Hearing on top cop’s job begins
Mike Saewitz, Register Staff         July 18, 2000 

DERBY — On the first day of a hearing on a request to bar Ansonia from naming a new police chief, a Superior Court judge rejected motions from both sides.

Judge George W. Ripley II denied a request by Ansonia Police Lt. Michael Abbels’ lawyer to sequester witnesses. 

He also rebuffed an attempt by Ansonia to prevent Abbels from referring to an alleged violation of the state Freedom of Information Act by the Board of Aldermen. 

The hearing, expected to last several days, was scheduled to resume at 10 a.m. today with testimony from Ansonia Personnel Director Claude Perry Sr. 

Two weeks ago Abbels filed for an injunction to stop the Ansonia Board of Aldermen from appointing Sgt. Kevin Hale to replace retiring Chief James McGrath. 

Abbels charged Mayor James Della Volpe and the aldermen changed the requirements for chief so that Hale, the brother of Della Volpe’s former campaign analyst Gary Hale, would qualify. 

Hale, Abbels and Della Volpe all are expected to testify this week. 

Abbels’ attorney, William Barnes of Fairfield, argued Monday that the witnesses should not sit in the courtroom and hear each other’s testimony. He claimed that would prevent witness testimonies from being "tailored." 

Ripley denied Barnes’ request after Hale’s attorney, Richard Volo of Derby, argued against it. 

"We’re talking about highly reputable individuals," Volo said. "This is an insult to the whole system." 

Ripley also disagreed with Shelton attorney Francis Teodosio’s claim that a Freedom of Information complaint can be heard "exclusively" through the state Freedom of Information Commission. 

Part of Abbels’ complaint is that the aldermen changed the job requirements during sessions that were not open to the public. 

The original requirements included seven years of administrative work. Abbels claims that when McGrath announced his retirement in May, Della Volpe and the aldermen changed the requirement to three years of administrative work. 

Abbels claims he was passed over despite having more experience than Hale. Abbels has spent 20 years as a police officer, while Hale has spent 10 years on the force. 

Last week the aldermen extended McGrath’s contract for up to six months until the injunction is settled.