Mounting cost of Meriden police probe includes $113,000 for officer
MERIDEN — Costs continue to pile up in the city’s ongoing investigation of alleged favoritism and misconduct in the Police Department, with the majority of bills likely still to come.
It has been just over a year since officers Donald Huston and Brian Sullivan sent a pair of letters to City Manager Lawrence J. Kendzior claiming that certain members of the department, including Chief Jeffry Cossette’s son, Officer Evan Cossette, received minimal or no punishment for alleged brutality and other transgressions. The letter sparked investigations by the FBI, state police and attorney Thomas V. Daily, who was hired by the city to conduct an independent probe.
Evan Cossette has maintained his innocence, and on Wednesday, his attorney James Tallberg challenged the credibility of three men — Pedro Temich, Robert Methvin and Joseph Bryans — who have accused Evan Cossette of brutality.
“The parties claiming unreasonable force were so drunk that they are unable to accurately report what happened. Their stories will not withstand the scrutiny of cross-examination,” he said. “We’re not going to try our case in the press, but Officer Cossette is a dedicated public servant who will be vindicated in a court of law.”
As he waits for the results of the various investigations, Cossette has been assigned to administrative duty within the department, where he receives more than $900 per week additional in overtime pay, despite working the standard 40 hours per week.
The extra pay comes thanks to a provision in the police union contract that makes him entitled to receive the average overtime he received over the previous 26 weeks before he was placed on desk duty.
Evan Cossette has earned a total of $113,101 from April 19, 2011 — when Kendzior ordered him taken off patrol duty — through the end of March, according to figures provided by City Hall. That breaks down to $64,361 in base pay and $48,140 in overtime payments, plus a $600 certification bonus. Until his status changes, overtime shifts that previously belonged to Cossette are being worked by other officers.
As of February, less than $60,000 of the $900,000 allotted for police overtime this year remained in the account. The department has routinely overspent its overtime allowance in recent years, although Chief Cossette has always managed to offset the overages and keep his budget in the black.
At a police budget hearing before the Finance Committee on Tuesday, Kendzior attributed an increase in this year’s overtime expenses to the strife within the department.
"This year will be an unusual year with more overtime budgeted than would normally be used. The reason for that is an outgrowth of complaints against the department from officers Sullivan and Huston,” he said. “Hopefully, by the new year, the situation is dealt with and over with.”
Another significant expense stems from the report being compiled by Daily. Kendzior said he expects to receive a draft of the report in the next four to six weeks. The exact cost of that report remains unclear.
After being hired in April 2011, Daily billed the city $38,828 for his work through early July of that year. In the nine months since, however, the city has not received any other invoices, according to City Attorney Deborah Moore.
As of Feb. 14, the city had $425,261 left in an account for legal expenses, and Kendzior said he did not believe paying Daily would put any strain on the budget.
“It would need to be much larger than what I anticipated,” he said.