Battle for top police post has feel of summer rerun
Mike Saewitz, Register Staff       July 21, 2000

The battle over who will be Ansoniaís next police chief looks to some Derby residents like the remake of an old movie.

The plot elements are still intact: A veteran chief is on his way out. A new chief is recommended.  The second in charge is bypassed. Suspicions of political corruption abound.  An injunction is filed. 

In 1993, Derby Police Chief Donald Germain planned to retire, and police commissioners appointed Pasquale Guliano as acting chief.  At the time, then-Lt. Andrew Cota claimed that Guliano had neither the academic degree nor the supervisory experience the city charter required. 

Three weeks ago, Ansonia Mayor James Della Volpe and police commissioners recommended Sgt. Kevin Hale to replace retiring Chief James McGrath.  Lt. Michael Abbels, the departmentís second in command, then filed an injunction to stop Haleís appointment.  The injunction hearing is taking place this week. 

Just like Cota, Abbels claims that Hale lacks the supervisory experience required by Ansoniaís city charter. 

In the Derby case, Cota did not file an injunction immediately, but sued the city a year later when Guliano retired and it appeared another applicant might get the job. 

The injunction was designed to prevent the police commission from using the results of a test Cota took.  Cota lost the court battle but won the chiefís job anyway when it turned out he had the top score.  He is currently chief of Derby police. 

"Everybody in the city knows that I was headed in the (direction to become chief)," Cota told the Register on Dec. 29, 1992.  "They never gave me a clue that they didnít have enough confidence in me." 

Some residents claimed Guliano got the job because of political ties with former Mayor Gino S. DiMauro Jr. 

Guliano, reflecting on both instances, said, "Everything in life is political."  Guliano said he was appointed to give Cota time to get his qualifications, including a college degree. 

Alan Schlesinger, who was mayor of Derby in 1993, said the Ansonia case seems "very familiar." 

In his lawsuit against the department and the city, Abbels claims he was unfairly passed over for political reasons.  Abbels claims Della Volpe had the requirements for chief changed so that he could appoint Hale, the brother of Della Volpeís campaign adviser, Gary Hale. 

Della Volpe testified Tuesday that he did not promise the job to Hale, contradicting testimony from Seymour Police Chief Michael Metzler, who also applied for the job. 

Schlesinger suggests asking an outside agency to give an examination to the candidates and evaluate their levels of experience.  "You have to make the process as divorced from politics as possible," Schlesinger said. 

The third day of the injunction hearing is today at 10 a.m. Abbels and the Hales have yet to testify.