Report: Former New Britain Police Captain Guilty Of 'Egregious' Misconduct
Commander Was At Berlin Motels On City Time
July 25, 2012
By DON STACOM
The Hartford Courant
NEW BRITAIN — — Before retiring under pressure last winter, police Capt. Anthony Paventi had rented rooms at a Berlin Turnpike motel so many times that one desk clerk had gotten to recognize his cruiser in the back parking lot.
Paventi was on the city clock during 15 of those occasions — including twice when he was being paid overtime, according to a police department internal investigation released Tuesday afternoon.
During several of those times, Paventi was having sex with women while on duty, the report said. Investigators also concluded that Paventi, the $95,000-a-year captain of professional standards, repeatedly lied when confronted with evidence of his misconduct.
"Captain Anthony Paventi's behavior is egregious," the internal affairs report concluded. "The conduct has brought discredit to Captain Paventi and the New Britain Police Department."
Paventi, 42, retired at the end of December after serving as part of a deeply troubled command staff that ruled the department during years of scandals and internal unrest.
Acting Police Chief James Wardwell, who has been working to rebuild the department since taking charge July 1, condemned Paventi's conduct. But he emphasized that it doesn't reflect the rest of the agency.
"I apologize to all the citizens we serve for this behavior, and I'm committed to see it doesn't happen again. It isn't representative of the good men and women I'm proud to work with," Wardwell said. "We put on our uniform every day and choose to do the right thing."
Joseph McQuade, the attorney who has represented Paventi in his efforts to keep the internal affairs report secret, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Police began investigating last August after a woman said in a court deposition that she and Paventi repeatedly had consensual sex while he was on duty as a patrol officer more than 10 years earlier.
She cited an encounter on the hood of a patrol car in Martha Hart Park and another when he was assigned to work security at a parochial school festival.
Wardwell and Sgt. Christopher Chute interviewed a second woman who reported having on-duty sex with Paventi over the course of his career — and as recently as July 2011. She described him arriving for their meetings in a variety of police vehicles, included a marked SUV and two unmarked Ford Tauruses.
"As I followed Tony's career and saw he was promoted to captain and placed in charge of 'professional standards,' I thought how inappropriate this is," she told investigators.
Paventi was put on administrative leave in mid-September, and then-Mayor Timothy Stewart vowed that the matter would be resolved before he left office. But Paventi was still collecting $1,800 a week on paid leave when Tim O'Brien became mayor six weeks later.
In the interim, Wardwell turned in a 75-page report concluding that Paventi was guilty of insubordination, conduct unbecoming an officer, ethical violations and untruthfulness in an investigation.
The report noted that Paventi denied any misconduct, and maintained that he didn't know one of the women at all. It also acknowledged that investigators could not prove he was with women during most of his on-duty motel room rentals.
But it concluded that he checked into the Days Inn in Berlin a total of 15 times when he was simultaneously supposed to be working as a New Britain police commander.
A clerk at the motel said that Paventi had checked in so often that he'd come to recognize his unmarked police car, which he routinely parked in an inconspicuous spot behind a tree in the rear lot. Records showed that Paventi listed the address of police headquarters when registering.
There's no indication that Stewart or then-Chief William Gagliardi sought a criminal investigation, even though Wardwell's report noted that additional evidence could be turned up with a search warrant.
The city faces a difficult situation with Paventi because he is a defendant and possible witness in a series of federal lawsuits by female former officers.
The city, Gagliardi and Capt. Dennis Beatty are also defendants. The women claim that they were victims of sex discrimination, and one alleges that Paventi harassed her with "personal" text messages. She contends that Gagliardi wouldn't investigate, and instead punished her for suing.
Under O'Brien's administration, lawyers negotiated a retirement contract that stipulates that the city would keep the internal affairs report secret. It also required Paventi to help defend against the lawsuits. Paventi left with a $51,000-a-year pension and a $105,000 payout for accumulated vacation and sick time.
The Courant has been pursuing a freedom of information complaint to obtain the report since December, and won a preliminary decision earlier this month. The city released a redacted version Tuesday afternoon — a day before the FOI commission's final ruling is expected.
Wardwell met with officers at the afternoon roll call to advise them.
"I said, 'You need to hear this bad news from me,'" Wardwell said Tuesday evening. "I can understand citizens being upset with what happened. But we're trying to forge a new path forward."
"This was a very difficult investigation to do, but there was no difficulty in determining right from wrong."