Some councilors say attorney who probed Meriden PD should be available for questions
MERIDEN — It remains unclear whether the attorney who cleared the city and its police department of favoritism, nepotism and excessive force allegations last week will face city officials or the public to discuss his findings.
Since handing over his 44-page report on Thursday, Attorney Thomas V. Daily has made no public comments to the media, failing to return numerous calls. Daily has also not met with city councilors, and no public forum for residents has been scheduled.
City Manager Lawrence J. Kendzior said the city’s agreement with Daily, under which he was paid $60,000 through October of last year (a final bill has yet to arrive), did not require him to take questions on his findings, and that any interactions with the public or media would be at his discretion.
Several city councilors, however, said they believed Daily should have to answer for his report.
“I think he should have made himself available so we can ask him some questions,” said Walter A. Shamock, a member of the We the People party. “If we’re spending $60,000, I think it behooves him to come before the council, or at least appear before leadership. We never got that opportunity.”
“It does seem out of the ordinary that somebody doing a report like that wouldn’t be available to respond to questions that came up about it,” said Democrat Steven Iovanna. “I would think any professional that does a report on anything, you have to respond to questions about it. There are always questions.”
After receiving the report early Friday, many councilors admitted they had yet to give the report a full reading as of Tuesday. However, Majority Leader Brian P. Daniels said that a meeting with Kendzior and Daily remained a possibility if enough councilors expressed that they had questions.
“I don’t know whether that’s going to happen or whether it’s necessary,” he said.
Daily’s findings were outlined by Kendzior during a press conference Friday morning at City Hall. Kendzior was joined by Personnel Director Caroline Beitman and Police Chief Jeffry Cossette, among other officials. Daily’s report addressed claims by Officers Donald Huston and Brian Sullivan of favoritism and nepotism within the police department, which they said allowed the chief’s son, Officer Evan Cossette, to face little or no discipline over alleged brutality.
The city hired a public relations firm, Baldwin Media Marketing, for $1,840 to help it announce Daily’s findings and manage the press conference. Daily was not present, and Kendzior defended his absence on Tuesday, saying his agreement with the city required him only to perform the investigation and produce the report.
“He continues to make his own decisions with regard to appearing or not at the press conference and with regard to answering inquiries from the media. The city at no time has discouraged him from doing so,” he said. “The city places great value on being transparent and has been so to the greatest extent possible regarding the Huston Sullivan complaint and the report from Attorney Daily.”
Attorneys for Huston, Sullivan and men who claim they were victims of excessive force have questioned why an internal affairs officer was present during Daily’s interviews with police — a decision Kendzior has attributed to Daily. The attorneys claim the officer’s presence would prevent other members of the department from answering questions about the disciplinary process honestly, for fear of retaliation by command staff.
Last week, Kendzior said he had received a draft copy of Daily’s report a few days prior to its release, but ordered only minor changes involving grammar and a legal term that could be open to interpretation before receiving the final copy. He has stood by the report’s independence, saying the city made no attempt to steer Daily’s findings to be favorable to the city.
Meriden’s approach to Daily’s responsibilities after his investigation is different than other municipalities who have hired attorneys to probe allegations of misconduct against their police departments.
Last year, Attorney Frank Rudewicz presented Windsor Locks officials with an 82-page report on an October 2010 crash involving Officer Michael Koistinen that killed a 15-year-old boy.
Rudewicz’s report also cleared the town and department of any conspiracy to protect Koistinen, who had been drinking for hours before the crash but was not given a blood alcohol test, because his father Robert was a sergeant in the department.
However, as part of his agreement with the town, Rudewicz took part in a public meeting with town officials, and took questions from both the press and residents.
By the time the report was issued, Michael Koistinen had already been fired by the town’s Police Commission. After receiving Daily’s report, Meriden officials reinstated Evan Cossette to regular duty. He had been on administrative duty for 13 months while Daily conducted his investigation.
City Councilor Hilda Santiago said that while she had yet to read the report in full, she thought an approach similar to Windsor Locks’ would be appropriate for Daily, considering the cost, length and seriousness of his work.
“He should be available. We paid him enough,” she said.