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Lysaght Sues ForReinstatement As Police Chief



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Lysaght Sues For

Reinstatement As Police Chief

By Andrew Gorosko

In a lawsuit, through which he seeks to regain the post of police chief, James E. Lysaght, Jr, alleges the Police Commission acted arbitrarily, capriciously, in the abuse of its discretion, with bad faith and malice, and without just cause in firing him.

Police Commission members decided Mr Lysaght did not demonstrate the leadership, planning, and management skills necessary for the effective and efficient operation of the police department, and thus fired him last month.

In the administrative appeal filed last week in Danbury Superior Court, Mr Lysaght alleges that in terminating him March 3, the Police Commission acted illegally because it:

Failed to provide him with an opportunity to address an arbitrator’s findings of fact and recommendations, before voting to fire him.

Failed to address the arbitrator’s recommendation that an attempt be made between the Police Commission and Mr Lysaght to re-establish a relationship leading to his reinstatement as chief, before voting to terminate him.

Accepted the arbitrator’s findings of fact, which failed to establish “just cause” for his termination under applicable state law.

“Without hearing any evidence and without providing the plaintiff the opportunity to address [the] findings of fact and recommendations, the [Police Commission] unanimously voted to terminate Chief Lysaght’s employment contract ‘based upon the [commission’s] finding of a showing of just cause as provided by [state law] as demonstrated by the findings of fact contained in’ the arbitrator’s report,” the lawsuit states.

“The arbitrator acted arbitrarily and abused his discretion in concluding in his findings of fact that just cause existed to terminate [Mr Lysaght],” it states.

The arbitrator’s findings that Mr Lysaght: had defects in his ability to manage and administer the police department; did not sufficiently delegate authority; and was insubordinate on one occasion, do not collectively satisfy the just cause standard, according to the court papers.

Applicable state law reads, in part: “No active head of any police department of any town, city or borough shall be dismissed unless there is a showing of just cause by the authority having the power of dismissal, and such person has been given notice in writing of the specific grounds for dismissal and an opportunity to be heard, at a public hearing before such authority.”

Police Commission Chairman James Reilly had no comment on the lawsuit April 5. Mr Reilly said commission members will be meeting with their attorney to discuss the lawsuit.

Mr Lysaght started work as police chief on July 14, 1996. Following an initial positive job performance review early the following year, Mr Lysaght received three increasingly negative job reviews, which found fault with his performance as police chief. Last July, the Police Commission placed him on paid administrative leave as it began his termination proceedings. Last August 17, the commission issued Mr Lysaght a notice of grounds for dismissal. Under the terms of applicable state law, Mr Lysaght requested a hearing on the matter.

Mr Lysaght and the commission agreed that an arbitrator who would make findings of fact and recommendations would conduct the hearing. The agreement provided that the commission would be bound by the findings of fact, but not by the recommendations.

A judge will be assigned to handle the court appeal. The judge may decide to conduct court proceedings to supplement the results of the arbitrator Albert Murphy’s report on Mr Lysaght’s four-day termination hearing held last December.

Through the lawsuit, Mr Lysaght seeks to reverse his job termination and be reinstated as chief of police. He also seeks back pay and fringe benefits, retroactive to his March 3 firing, plus interest. Mr Lysaght also seeks to have the town assume costs, plus his attorney’s fees, stemming from his termination hearing and his court appeal.

Representatives for the town are scheduled to appear in court April 18 to answer the allegations made in the lawsuit.

John Kelly, Mr Lysaght’s lawyer, has declined to speculate on what course Mr Lysaght’s appeal will take through the court system, adding that it is unclear how long it will take for a final decision in the case.

Police Captain Michael Kehoe has been in charge of the police department since July. Police Commission members named Mr Kehoe the “acting police chief” April 4. Mr Kehoe will serve in that capacity until a permanent replacement for Mr Lysaght is in place.

The process of choosing a new police chief will start after commission members receive legal advice from their attorneys on the court appeal from Mr Lysaght contesting his firing, Mr Reilly has said.

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