Battle over chief’s job continues
Mike Saewitz, Register Staff       July 22, 2000 

DERBY — On the third day of an injunction hearing to stop Sgt. Kevin Hale’s appointment as police chief in Ansonia, Chief James McGrath testified Friday he sent Hale to a training program in April designed to develop new chiefs.

Attorney William Barnes — representing Lt. Michael Abbels, who also applied for the chief’s job — insisted McGrath’s choice of Hale for the three-day program implied "everybody knew Hale would be chief before the selection process even started." 

In his lawsuit Abbels claims Hale was promised the job before Mayor James Della Volpe appointed him in May. 

But McGrath testified the application for the training program "just came across his desk" while Hale was sitting across from him, and he asked the sergeant if he wanted to go.  McGrath said he had not yet decided to retire at that time. 

"Once I made the commitment, I wasn’t going to back out of it," McGrath said, his voice raised. 

"I made a decision. I knew there some people who were going to be disturbed by my decision.  I would’ve liked to have sent Abbels and some of the other sergeants (as well)." 

Three weeks ago, Abbels filed a request for an injunction to stop the Board of Aldermen from naming Hale, a 10-year police veteran, to replace McGrath.  Abbels claims Della Volpe changed the job requirements for the chief’s position so Hale would qualify.  Hale is the brother of former Della Volpe campaign adviser Gary Hale

Seymour Police Chief Michael Metzler testified Tuesday that Della Volpe told him "not to bother applying" the weekend before applications were due, because he had promised the job to someone else. 

Under questioning Friday, Della Volpe said he made no promises to anyone. 

Della Volpe testified that no Ansonia officer was qualified for the chief’s job under the previous job description, and that he had to change it in order to hire from within the department. 

But Abbels claims he was qualified under the former job description, which calls for the chief to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university; seven years of experience in police work, with three as lieutenant or higher; and completion of a training academy course or an equivalent combination of education and experience

Della Volpe testified Abbels was ineligible for chief under the former description because he failed to complete his degree. 

Abbels, a 20-year police veteran, accumulated credits toward but did not complete a bachelor of science degree from Columbia Pacific University in Novato, Calif., a mail-in private institution that lost its state approval to operate in 1997 and was closed down in January, according to the California Department of Consumer Affairs. 

On May 25 the Board of Aldermen approved a new job description that calls for an equivalent combination of education or experience. 

The hearing will continue at 10 a.m. Tuesday in Superior Court in Derby.