New Britain Chief's Son Won't Be Charged In Theft Case
By DON STACOM,
The Hartford Courant
7:05 PM EDT, June 1, 2012
NEW BRITAIN —
Southington police pulled the plug on an investigation into police Chief William Gagliardi's son last month after the city decided not to pursue charges related to the theft of a city-owned drill.
William Gagliardi Jr., 34, admitted to the theft in what city records describe as a "last chance" agreement that let him keep his job with the New Britain water department in exchange for a 20-day suspension.
Gagliardi Jr. told a Southington detective that he inadvertently took the drill out of a water department truck and brought it home, then couldn't figure out how to return it without being accused of theft, police records show.
He ended up auctioning it off on eBay for $137.50.
"Gagliardi (Jr.) said in a 'moment of weakness' and having been behind on his mortgage and bills, he decided to sell the water department drill on eBay for extra money," Sgt. Jay Suski wrote in a report after questioning him on May 3.
Suski broke off the investigation a week later when water department Director Gil Bligh said that New Britain didn't want to pursue it. Without the city's cooperation, Suski could not present a case to prosecutors, Southington police said.
"Bligh had been in contact with city officials and it has been decided the criminal charges against Gagliardi were NOT going to be pursued," Suski wrote in the case file, concluding "Wherefore, this investigation is closed with no arrest."
Simultaneously, the water department and personnel office conducted an internal probe that concluded Gagliardi Jr. had stolen the drill and also sold his still-in-the-box, city-issued Timberland safety boots on eBay for $55.
The city also quizzed him about the disappearance of other water department property: A portable Honda generator, a storage trailer and a 10-piece, $450 set of SnapOn wrenches that had been replaced with a cheap imported wrenches, documents show. Gagliardi Jr. emphatically denied having anything to do with those losses, though, and the suspension agreement that saved his job doesn't refer to them.
Mayor Tim O'Brien on Friday said the decision against pursuing criminal charges was consistent with how the city has handled similar situations in the past, and said he'd shown no favoritism.
"I treat all employees fairly and equitably. Nobody is getting treated differently than anybody else," O'Brien said.
Documents obtained by The Hartford Courant through Freedom of Information requests show the theft was the only the latest disciplinary issue involving Gagliardi Jr., who has clashed with supervisors – including water department Superintendent Ray Esponda - before.
The investigation began after Esponda began receiving anonymous tips in January that city equipment was being advertised on eBay by the seller "dodgeluv" based in Southington. In one of several memos to Personnel Director Karen Levine, Esponda asked in January how to proceed with a message that a water department worker had sold his brand-new safety boots on eBay.
'The Likely Candidate'
"I looked into our records and found the likely candidate," Esponda wrote. "I don't know if we have a policy or rule regarding this, but given the employee I don't think I should be involved."
Bligh took the matter to Southington police in March, partly because the eBay listing for the boots and for the drill identified "dodgeluv" as living in Southington. Bligh told detectives that Associate Corporation Counsel Mary Pokorski instructed him to approach them because the police chief's son was involved.
During the investigation, Suski got Gagliardi Jr. to acknowledge the drill theft. Gagliardi Jr.'s account was that he'd put personal clothing on top of a box in a city truck, then absent-mindedly took the box – with the drill inside - when he moved his clothes from the truck into his own vehicle. Gagliardi Jr. admitted selling the drill on eBay weeks later, according to Suski's report.
Bligh also told Southington police that Gagliardi Jr.'s name had come up two years earlier in connection with the theft of a chainsaw from a logging contractor's vehicle at the water department's office on Shuttle Meadow Road. Bligh said the chainsaw turned up when Gagliardi Jr. handed it to a coworker and asked if he could fix it; the coworker recognized it as the missing item and gave it back to the contractor. Gagliardi Jr.'s explanation to the water department was that he'd bought the saw from a pawnbroker, according to Bligh.
In connection with that 2009 incident, "Bligh stated that he contacted New Britain Police Chief William Gagliardi, who told him the building was in New Britain and NBPD would investigate it," Suski wrote in his report. "Bligh stated he was unsure of the outcome of that investigation."
City police never assigned a case number on that matter, typically a first step in any investigation. The police chief said by email Friday that "Mr. Bligh did call me. I referred him to Capt. Matt Tuttle, the head of investigations, as this matter involved a family member I could not become involved."
The water department gave Tuttle a summary of Clavette's complaint, and sent Clavette a letter advising him to call Tuttle. But city attorneys confirmed Friday that a search of police files showed no sign of any investigation. Tuttle shot himself to death 2011 after being arrested on drunken drunken driving charges following a hit-and-run crash.
Gagliardi, 65, announced on May 22 that he'll retire as chief on July 1, ending a 41-year career. Even though the final years of Gagliardi's administration were plagued by lawsuits, internal strife, scandals and a staffing crisis, O'Brien has declared he intends to name the new $39 million police headquarters after him.
Contacted at his Southington home Thursday night, Gagliardi Jr. declined comment.
His personnel file documents a three-day suspension for insubordination in 2009 and a one-day suspension last year.
In connection with the 2011 matter, Gagliardi Jr. told the city that Esponda had become enraged during a discussion and threatened him. Gagliardi Jr. also took his complaint to city police. Esponda denied the charge, though, and police made no arrest. The personnel department said it could not determine exactly what happened, according to city records.
"It appears that you continue to have issue following orders and respecting authority. This behavior will not be tolerated," Bligh wrote to Gagliardi Jr. in 2011. "You are advised that you must immediately improve your conduct in the performance of your duties."
Under the terms of the "last chance" agreement signed last month, Gagliardi Jr. is about halfway through his unpaid suspension and will return to his roughly $40,000-a-year job on June 12. He will be on a two-year probation when he can be fired – with no recourse through the courts or the labor board - for any act of insubordination, misconduct or hostile action toward coworkers.
"The employee has agreed not to take any action against or cause any undue stress to any city employee in retaliation for this discipline," reads the contact, which was signed May 10 by Gagliardi Jr., Levine, Bligh and Local 1186 President Michael Thompson. In it, Gagliardi Jr. admits to "conduct unbecoming a city employee."
The agreement carries no guarantee that any other worker in such circumstances would get the deal Gagliardi Jr. got, though. The union accepted a clause saying that the deal won't serve as a precedent for any other Local 1186 members.
Copyright © 2012, The Hartford Courant