The City Council briefly discussed the status of matters discussed in executive session last week, but kept the content of that meeting confidential on Monday.
In a , the council deliberated for two and a half hours on a single agenda item specifying that the discussion was about the employment of Chief Margaret Ackley of the but not her performance or evaluation. Ackley, who is still employed by the city, declined to have the scheduled executive session open to the public.
Ackley was accompanied during the executive session by her attorney, Shelley Graves. Prior to the session, Graves asked Councilor Michael Buscetto III to recuse himself from the discussion; he refused. Ackley, councilors, and city law director Thomas Londregan declined comment after that meeting, although Londregan read a statement declaring that there is an agreement between Ackley and City Manager Denise Rose with confidentiality provisions.
Councilor Rob Pero said Monday that the council wants to explain why it went into the session in order to dispel rumors. He said a special meeting should be called as soon as possible to resolve the matter once it becomes possible to do so.
“I think it just continues on with a crisis that isn’t meant to be a crisis,” he said.
Londregan said he is meeting with Ackley and Graves on Wednesday, with the discussion to include a request for information on the session under the Freedom of Information Act. He said he is of the opinion that the withholding of information on the discussions does not constitute a violation of the act.
“I don’t want you reading something in the newspaper before I meet with you,” Londregan told the council.
Olsen said he was concerned with the uncertainty over whether or not Ackley has a contract with the city. Londregan responded, “It could be a draft.” He said such a document could be kept private if it is in its preliminary stages and dealing with finances. Londregan added that Ackley essentially has the job “for life” unless she resigns or is fired for cause.
Rose said the only individual employment contracts for municipal employees are for Deputy Chief Marshall Segar and herself. She said personnel polices, including some in place to comply with state or federal guidelines and address liability issues, apply to all municipal employees but may be modified by union contracts.
“The police chief generally follows the police contract,” said Rose. “There may be some variations with regard to different aspects.”
Two residents spoke in support of Ackley during the meeting’s public comment section. Evelyn Louziotis said she wanted to know what had happened at the meeting and why Buscetto had been asked to recuse himself.
“We are taxpayers and we ought to know what’s going on in New London,” she said.
“I think she’s done a phenomenal job, and I’m so glad to have a woman in that position,” Sara Chaney said of Ackley. “I think it’s really elevated the town.”
Londregan declined comment after the meeting.
“Right now on this issue, it’s going to have to wait,” he said.
Ackley, the first woman to be police chief in New London, has been with the department since 1986. She was sworn into the office on June 26, 2009.