State Police Brass Rebuked
Top Managers Accused Of Retaliation Against Trooper Who Blew Whistle On Internal Affairs
May 10, 2007
By TRACY GORDON FOX, Hartford Courant Staff Writer
A principal whistleblower in the state police internal affairs investigation was harassed, retaliated against and ostracized by high-ranking managers because of his claims against the agency, according to a report released Wednesday.
The 21-page report on Sgt. Andrew Matthews, released Wednesday by Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's office, followed by a federal lawsuit filed an hour later, accuses top state police managers of retaliation, including Lt. William Padgorski, chief of staff for Col. Thomas Davoren; and Maj. Christopher Arciero, who now commands the department's central district. The lawsuit names former State Police Col. Edward Lynch and Blumenthal, apparently because he took months to investigate the allegations and release the final report.
Blumenthal's investigation found that not only was Matthews subjected to a hostile work environment, but he was punitively transferred around the agency, including to one location that could have put him in danger from other officers whom he had reported on.
Matthews is "an unsung and scorned hero within the Connecticut State Police who dared to speak out about corruption among his fellow officers, and was thereafter harassed, intimidated and ostracized within his department," said his attorney, Norman Pattis.
The latest round of stinging criticism for the state police will be one of the first major challenges for Commissioner John A. Danaher III, who was sworn in several months ago.
"He just received the report," said Lt. J. Paul Vance, state police spokesman. "He is going to review it in its entirety. He takes any allegations very seriously and he is going to speak to all parties involved before he makes any final decisions."
Gov. M. Jodi Rell is also reviewing the report, said Rich Harris, a Rell spokesman. "She has asked Commissioner Danaher to take a careful look at the attorney general's recommendations, and to keep her fully informed of any action he takes, and any developments that arise as a result of this report."
In the report, Blumenthal recommended that state police establish a small group of managers to work with Matthews to determine where in the agency he should work, and that any time off he incurred because he feared a hostile work environment be credited to him.
He also recommended that Podgorski and Arciero "be removed from any further involvement" with Matthews. Podgorski, who was Lynch's chief of staff, and remained in the position when Davoren took over, "has been the prime management agent in many significant personnel actions involving Sgt. Matthews," according to the report.
Blumenthal urged state police managers to follow policies that protect, not punish whistleblowers.
Matthews, who had been an investigator within the internal affairs unit, began providing Blumenthal's office with information as a whistleblower in the summer of 2005. A short time later, he received a handwritten note stating in large block letters, "Cancer."
Matthews complained to the attorney general about problems within the unit, and the practice of covering up the misconduct of fellow officers. The conduct included the commission of crimes, driving while intoxicated, family violence, and misuse of state funds.
Many of those cases were highlighted in a lengthy, highly critical report on the internal affairs unit released in December by the attorney general and the New York State Police. Some are still under internal or criminal investigation.
A short time after the department learned he had made those complaints, Matthews was transferred to a risk management unit at state police headquarters in the summer of 2005, a move that Blumenthal said occurred "with the intent to watch him."
Later, the department tried to transfer him to an office at Brainard Field, the same location where interviews were being held on criminal investigations into actions by state troopers because of Matthews' allegations. Blumenthal's investigation said that "posed a safety risk" to Matthews.
"It appears that the proposed transfer of Sgt. Matthews to Brainard Field would have exposed [him] to a hostile and possibly dangerous work environment," the report said.
He was then transferred to the mailroom adjacent to the lobby of the forensic laboratory, but was informed he could not go inside the lab.
Blumenthal said his investigation of Matthews' claims of retaliation included interviewing 18 witnesses under oath. State troopers and former Public Safety Commissioner Leonard C. Boyle were among those interviewed.
Witnesses indicated that Lynch, who retired in December, referred to Matthews as "a problem child," whom he wanted to keep careful tabs on.
Blumenthal said in his report that the department should provide "Matthews with protection, respect and institutional appreciation for his acts of public service."
Pattis said he decided to name Blumenthal in his lawsuit because "he's had that complaint on his desk for at least six weeks. He kept Andy in harm's way longer."
He also said he found it too coincidental that Blumenthal released the report right after he was told a lawsuit was being filed.
Blumenthal said Matthews "must take whatever action he feels is appropriate to serve his interests."
"I have a job to do and I'm doing it," Blumenthal said.
Contact Tracy Gordon Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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