Police in Connecticut on Way to Losing Freedom of Information Case

SEYMOUR -- A hearing officer for the Freedom of Information Commission made a proposed decision this week to dismiss a complaint lodged by police Detective Ronald Goodmaster against the Board of Police Commissioners, finding the three police commissioners' testimony "not credible," but unable to conclude that they violated FOI rules.

Attorney Tracie Brown, the FOIC hearing officer, issued her proposed decision Thursday; it will next be heard by the entire FOI Commission April 11 for a final decision. A proposed decision is typically supported by the full commission.

A copy of the proposed decision was mailed Thursday to each of the parties involved, according to FOIC spokesman Thomas Hennick.

Police Commissioners Lucy McConologue, Steve Chucta and Frank Conroy testified under oath at an FOI hearing in January that they never privately discussed disciplinary action for Goodmaster prior to demoting him from detective sergeant to detective last year. Each vehemently denied allegations that their discussion about the annual senior citizens picnic was a cover-up to conceal their reason for meeting.

Brown, in her proposed decision, found the testimony by the three police commissioners didn't match. At the January FOIC hearing, Brown reviewed a DVD recording of the June 6, 2011, meeting of the police commission.

"It is found that while Ms. McConologue, Mr. Chucta and Mr. Conroy each claimed to have vivid recollections of what transpired on May 25, 2011, at the senior center, their account at the Jan. 10, 2012, hearing was significantly different than their account at the June 6, 2011, special meeting," Brown wrote in her report. "It is found that the testimony of the three members of the respondent commission was not credible."

In her report, Brown cites discrepancies in comments made by all three commissioners regarding the alleged illegal meeting in McConologue's office at the senior center. At the June 6 meeting, the commissioners said they met for about an hour and a half to discuss the senior picnic. At the FOIC hearing, however, the commissioners gave sworn testimony that the meeting about the picnic took only about 10 minutes.

Brown further added in her report that while evidence shows the three commissioners "discussed something other than the picnic" when they met that day in May, "there is no evidence in the record that shows factually what that was."

As a result, Brown proposed that she could not conclude that the three commissioners violated FOI, and thus has recommended to the full FOI Commission that the complaint be dismissed.

Chucta said Friday he was pleased with the proposed decision to dismiss the complaint.

"There was never a question that we violated FOI," he said.

McConologue and Conroy did not return phone calls for comment.

Goodmaster declined to comment on the case, saying he has been advised by his attorneys not to discuss it.

The commissioners were summoned to testify because of an FOI complaint filed last June by Seymour Police Union attorney Richard Gudis, on behalf of Goodmaster, a 27-year veteran with the department. Gudis alleged that the three commissioners held an illegal meeting at the Seymour Senior Center on May 25, 2011, a day after the police commission convened a preliminary hearing to discuss accusations leveled against Goodmaster.

The commission ultimately found Goodmaster guilty of violating his police duties when he allegedly withheld information from his superiors that a fugitive from New Jersey was living in Seymour, and consequently put fellow Seymour officers in harm's way when they responded to an emergency call where the fugitive lived.

Goodmaster was demoted from detective sergeant to detective at the June 16, 2011, police commission meeting. Chucta, Conroy and McConologue voted in favor of the demotion, while two other commissioners voted against it.

Gudis had said that rumors quickly began swirling around the Police Department that Goodmaster's discipline was a done deal, long before the police commission met to demote him.

Gudis did not return several phone calls and an email seeking comment Friday.

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