Court order halts naming of top cop
By Joanne M. Pelton, Register Staff           July 07, 2000

ANSONIA — The Board of Aldermen was forced to halt the appointment of a new police chief Thursday after a temporary injunction was granted in Superior Court in Milford.

Lt. Michael Abbels, who is second in command in the department, filed the injunction Wednesday to stop the board from naming Sgt. Kevin Hale as the replacement for retiring Chief James McGrath. 

The issue will be heard Monday at 10 a.m. in court. Abbels is seeking more than $15,000 in damages. 

Abbels claims he was passed over for the job even though he has more experience than Hale, who has been on the squad for 10 years. Abbels, a 20-year-police veteran, charges that the qualifications for the chief’s job were changed in May to make way for Hale. 

According to the complaint, the requirements for chief previously included seven years of administrative experience at the rank of sergeant, detective sergeant, lieutenant or higher. 

Abbels claims that when McGrath announced his retirement in May, the aldermen changed the job requirements so that only three years of administrative work as a sergeant or higher rank were required. 

Hale, who was recommended for the job last Wednesday by Mayor James Della Volpe, declined to comment Thursday. Hale is the brother of Della Volpe’s former campaign manager, Gary Hale, a former state senator from Ansonia. 

Milford Attorney William Barnes, who is representing Abbels, said they want the city "to do the right thing" and said he thinks a judge will bar the city from appointing Hale. 

"We think they should pick the chief according to original qualifications. They should go back to square one, because if due process was followed, Mike Abbels would be appointed chief," said Barnes. 

Della Volpe said the city would wait until Monday’s court decision before making a move. "We believe that we will prevail," said the mayor. 

Hale has served as a youth officer, patrol officer and recently as an administrative sergeant. He recently he set up a new computer network for the department. 

Hale, 37, was to be appointed Thursday night by the Board of Aldermen. Instead, aldermen met to discuss the case. 

The board took no action, but did meet behind closed doors for about 40 minutes. Aldermen and other officials declined comment Thursday night. 

A handful of police officers turned out in support of Hale. 

Other applicants included Connecticut State Police Lt. Richard Brozek and Seymour Police Chief Michael Metzler. 

Brozek, who has been with the state police for more than 30 years, didn’t file a complaint but said he thought there was a "vast discrepancy in Hale’s resume" compared to others. "In my opinion he’s not qualified for the job," said Brozek. 

Hale, who earns $48,000 a year, will earn $62,000 a year if he does replace McGrath, 74, who is retiring after more than 19 years on the job. McGrath will retire July 15.