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UPDATED: Chief Ackley Accuses Councilor Buscetto Of Unethical Behavior

Police chief, scheduled to retire, accuses mayoral candidate of interfering with department; City Council discusses possible pending litigation

Chief Margaret Ackley of the , in a statement to the City Council on Wednesday evening, said City Councilor and mayoral candidate Michael Buscetto III has been interfering with her authority at the department and engaging in unethical behavior.

“I have kept my mouth shut at Councilor Buscetto’s efforts to build his image at my expense,” she said.

Ackley said she felt Buscetto has violated the city’s ethics code through his actions with the police department, and that the stress led to her decision to retire. She said Buscetto told police officers that she is being “pushed out” following discussions by the council about her employment, and also accused him of making “defamatory statements.” As part of the meeting’s agenda, the council went into executive session to discuss a pending claim by Ackley against the city.

The council for two and a half hours regarding Ackley’s employment, but took no vote and made no comments after that meeting. The city’s law director, Thomas Londregan, said at the start of Wednesday's meeting that Ackley and City Manager Denise Rose had agreed to waive a confidentiality clause in an April 6 memorandum of understanding and settlement agreement and release between Ackley and the city.

According to a memo from Londregan, the agreement was kept secret to “maintain the stability of the police department during this election year, so that a smooth transition of police chiefs could occur at a later date.” New London will switch to a strong mayor form of government in the November election, and in July the Democratic Town Committee . He will face attorney Daryl Finizio in a .

Londregan also said Ackley had discussed retiring at the end of August, when she would have completed 25 years with the police department. He said the city directors and legal staff negotiated an agreement where Ackley would stay on until January and announce her retirement after the November election.

The settlement agreement includes a confidentiality clause forbidding Ackley from disclosing the agreement to anyone other than those involved in the negotiation or members of her immediate family. It also includes a section giving Ackley two periods of time in which to revoke the agreement: within 21 days after its acceptance or between Dec. 15 and Dec. 31, following the outcome of the election.

“The city manager had planned to inform Council of this action prior to the chief’s retirement, when she was certain the chief would not utilize her opt-out provision contained in the settlement agreement,” said Londregan in the memo. “This would allow the new mayor, whoever he or she may be, to decide how to fill the chief’s position. For these reasons, the Council was not informed of the [memorandum of understanding] and settlement agreement and release at the time of their drafting and signing by the city manager and chief.”

Londregan said he called the Aug. 10 executive session because he disagreed with this condition.

According to the memorandum of understanding, Ackley will not retire before Jan. 2. The agreement would also pay Ackley for 650.25 hours of vacation time, 576 hours of holiday time, and 24 hours of special holiday time, resulting in a pro rata payment of $64,616 as part of her salary through the end of 2011. Ackley would waive all holidays, special holidays, and vacation time earned between March 14 and Jan. 2 as well as any sick or compensation time earned above her 40-hour work week. In return, Ackley would be included on the city’s health plan until the age of 65 and the city would pay one half of the single premium rate.

According to a payment schedule included in the documents, the agreement is meant to bring significant savings to the city following Ackley’s retirement by eliminating payment for compensation time. Ackley is currently paid $107,500 per year, and has accumulated over 2,000 hours of compensation time. Reimbursement for this time would make up the bulk of Ackley’s separation package without the agreement, estimated to be $169,917.21 with August retirement and $199,508.14 with January retirement.

The total separation package without an agreement was put at $239,667.15 for August retirement and $276,011.46 for January retirement. Londregan said that when insurance premiums and one-time additional percentage of salary payment to the Municipal Employee Retirement Fund, the net savings to the city under the agreement would be $141,410. The schedule notes that the agreement would increase Ackley’s annual Municipal Employee Retirement Fund pension from $52,403 or $52,613 under August or January retirement, respectively, to $63,382 with the agreement. However, a note claims that compensation time could have been included as pensionable overtime in the non-agreement figures.

At the end of the meeting, the council voted 6-1, with Councilor John Russell opposed, to go into an executive session to discuss the pending litigation. At the end of a 45-minute executive session, the council voted to have an investigator determine the validity of Ackley’s claims against Buscetto. Londregan said such complaints could have gone through the city per the harassment ordinance.

“Obviously the chief has chosen a different path to bring this to light,” he said.

Ackley’s attorney, Shelley Graves, requested that Buscetto recuse himself from the discussion, since the litigation concerned him. Londregan said the decision of whether to recuse oneself is up to the individual. Buscetto declined to sit out the executive session and said he would welcome an investigation into Ackley’s complaints.

“It’s truly unfortunate that the chief feels this way and had to take the stage at the City Council level…Anyone can come up here and make accusations and some accusations, obviously are not true,” he said.

Martin Olsen, who is an in the upcoming election, said Ackley’s allegations “disappoint me to no end.” He said he was also concerned that an agreement was negotiated without the knowledge of the council, and complimented Ackley for her time as chief of the department.

“I’ve enjoying working with you,” he said. “I think you’ve done an outstanding job for the city of New London.”

Rob Pero, who was as the party’s mayoral candidate in July, said he was worried that the pending litigation may compromise the terms of the agreement and its potential savings.

“I’m sure a lot of people in the public will be concerned,” he said.

The council voted unanimously to make the agreement with Ackley public. In another unanimous vote, it agreed to send an item to “discuss and act upon the implications of the recently disclosed April 2011 agreement(s) between the administration and police chief” to the Administration Committee for further discussion.

Ackley has been with the New London Police Department since 1986, holding the rank of supernumerary police officer, patrol officer, detective, sergeant, lieutenant, and captain. She also holds a master’s degree in public administration and graduated from the FBI National Academy. Ackley is the first woman to be the New London police chief, and was sworn in on June 26, 2009.

Ackley had not filed any civil complaint with the as of Wednesday morning. According to records there, she is currently joining the city in a suit against the Freedom of Information Commission and Pamela Walsh of Quaker Hill, appealing the commission’s finding that the police department erred when it told Walsh it would need to charge a fee to release additional audio records beyond a CD that was provided to her. Ackley is also named, along with the city and six police officers, in a suit filed by Eric Stiggle charging unreasonable force in an April 2010 arrest. That suit has been transferred to federal court.

Wayne Vendetto August 25, 2011 at 01:37 AM
Patch beats The Day to the punch again!
Kathleen Mitchell August 25, 2011 at 01:40 AM
This was a long time coming and I, for one, am glad that the public finally has the opportunity to know what our chief has been subjected to.
Carrie Lesage August 25, 2011 at 02:14 AM
Nice job Pero for the the political smoke screen. WHAT ARE THE DETAILS OF HER CONTRACT? Where is that?????? I saw on TV she wants a $270,000 payout ??? Are you kidding me?? She is the the Police Chief, GROW UP!!!!!!!
Kathleen Mitchell August 25, 2011 at 02:37 AM
I am simply amazed that people would continue to blame this intolerable situation that has existed between the Chief of Police in New London and Councilor Mike Buscetto on anything other than what it is-the interference in the internal working of our police department, with a resultant negative impact on our city, by an elected city official. That is, and has been, totally unacceptable. The chief's possible retirement is not about a payout, political smoke screens or state pensions. It's about what and who caused any one of these things to even be a consideration.
Sharon Fields August 25, 2011 at 02:51 AM
I am curious as to why there was no coverage or discussion on how we've arrived at this point. It was revealed that Chief Ackley negotiated this contract in Jan, signed it in March, and now in August is claiming unethical behavior. Anyone that has dealt with personnel issues before knows it must be documented every step of the way to have any credibility or merit. Clearly we must dig deeper into these allegations and more importantly, motives. How is it that this is the first we are hearing about her sentiments? I am all for justice and fairness but there are pieces to this puzzle still missing. I will wait for patch.com to do their due diligence in reporting this story.
Carol Dougherty August 25, 2011 at 03:05 AM
Sorry to see Chief Ackley I think she is a great police chief, as far as councilor Busscetto It does not surprise me.
Kathleen Mitchell August 25, 2011 at 03:05 AM
I find it difficult, if not impossible, to believe that anyone living in this area or, at the very least, reading either the Patch or The Day of the outright hostility that has existed between Councilor Buscetto and Police Chief Ackley since the day she was hired over Buscetto's choice, Lt. Dittman. The only difference between the way this hostility was handled was that Councilor Buscetto made his antagonism against the chief a matter of public record, and often, while Chief Ackley brought her complaints about Buscetto to the proper officials.
Sean McCaslin August 25, 2011 at 03:35 AM
I think Chief Margaret Ackley's record with the department speaks for itself. She has conducted herself with transparency for 25 yrs. And Mr. Buscetto? Who is he, a lifelong New London resident. So am I. So are a lot of people in this city. Big deal. Does that make what he says and does Gospel? I doubt that very much. Wake up people! Lots of political grand standing and smoke screens here. And dare I say lies and dishonesty. There's skeletons in the closets, so you better hope they're exposed before another potentially dirty politician gets elected to a very powerful office.
John Lynch August 25, 2011 at 07:47 AM
I never thought I would ever agree with anything you ever said Kathleen but I have to say I agree with you this time. I have talked to officers who trained under the chief when they were rookies and they said she was the best. Bussetto has disagreed with the Chief since she got the job. I guess she will get blamed for the officer shooting last night. I am willing to bet Mike will be on the radio claiming people are out to get him. What has he done for New London, build business in Waterford. I hope everything comes out before the election. Great job chief and maybe you can bring your talents to Waterford.
Kathleen Mitchell August 25, 2011 at 02:48 PM
Following your line of reasoning, Charlie Gordon, then Chief Ackley should do nothing more than sit around waiting to see if one of "her officers [should become] involved in a shooting..." How absolutely absurd. As the story continues to unfold, it has been a few of these officers, with the prompting of Councilor Buscetto, that has caused this situation to begin with-a situation, I might add, that many residents have found, and continue to find, unacceptable and not at all what an elected official should be involving himself in.
wtfdres August 25, 2011 at 06:46 PM
I know there is a lot of information to take in, but I don't think it was that difficult to follow. Let's see, it was kept a secret because there was a confidentiality agreement in the interest of department "stability". Both parties have waived their rights in that agreement and now we are hearing about it. The Chief is not looking for a "payout", but she has accumulated a lot of paid time that she should be compensated for. As far as the incident on the corner of Jefferson yesterday, that occured at 4:40ish. The reponse was tremendous and swift. The meeting was not until later and I am sure that the department can function and perform their assigned duties without the Chief holding their hand. Thankfully, the NLPD does not come to a standstill when something of this nature occurs. She was in a scheduled meeting and it was business as usual at the station. (and on Jefferson/Bank)
Carrie Czerwinski August 25, 2011 at 07:48 PM
I am astounded that Councilor Buscetto refused to recuse himself. It seems like just another way of attempting to continue the heavy handed control he is accused of. If he has nothing to hide, and all of this is nonsense, then why did he need to remain in the midst of it? Something smells rotten in this scenario.
Johnny Habanero August 26, 2011 at 03:38 AM
Who needs a circus to come to town, we already have one with the city council and the weekly antics. What a bunch of crap. Maybe Iron Mike needs to focus his efforts on something else other then politics. What were all these unions promised to endorse Mike for Mayor anyways?
Fr. Russ Carmichael August 27, 2011 at 02:23 PM
What bothers me most, is who the attacker are, toward Michael Buscetto at this particular time? Ms. Mitchell, running for office of mayor; Finizio, running for office of mayor... Buscetto is and elected councilman; he has a right to question the Chief and her subordinates, it is his job. I do not give a carp if she likes it or not... Police work for us the citizens and they have to know this... Why did Ackley, attack him (Buscetto) now just before the primary? Why is Finizio saying he'll keep her? When he should not even know what all the issues are with Mike and the Chief...
FedUP August 31, 2011 at 06:51 PM
Ackley is the most unethical and vindictive person you will ever meet. Don't ever challenge her she will seek revenge. I applaud Mike Buscetto for asking the tough questions, after all, he is the Public Safety Chair. I would expect nothing less from him. Keep up the great work Mike!
Kathleen Mitchell August 31, 2011 at 08:49 PM
FedUP-Would I be right in assuming that either (1) You have been arrested or (2) You are one of the few disgruntled cops who have chosen to write using nom de guerres?
jjmjr August 31, 2011 at 09:16 PM
Carrie, I am assuming that if someone was accussing you of something, true or not, that you would just go home and not want to here what you are being accussed of and/or be present to dispute it? WOW? I neither been arrested, or a police officer nor work or volunteer for Mike, just a concerned taxpayer reading the drama! This city needs a contract with ABC they got rid of all my children, maybe we can have "LIFE AND TIMES IN N.L.".
jjmjr August 31, 2011 at 09:22 PM
I don't think the issues between the chief and council have anything to do with the shooting, Nlpd did thier job well on Jefferson and bank, NO officers were hurt, Chief has a Deputy who was there, chief does not have to go to every call unless she don't trust her staff, SO, not being there is NOT a problem for most people, DON'T mix ISSUES!!!!!!!!!
Fr. Russ Carmichael August 31, 2011 at 09:57 PM
I do not get the accumulated time? Isn't she on salary? A salaried worker? She is not on hourly pay? For those, that do not understand; you work one hour a week, you get the same pay as a week you work 65 hours...

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