MERIDEN — Police Capt. Patrick Gaynor, accused of committing 63 department policy violations, including misconduct and untruthfulness, was terminated Monday.
The move was recommended by Charles Reynolds, a former police chief in New Hampshire, who acted as hearing officer for the case.
Gaynor, a city police officer since 1996, declined to comment Monday. He was placed on paid administrative leave in December, a month after he returned to work following two months of paid leave during an investigation into the alleged misuse of city funds by Gaynor while he served as interim head of the city’s dispatch center. In that investigation, Reynolds determined Gaynor did not misappropriate funds.
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After Police Chief Jeffry Cossette initiated the investigation into the misuse of funds, Gaynor filed a complaint against Cossette alleging the chief engaged in a pattern of retaliatory behavior since the federal conviction of his son, former police officer Evan Cossette, in 2013.
Attorney Daniel Esposito, who represents Gaynor, said Monday that he plans to file a grievance in coordination with the city police union contesting the termination. Esposito said in a statement that the decision “represents but one step in a process that we are confident will result in Captain Gaynor’s vindication,” adding that of the 63 counts, only three were sustained by Reynolds.
“Our attention will now shift to a hearing before a panel of the Connecticut Board of Mediation and Arbitration,” he said. “Pursuant to said hearing will be the power to subpoena witness testimony and documentary evidence, which we expect will lead to Captain Gaynor’s reinstatement.”
The internal investigation that resulted in Gaynor’s termination Monday was initiated in December by City Manager Guy Scaife after law firm Berchem, Moses & Devlin’s $51,724 investigation failed to substantiate Gaynor’s retaliation complaint against Cossette.
Sgt. Christopher Fry conducted the most recent investigation, which included reviewing over 10 hours of recorded interviews conducted with Gaynor by Berchem, Moses & Devlin Attorney Paula Anthony. The interviews explored Gaynor’s previous claims regarding his removal from snow tow duty, a 2014 performance evaluation and the cancellation of the DARE program. Fry concluded Gaynor “may not have properly prepared supporting information that would have substantiated his complaint,” and may have violated 63 department policies, including conduct unbecoming of an officer, the accountability, responsibility and discipline policy, the dishonesty and untruthfulness policy, falsifying records, retaliatory conduct and violating the chain of command.
Reynolds conducted a disciplinary hearing with Gaynor on May 19. His 20-page review examined Gaynor’s allegations of retaliation by Cossette and found there was a lack of evidence presented to support the claims.
“This is unfortunate because, when reviewing the voluminous material involved in this matter, I find reason for concern regarding various internal matters, which may be cause for review, if evidence based,” Reynolds wrote. “The evidence provided by you generally consisted of innuendo and unsupported statements, which in several instances, could have been verified, mitigated or negated had you made an effort to do so. Rather, it appears you simply advanced multiple allegations believing/hoping the volume of complaints would support the notion of retaliation.”
Reynolds states Gaynor’s allegations were made with “reckless disregard for facts and evidence,” which is not protected by “work-place speech.” He found Gaynor violated three department policies: the accountability, responsibility and discipline policy, the dishonesty or untruthfulness policy and the retaliatory conduct policy. Gaynor’s actions “exacerbated” tensions within the police department, Reynolds said, adding that his decision to recommend Gaynor’s termination was a difficult one given the challenges of police duty.
“To be sure, I have evaluated several corrective options, including suspension, demotion, professional counseling as well as various combinations thereof to quell the hostility and allow you, the Chief and members of the MPD to return, as you would say, to normalcy,” Reynolds wrote in his decision. “However, the primary impediment to each of those options is your willingness to be untruthful, both with the allegations and with the support provided for them during the two investigations. Truthfulness is the stock and trade of any police officer.”
Gaynor received a letter Monday notifying him of his termination, “effective immediately.” The letter notes that pension paperwork and calculations will be sent to Gaynor and any remaining sick or vacation time will be paid out in the next month. Finance Director Michael Lupkas said calculations on Gaynor’s pension could take several weeks.
Scaife said the evidence against Gaynor was “extremely compelling.”
“I think the report speaks for itself,” Scaife said Monday. “It’s unfortunate things turned out the way they are. It’s been a long process, but it is over.”
Four other pending internal affairs investigations into Gaynor’s conduct remain open. Scaife said the status of those investigations will depend on if Gaynor decides to challenge his termination. Officials haven’t released details on the pending investigations.
“They are serious, open issues that certainly won’t go away,” Scaife said.
Cossette issued a statement saying that Gaynor’s “attacks” on him, his family and Deputy Chief Timothy Topulos “are without merit and unacceptable.”
“When officers undermine the public’s trust and confidence and perpetuate rumors, innuendo and false statements that give rise to a perception that negates the department’s ability to achieve its mission, the law enforcement profession mandates that they be removed from office,” Cossette said via email. “As the investigative report and findings reveal, Mr. Gaynor engaged in a pattern of untruthful behavior designed to undermine my authority as Chief of Police. As such, he negatively impacted the agency’s ability to achieve its mission and win the public’s trust and confidence. The correct result was achieved in this matter. We will move forward as a Department and continue to work in partnership with our neighborhoods to build trust and effectively achieve a common goal of a safe community.”
Gaynor filed an intent to sue notice with the city in September. New Haven-based attorney John Williams, who represents Gaynor in the action, said he expects file the lawsuit by the end of the week.
“In our view, (Gaynor’s termination) is clearly a case of retaliation,” Williams said. “We believe it’s retaliation for having been a whistleblower specifically for having testified in federal court as a prosecution witness against the chief’s son.”