for youth violence and the October 2010 murder of
- Scheduled meetings of the on nights she specifically requested that he not do so, as she would be unable to attend
- Strategized with New London Police Union officials to hold a vote of no confidence in Ackley, and promised the union that Ackley and Personnel Coordinator Bernadette Welch would be ousted if he were elected mayor
- Made defamatory remarks about Ackley to members of the police department
Graves also says in the letter that Buscetto sought to use intimidation on certain occasions. She said the first incident occurred in January of 2011 during a meeting with Ackley at Buscetto’s home.
“Buscetto told Ackley he thought they could both help each other if they worked together,” the letter states. Ackley says Buscetto told her to “get rid” of a ranking officer, made “demeaning remarks” about a patrolman who should be restricted from youth activities, and “in exchange, he, Capt. (William) Dittman and Union Vice President/Patrolman Todd Lynch will in the future be supportive of her leadership.”
Regarding the claim against the city, Ackley says that she made repeated attempts to tell the city manager, personnel director and law director about Buscetto's actions, and nothing was done. Ackley says she decided in August 2011 to retire because she felt the city was not helping her.
"After her selection for the chief's position, prior to being sworn in, a message was delivered by a police officer who stated he was asked by Buscetto to deliver a message, 'you better not take the position if chief, if you do he will destroy you.' That message was delivered in front of other city ranking employees/agents. No action was taken by the City to investigate this threat."
Ackley p when he was the . Buscetto ran in the election as a write-in candidate, earning the .
Ackley had negotiated a retirement agreement at the time she made the accusation, but was . She has been chief since 2009, and .
Ackley also said members of the police department swore statements “attesting to misconduct and impropriety by Councilor Buscetto towards several women at the Shrine nightclub” at Foxwoods Resort Casino. Ackley said city employees took no proper actions to investigate the incident and instead sought to redact investigative files to protect Buscetto.
The statements were made by three police officers during an investigation of Officer Joshua Bergeson, who was accused of slapping a woman at the club in April of 2009 while off duty and intoxicated. Finizio said Friday that Bergeson has been fired due to more recent incidents, but that his disciplinary history was taken into account in the decision.
In the documents, Officer Timothy Henderson said the women involved in the incident told him that Buscetto was touching her inappropriately at the club. Henderson said he did not personally witness this but that the woman “did appear to be upset” after making the accusation.
Officer Cornelius Rodgers said he saw Buscetto take his date’s hand and whisper in her ear. Rodgers said his date told him that Buscetto said he wanted to have sexual intercourse with her. (Editor's Note: In the pdf of the police investigation attached to this article, there is graphic language and profanity.)
“My date was appalled by Buscetto[‘s] statement but I informed her that due to my job it would be best not to make a stink about it,” said Rodgers.
Rodgers also said he saw Buscetto grab the buttocks of another woman when she walked past. He said the woman was angered and her boyfriend, not knowing who had grabbed her, tried to fight Rodgers. He said Buscetto “taunted the boyfriend.”
Officer Trisha Marcaccio said that she danced with Buscetto during the evening and he put his hand on her buttocks and thigh. Marcaccio stated that she was “shocked and offended, because I thought that City Councilor Buscetto completely overstepped his boundaries.” She said Buscetto later put his arm around her while buying her a drink and it made her uncomfortable.
In an undated e-mail about the investigation, Ackley expressed frustration about the investigation.
“It appears that Officers Rodgers and Marcaccio both felt the need to talk about Mike Buscetto in their statements, yet Captain [Michael] Lacey felt that he did not want that information in the file and refused to accept the statements,” Ackley wrote. “Based on the unsigned statement, missing statements, missing tape recordings etc. the investigation hast he appearance of being tainted.”
In November of 2009, Bergeson wrote a memo to Ackley complaining that Lacey had committed official misconduct in the investigation. Bergeson said Lacey had declined to accept Rodgers’ statement and did not have Marcaccio sign her statement.
Finizio and city councilors’ remarks
The release of documents did not include a report by Beverly Hodgson, a former Superior Court judge who was chosen as an investigator in Ackley’s claims against Buscetto. Finizio said he will meet with the City Council in closed session on Wednesday to discuss the report. Finizio said the document is currently protected under attorney-client confidentiality.
“Under this transition in government there are a lot of kinks to work out in the system…and until a resolution could be determined and better legal reasoning had, I prefer to err on the side of caution in spite of the fact that I had full knowledge that it would not be popular to do,” said Finizio.
Finizio said he considers the $25,00 settlement within the recommendations of Hodgson’s report.
“I will discuss that in detail with the City Council, and share all information with the City Council. It was never my intent to be uncooperative with the City Council," said Finizio.
Council President Michael Passero and Councilors Anthony Nolan and Marie Friess-McSparran were present at Finizio’s press conference. Passero said the council had been concerned after it did not receive the report.
“We had frank discussions this morning, and the mayor understands that the report is basically the council’s report,” said Passero.
Friess-McSparran and Nolan said they were not prepared to comment on the accusations or restructuring before seeing the documentation and the judge’s report.
“I have a concern, that’s all I can say,” said Nolan, who is a police officer. “And until we sit down with the council president and discuss the matter fully, I have no comment.”
When contacted this evening, Buscetto denied the charges against him.
“I’ve said it many times: the chief has been less than honest with the public,” he said. “They’re unfounded accusations. I guess you can go to the City Council and make unfounded accusations and get paid for them.”
Buscetto said he had hoped Hodgson’s report would be released alongside the documents made public tonight. He said he also felt Ackley and Finizio should focus more on violent crime in New London.
“Ultimately the chief is responsible for the safety of our city. As I’ve said before, the city has seen a 40 percent increase in violent crime in the past two years and if she feels these moves will help, then great,” Buscetto said of the retirements and termination. “From what I understand the retirement packages were very generous. It seems like everyone’s being paid to get out of the way of the chief.”