Should cops not be fired for any reasons?
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East Hampton's Dismissal Of Police Chief Causes Statewide Stir
By BILL LEUKHARDT, firstname.lastname@example.org The Hartford Courant
9:55 p.m. EDT, June 24, 2010
EAST HAMPTON — —
Police chiefs across Connecticut are voicing concern that East Hampton violated state labor laws by the sudden layoff Tuesday of veteran police Chief Matthew Reimondo for what the town manager says are budgetary reasons.
Lisa Maruzo-Bolduc, president of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, said Thursday, "I've received calls from chiefs across the state. We're concerned that this might violate just cause statutes, which are in place to insulate police chiefs from political interference."
Maruzo-Bolduc, who is also chief of the Willimantic Police Department, called Reimondo's removal "unprecedented."
Meanwhile, Reimondo said Thursday that he has hired Leon Rosenblatt, the West Hartford lawyer who helped Cromwell's police chief retain his job after a political dust-up in 2008. Reimondo says he is going to fight his dismissal.
The law enforcement veteran — Reimondo has been on the East Hampton force for 25 years, the last 12 as chief — disputes Town Manager Jeffrey O'Keefe's contention that Reimondo's layoff is to save the town money. Reimondo says his removal is retaliation for turning over to the town attorney sexual harassment complaints made by three female town employees against O'Keefe.
Rosenblatt said Thursday that O'Keefe and the town council erred by not having the proceedings to cut the job in an open meeting, as is Reimondo's right under state law. Rosenblatt said the meeting that stripped Reimondo of his position was therefore illegal and must be held again.
O'Keefe said he cut the budget for the $99,000-a-year chief's job as part of a reorganization of the 17-member department to bring it more into line with departments in surrounding towns, which have no chief. The savings will help the town, which he said faces a potential budget shortfall because of declining revenue during the national recession.
The council voted in an open meeting Tuesday on a severance offer to Reimondo — reportedly six months of pay. Reimondo said he would not accept it. He is now home and not working because the layoff was effective immediately.
The sudden elimination of the police chief position has been a major news story in the state since Tuesday. On Thursday afternoon, O'Keefe issued a statement, clarifying what he said are inaccuracies in reporting.
Reimondo was not fired; rather his position was cut as part of a restructuring of the town police department, O'Keefe said. The decision to cut the post was solely his, O'Keefe added, and a result of his professional responsibility to control town finances.
He said the town may look into creating a director of public safety in the future to oversee police, fire and ambulance services, which would make "a lot more sense than just having a chief of police." But that issue would be a town policy decision to be made by the council, he said.
He also said that Reimondo was given the opportunity to have a public meeting Tuesday but declined. O'Keefe said he expects Reimondo to "invoke his right" for a re-opened hearing.
Also Thursday, Martha Perego, director of ethics for the 9,000-member International City/County Management Association in Washington, D.C., said situations involving charges of retaliation make it imperative for professional managers to be careful when eliminating jobs.
"It is absolute that lots of local governments are looking for ways to save money by consolidation, cuts and other means," Perego said. "Almost every state is facing significant financial problems, which means less money for local governments."
Speaking in general terms after reading a news account of the East Hampton situation, Perego said managers can make job cuts if the move is in the best interest of the town. But trimming a job to "get rid of a thorn in your side" is unethical and can cause problems that can land both sides in civil court, she said.
Reimondo has said his layoff is a result of harassment complaints brought by three female town employees against O'Keefe. Reimondo received the complaints and turned them over to town attorney Jean D'Aquila for review. An investigation by a lawyer hired by the town for that probe could find no evidence to support the claims, and town officials say they consider the case closed.
Rosenblatt said the town needs to establish grounds to terminate the chief and that the reorganization of the police department is "phony" because the towns that O'Keefe is using as models have resident state troopers and constables.
In the Cromwell case in February 2008, First Selectman Jeremy Shingleton fired veteran police Chief Anthony Salvatore for refusing his order to get rid of the department captain, the second in command.
After two days, Shingleton changed the firing into a suspension. Salvatore, who hired Rosenblatt to help him, was able to return to work within a week. The captain remained on the job and the issue subsided.
Copyright © 2010, The Hartford Courant
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There will be no need for lawyers and police can do as they please in the new US Police State if McCain and Lieberman get the legislation they propose to pass: