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Hearing Seeks Removal of Police Commissioners

East Haven Attorney Frank J. Kolb, who serves as the town's labor attorney, has sent a letter to three commissioners notifying them he is seeking their removal from the board for "just cause."

UPDATE at 2 p.m.

It appears that it will continue to remain unclear under what authority — and under who's direction, if any, at Town Hall — East Haven attorney Frank Kolb has taken action seeking the removal of Police Commission Chairman Joseph Civtello, Vice-Chairman Carl Perez and commissioner Frank Piergrossi for "just cause."

East Haven Patch has received a written statement from Mayor Joseph Maturo Jr in response to our questions and request for comment regarding the upcoming just cause hearing.

The following is Mayor Maturo's response in full:

"Since this matter is in the hands of counsel for the Town of East Haven, it would be imprudent for me to comment extensively. However, I would like to assure our residents that the Town is working with all of the proper officials and agencies to ensure that this issue is handled properly and professionally in the best interests of our community.”

UPDATE at 11:30 a.m.

East Haven Patch has also confirmed Ed Foley of East Haven Politics' earlier report that the three commissioners who are the subject of the removal hearing are seeking a court order to block next week's scheduled hearing from taking place.

UPDATE at 11:15 a.m.

A short time ago East Haven Patch called the Mayor's Office seeking comment for this story. However, we were told the mayor was stepping out the door at that time to attend a meeting away from Town Hall.

Additionally, an email sent by East Haven Patch following up on that phone call was not immediately returned.

UPDATE at 9:45 a.m.

Attorny Kolb responded to East Haven Patch's request for comment on this story with the following written statement. It appear below in full:

"Because this matter is in the nature of pending litigation l will not make a specific comment except to say that the citizens of the town of East Haven are entitled to have members of boards discharge their duties in the best interests of the town according to law and for those appointed not to pursue their individual or politically motivated agendas to the detriment of the citizens of the Town of East Haven."

UPDATE at 8:30 a.m.

Ed Foley reports this morning on his blog East Haven Politics that three police commissioners who are the subject of the removal hearing will ask for court injunction to stop it from taking place.

In his post "Police Commissioners Removal" he writes:

"My sources are telling me the Capone appointees to the Board of Police Commissioners are going to be asking a judge for an injunction to stop the removal hearing from going forward on Tuesday, the 17th."

In addition, Foley reported yesterday that attorney Kolb's letter has been forwarded to the U.S. Justice Department.

In his post "Mayor Wants To Remove Police Commissioners," Foley states:

"One of the Commissioners has informed me the letter has been forwarded to the US Department of Justice since the three Commissioners feel this is an act of retaliation for their stance taken over Gallo and the ongoing DOJ investigation."

ORIGINAL STORY (Thursday at 5:58 a.m.)

East Haven Attorney who was as the town's labor lawyer by , has sent a letter to three Board of Police Commission members notifying them a hearing will be held to determine whether or not they should be removed from the board "for just cause."

The letter, which is dated April 4 and on the letter head of was sent to Police Commission Chairman Joseph Civtello, Vice-Chairman Carl Perez and commissioner Frank Piergrossi. Perez and Civitello are Democrats, while Piergrossi is unaffiliated.

All three men were members of the commission during the with former Police Chief Leonard Gallo in the wake of the f into alleged civil rights abuses by East Haven Police officers.

That investigation led to the for alleged violation of the civil rights of latino residents and others, as well as a "" critical of Gallo and some officers within the EHPD from the U.S. Justice Department.

The other two , who Kolb is not seeking removal, are both Republican appointments by Mayor Maturo: Lou Crisci and Jose Velasquez.

Crisici is also the former Republican Town Committee Chairman and Velasquez was also to serve on his East Haven Police Department

Kolb's letter is posted in the gallery that accompanies this article.

Public Hearing

In his letter, Kolb — as the for former Police Chief — states that a hearing will be take place on April 17, in the in the Mario Giamo Conference Room at , beginning at 7 p.m.

"At that time and date you shall have an opportunity to be heard in your own defense either personally or by counsel," Kolb states in his letter.

The hearing, which will be open to the public, will be presided over by an "impartial hearing officer," of North Haven.

It is unclear at this time in what capacity — and at who's, if anyone's, request at East Haven Town Hall — Kolb is taking this action against the three police commissioners.

East Haven Patch has placed an early morning call to the attorney's office, which has not yet been returned.

'The Issues'

Kolb then itemizes "the issues I intend to pursue leading to your dismissal" from the commission. They are as follows:

  1. Ultra vires acts in forming an consisting of Former Police Commissioners Fred Brow and James Krebs
  2. Ultra vires activities in and continuing to use of Attorney for the Board without first making a request of Joseph Zullo, Town Attorney, for conflict-free counsel,
  3. Your unwillingness to work with or communicate with any counsel for the Town.
  4. Generally acting in a manner detrimental to the Police Department.
  5. Generally not fulfilling the duties of your appointed position.
  6. Acting in a manner so as to interfere with the administration of justice.
  7. Making rules and regulations in inconsistent with Chapter IV, Section 7 (A) of the .

Kolb then states that if any of the three commissioners do not attend the hearing, it will be held "in abesentia," or in their absence.

East Haven Patch will continue to update this story as it develops and more information becomes available.

[Editor's Note: Due to an error in the town-generated list of board & commission members (http://patch.com/N-dvsx), Mr. Crisci was incorrectly identified as police commission chairman. Mr. Civitello is, in fact, currently serving as chair.)

Richard Poulton April 13, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Rosie that is a great question. In my time in law enforcement, and working with numerous other cities & town departments, and talking with brother officers, it was the commom practice of the municipal leader to pick lay persons to sit on such a board. This was done so the commission members will have an open mind, not be influenced by personal history, involvement with officers still on the job, etc.. It is my opinion and I remind you mine only, that installing retired officers as police commissioners especially ones from the same department is a really bad idea. Maybe one living in the city or town, but was on a different department would work.. But when you have the majority of members from the same department, grudges are there - but hiden. You asked me and thats my opinion. So I don't think it is a good practice.
Richard Poulton April 13, 2012 at 05:14 PM
Yesterday, "truth be known", in the second comment posted, accused the mayor of trying take republican control of the board. I suggest he read the law, that allows for "majority" representaion to all boards and commissions. The PC has 5 members, 4 of which by law can come from the majority in power at that time. Thats why times of terms on B & C's are staggered so no one party can control any B or C upon being elected. Right now two of the named PC members have term expiration in Feb 2014, while one expires in Feb 2013. April Capone did the same thing when terms were up, putting her "people" on the B. This is nothing new.
Richard Poulton April 13, 2012 at 05:17 PM
I know someone is going to say he doesn't want to wait that long. I don't know his reason(s) and neither does anyone else posting on the Patch. But in Feb 2013 he can appoint another (R) and take control.
Rosie April 13, 2012 at 07:21 PM
Thank you Mr. Poulton, that certainly makes sense. I hadn't thought of that aspect of it...I would assume like any other work place there are personality conflicts and such, so it probably would not work. Thank you for an honest, no nonsense answer. It certainly is refreshing.
Sam Giglio April 13, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Richard you are so right what you just said. When April was Mayor she appointed who she wanted and Maturo can do the same WHEN THERE TERM IS UP. So why can't he wait instead of us going through this action. Bad press, more Money for his Attorney, other burden on the Tax Payer. Only in East Haven would this take place. I will file an FOI and see what the Attorneys will be paid.
Sam Giglio April 13, 2012 at 07:52 PM
I wish I was a younger Man I would run for Mayor of this Town and put together a group of Pepole who would work the the Good Town of East Haven, I would never ask who they supported in the pass, But only what you would do in the future.for this Community.
Sam Giglio April 13, 2012 at 07:54 PM
Sorry ment to say for the Good of the Town. I always hit the wrong keys.
Real Deal April 13, 2012 at 08:39 PM
Ann, Not to step in here but the fact is that mayor Joe Maturo put those officers on paid administrative leave. it was never a police board matter.
Real Deal April 13, 2012 at 08:41 PM
that's irrelevant rich as in thiscase the terms aren't up. big diference there buddy.
Norm Brody April 13, 2012 at 10:32 PM
Gee, maybe the proceeds from the sale of the old high school to a developer will be enough to cover the legal costs to the town? Just a thought.......
Richard Poulton April 13, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Come on Sam, how old could you be. You have a lot of wisdom in your years, why not. It maybe good for all. Hitting the wrong keys is a problem we all face, don't worry about it my friend.
Ann Della Camera April 13, 2012 at 11:45 PM
Real Deal, Thank you for the correction. Its nice to get some proper answers on this string I stand correced and appreciate the way you informed me. Nice not to be called a name for once.
CitizenVoice April 14, 2012 at 03:38 AM
Not surprised, just saddened.
CitizenVoice April 14, 2012 at 04:40 AM
The attempt to "Target" (from NH Register headline) members of the Board of Police Commissioners is so wrong on so many levels. Even if this wasn't a premeditated act of retaliation (which it is) and there was just cause to dismiss these men (which there isn't), it certainly has the appearance of something shady and vindictive. When you add this to the already severely tarnished reputation of the Maturo administration, thus East Haven in general over the past few months, it becomes an ever-increasing deterioration of our town. I know of 8 confirmed and 3 seriously-thinking-about-it residents who are selling and moving out of here for precisely this reason. ELECTIONS MATTER!! All of those people who didn't bother to vote this last election day because they got complacent and thought April already had it "in the bag," woke up to the shock of their lives the next morning. All it took was 34 votes to turn this town back to the future. Well the future is here now and there are 19 months left to what so far has been a nightmare. As I see it, we have two choices: We can either waste this time crying over the bad hand that was dealt to us, or we can start a strong push to do what only voters have the power to do. ELECTIONS MATTER!! "Don't it always seem to go, you don't know what you've got til its gone." (Joni Mitchell)
Real Deal April 14, 2012 at 01:37 PM
The most important thing to realize here is the damage that you or anyone spreading misinformation can do I know you didn't mean it but the mayor has put these officers on paid administrative leave -resident tax dollars He retired Gallo with roughlyan extra 100000 -resident tax dollars he paid Kolb who is a labor attorney so not sure why he's even involved to write this ridiculous letter to the commissioners (resident tax dollars) and he hired Cella to hear this case -resident tax dollars. While the case is heard the attorney I asume Kolb will be getting paid -resident tax dollars. In the mean time its not even a real case against the commissioners they have terms and thats that. the budget needed to go qccomodate this chief payout plus the legal fees for this admin to play games. To me that means we paid for Galo and we are going to pay for this administration to get their lawyers paid. That doesn't leave town people benefiting at all It leaves us pqying heavy. At least the commision asked Gallo be terminated to the mayor to avoid all those extra dollars plus the benefits he walked away with. I know you support myr Maturo but these things he is doing are wrong and very expensive to this town. at this rate I afraid east haven will be a bankrupt town.
ASmith April 14, 2012 at 02:15 PM
he he. I takes a vacation and comes back and looka here. More foolish entertainment for the folks inother towns at our tax dollar expense. Cant make this stuff up. I gonna contact Hollywood bout doin a reality show. East Haven Shore Real Politicians of East Haven. I thinks the real target of this is that there lady attorney,Miss Patty.They really hate her want her out of everythin. Why rememer when she was a made the town attorney. Old Zullo went nuts. thought that job was his. now he has lill Zullo doin the dirty work through Kolb. that Miss Patty, puttin the sign on her lawn, showin up at the tc meetin tryin to stop what they is a plannin with the old high school, helpin the old guys on that police board. gots them spittin nails. gots to get rid of her or folks might start listen to her and thats not what they want. joe afraid of the press to do it hisself, old Zullo dont want the bad publicity for his firm, cons Kolb into doin their dirty work. Let him look the fool get the bad press. Let it hurt his business. Sheez. These guys are a piece of work. Miss Patty been sittin there for 6 months. 8 more months to go. is they afraid of what that 8 months bring. Perez gots his own problems. But those other two, so far they done nothin illegal. Yet Kolb is accussin them of breakin laws. Mighty nasty charges to make against folks. If he cant prove it, he may need a lawyer for makin false claims against them. More en likely they will file suit against him.On and on we go$$$
James April 15, 2012 at 12:39 AM
Back to the future is exactly where we landed in November Joe got his old job back They informed him no more double dipping Joe hired a lawyer Can it possibly be true He put the high school up for sale ignoring what the voters wanted Now he is looking to see if the Town Counsel had the right to let the town vote on its future use Now he wants to remove the police commissioners from office When will he LEARN this is 2012 No more back room deals the press is every where Do what is best for the Town not just a chosen few as it was in the past
Dave Hausler April 15, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Kolb's second point, that the commission acted outside of its powers in appointing Patricia Cofrancesco to provide counsel, is contrary to the town charter. The town charter makes provision for boards to appoint their own counsel in Chapter 6, Section 1: "Any board or commission having approved funds may retain an attorney to represent such board or commission." If the Board of Police Commissioners sees a conflict of interest in the town attorney representing Chief Gallo, then it stands to reason they would seek alternate counsel, and the town charter supports them. Furthermore, it doesn't give me confidence in the town attorney that he is incorrectly citing the town charter in a public forum. There needs to be something more egregious than Kolb's points for acting to prematurely remove commissioners before the end of term. The town cannot afford the legal costs associated with another partisan battle between town officers.
CitizenVoice April 15, 2012 at 04:55 PM
With all due respect (don't you just hate it when a statement starts out that way), I think for the preapproval status to be effective, the site needs to be managed a lot faster. Otherwise, it will lose its spontaneity and become too cumbersome for the timely exchange of thoughts and ideas. Most other blogs I frequent only take a matter of minutes for approval, thus keeping the comment flow going smoothly. Is there any hope for this?
Julie Weisberg (Editor) April 15, 2012 at 06:45 PM
CitizenVoice: Thank you for your comment. I appreciate the feedback. The pre-approval option for article comments is, of course, something new for East Haven Patch. And so, we certainly are already working to develop best practices when it occasionally becomes necessary to employ its use on the site. And I know we'll find that middle ground as far as use as we move forward... In the meantime, with most submitted comments staying on topic and within our terms of use since the move to pre-approval, I have switched this article back to auto approval. Just FYI.
Richard Poulton April 15, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Dave, you left out one very important part of the charter requirement you quoted. It furher states " with approval of the Town Council". That was not done. The PC made up its mind to hire their attorney, who has an extreme conflict of interest in all this herself, way back during the December 5, 2011 meeting. Read item 5 in those minutes . This was way before all this stated to happen.
Ann Della Camera April 16, 2012 at 02:12 AM
Real Deal. correct me if I am wrong,but wasn't that done before the election. Suspending of Gallo and than the other officers. I am sure many will have a response to this,,, so please try hard not to be so nasty.
CitizenVoice April 16, 2012 at 02:27 AM
Thanks for the reply. I knew you would be on it. Managing a site like this can be a pain in the neck. I think you're doing a great job.
CitizenVoice April 16, 2012 at 02:39 AM
I believe Gallo was suspended by Capone a long time before the election. Maturo brought him back right after the election (within days), only so he could retire with pension. Many thought he should have been fired with no pension, instead of being alowed to retire with a lot more money and benefits. I don't think the police officers were suspended before the election but right after the indictment. I could be wrong on this one though, its hard to keep track of all the goings on. It all happened rather quickly right around when Maturo took office. It sure is a mess and you and I both know its gonna cost EH a lot of money which could have been put to a much better use.
Richard Poulton April 16, 2012 at 11:51 AM
CV, Spaulding was put on paid leave last summer over the Town Fair Tire incident. The others, along with Spaulding, were placed on administrative leave in January after being arrested by Feds.
Julie Weisberg (Editor) April 16, 2012 at 02:33 PM
Everyone: Tuesday's hearing has been postponed until May 1, according to press release from the Mayor's Office this morning  Story to follow later. Just FYI. 
CitizenVoice April 16, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Sure hope they get a bigger room. Much bigger.
CitizenVoice April 16, 2012 at 10:06 PM
Thanks Rich. I knew I didn't have it totally straight. Seemed like something bad was happening every day. Kind of reminds me of Phoenix, where I spend a lot of time (my daughter lives there). Between Brewer, their crazy governor, and that no-words-to-describe Sheriff Arpaio, and let's throw in Stephen Segal, the puppy killer, and you have a way bigger version of the clown show. We should consider ourselves lucky.
Norm Brody April 16, 2012 at 10:11 PM
Disclaimer: I too have a daughter in Phoenix & spend a lot of time out there as many of you know, but I am not "CitizenVoice". I do share his perspective though.

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