Injunction hearing ends in police chief dispute
   Mike Saewitz, Register Staff             July 28, 2000

DERBY — On the final day of a hearing on the recommendation Sgt. Kevin Hale become Ansonia’s police chief, Lt. Michael Abbels testified Hale told him in April the decision had already been made.

Abbels, who is seeking an injunction to bar Hale’s promotion, claims Mayor James Della Volpe unfairly passed over him and five other candidates for the job for "political reasons." 

Abbels claims Della Volpe changed the minimum job requirements so that he could appoint Hale, the brother of one of Della Volpe’s campaign advisers, Gary Hale. 

Last week Della Volpe testified that he changed the job requirements so that he could appoint someone from within the department, not Hale specifically. 

Superior Court Judge George W. Ripley II said he will not make a decision on the case until September. The lawyers will submit briefs to the judge by mid-August. 

On Thursday, Abbels testified Kevin Hale told him in April the decision had already been made to name Hale to replace retiring Chief James McGrath. 

Hale then testified he could not recall the conversation. 

Abbels’ attorney, William Barnes, is relying on testimony from Abbels and Seymour Police Chief Michael Metzler to support his claim that Della Volpe made an "irregular appointment." Metzler testified last week that Della Volpe discouraged him from applying because he had already promised the job to someone else. 

"The mayor’s conduct was not in accordance with the personnel policy of the city," Barnes said in his closing statements. 

Della Volpe, Gary Hale, Kevin Hale and McGrath all testified during the six-day hearing that no promise was made. 

Della Volpe testified that Abbels was not qualified under the original job description because he does not have a bachelor’s degree. 

However, Claude Perry Sr., Ansonia’s personnel director, testified Thursday that Abbels was qualified under the original job description. 

The 1999 job description required candidates to have a bachelor’s degree, seven years of police work with three years of administrative work, and completion of a training academy or "an equivalent combination of education and experience."   (Where are the semicolons ? ? ? - ENM)

To Barnes and Perry, if an officer had lots of experience, his educational level could be lower, as in Abbels’ case. 

Hale’s attorney, Richard Volo, said the case rests on the interpretation of the ambiguous requirements. 

"That interpretation has never been employed in city hiring practices," Volo said. "That interpretation would render the other qualifications meaningless." 

The city’s attorney, Thomas Welch, said in his closing statement that Abbels and Barnes failed to prove Abbels would have been appointed to the chief’s job. 

McGrath will continue to serve as chief for six months, or until the issue is settled.