Chub Wilcox, one of the two Democrats on the seven member Police Commission, is sharing his response to a vote taken at the public session of the September 27, 2020 meeting of the Police Commission. The five Republican members of the Police Commission voted to send Mr. Wilcox a “Letter of Reprimand.” The “Letter of Reprimand” was dated on September 29, 2020 and sent to Mr. Wilcox.
Mr. Wilcox is sharing his 10/13/20 communication to Frank Keeney, Chairman of the Police Commission, on this public Website. Supporting documentation (Exhibit A – C) are also included. This documentation has been approved by John O’Brien, OSDTC chair, for posting on this website.
October 13, 2020
Dear Mr. Keeney
I write in response to your “letter of reprimand” dated September 29, 2020. Because the discussion and vote concerning this subject occurred in public session of the Commission, I believe it is appropriate to make this response public as well.
All four of the “behaviors” for which I am reprimanded arise out of the same basic disagreement. That is, that when I serendipitously learned of the fact that the Chief of Police intercepted and “pocketed” mail addressed to the members of the Police Commission, consulting only with the chair of the Commission, I was horrified. I was especially concerned because the subject of the mail addressed to the Commission was a complaint by a citizen about the conduct of an Old Saybrook police officer. The “independent investigation” I am accused of conducting was to speak by phone with that citizen to learn more about the conduct in question before I made a decision as to what if anything I should do to bring this before the Commission for its consideration. I believed then, and I continue to believe, that members of the Police Commission have the right — and I would add duty — to inform themselves as best they can before they bring something up for consideration by the full Commission. Calling that an “independent investigation” does not make it either inappropriate or deserving of reprimand.
My second alleged transgression is supposed “outbursts and disparaging remarks.” By this I assume you refer to the comments I made during the Commission meeting in August, during an executive session which, according to the agenda for the meeting, was supposed to be for the purpose of discussing “documents privileged to the attorney client relationship.” As you know, that was not the subject being discussed at all. The sole subject of discussion was the Chief’s practice of withholding from the Commission citizen complaints about conduct of members of the Police Department. That subject should have been discussed in public session, as it subsequently has been. Far from making disparaging remarks about the Chief, I only stated my strong disagreement with the Chief’s practice and the stated rationales offered in purported justification of it. Those rationales have since been abandoned and a new rationale advanced in the alternative, but no more persuasively.
My third alleged transgression is “inappropriate references to social media posts.” This, again, can only refer to an exchange with another commissioner during that same improperly conducted executive session. When one of the commissioners asked me if I could affirm that I was “100 percent” supportive of the Chief and the Department, I responded “absolutely not.” That same commissioner then asked me to point to one single thing that I did not support, to which I replied along the lines: “Take a look at the ‘OSPD Air Freshener Heroes’ post on YouTube.” I have to believe that most people, especially anyone familiar with Supreme Court and Connecticut Supreme Court opinions, would find the police conduct depicted in that video record (apparently derived from Old Saybrook Police body camera recordings) troubling and unsupportable.
The fourth and final alleged transgression is “the conducting of illegal meetings.” I assume this relates to an email I sent to the Commissioners after the Chief presented his proposal for a bylaw change to essentially regularize his previously unauthorized practice regarding the withholding of citizen complaints. So that there is no mystery about this, I include as an attachment a copy of my email as Exhibit A. Commissioner Maselli emailed me back that because my email contained advocacy for my proposed alternative to the Chief’s proposal, it was inappropriate. That email is also attached as Exhibit B. I checked Connecticut’s FOIA statute and learned that an email to all my fellow commissioners should be regarded as a “meeting” of the Commission. Meetings, of course, require advance notice to the public and an opportunity for the public to attend, which my email did not comport with. I therefore replied to Mr. Maselli agreeing that he was absolutely correct, and that I would not repeat my mistake. That email is also attached as Exhibit C. Apparently my admission of error was insufficient, however, and my Republican colleagues deem public reprimand necessary.
I am making this response publicly available because I believe an informed public can be trusted to make a reasoned evaluation of my conduct, which it will need to do if the Old Saybrook Democratic Town Committee honors me by putting me on the ballot for next year’s municipal elections.
Alfred H. (“Chub”) Wilcox
Citizen Complaint A
To my colleagues on the Police Commission:
It is good that something positive came out of our last meeting. That is, a recognition that it is time for the Commission to regularize a policy for treating two possibly interrelated subjects, namely citizen complaints against one or more members of the Department, and mail addressed to one or more Commission members at a Town address. I thank the Chief for acknowledging this need.
As to citizen complaints, Chief Spera proffers an approach which essentially formalizes what has been his historic practice: he and the Commission Chair are made aware of a citizen complaint, but not any of the other Commissioners. His stated justification for this approach is that handling of citizen complaints is to be viewed as an “operational matter” which the Chief seems to believe removes it from the purview of the Commission.
The Chief’s view is erroneous. The Connecticut statute authorizing municipalities to create police commissions having supervisory responsibilities over their police departments does not carve out an exception for “operational matters.” Police Commissions, instead, are given broad authority over all the assets, both human and material, of police departments. They are specifically given the authority over all hiring, promoting and firing decisions for all members of the department. Citizen complaints about the conduct of one or more members are plainly germane to that responsibility.
Therefore we must reject the Chief’s suggestion that all citizen complaints — even if they are about him — be forwarded to him for handling by him. Surely such a policy would tend to discourage citizens from complaining, either about him or someone under his command. I believe we should instead encourage citizens to be open and candid with the Commission if they experience or perceive what they regard as aberrant or unlawful or simply unwise conduct by someone in our police department.
I therefore intend to move that we adopt the following policy, and ask the Chair or the Secretary to make sure it is on the agenda.
“Whenever any member of the Police Commission or any employee of the Police Department of the Town of Old Saybrook (the “Recipient”) receives a communication (whether electronic, U.S. mail, or other delivery service) presenting a citizen complaint against one or more employees of the Police Department, the Recipient shall promptly notify the Chair of the Police Commission thereof and forward that complaint to the Chair, who shall immediately forward the complaint to all the members of the Police Commission. The Commission shall consider that complaint either at a special meeting called for that purpose or at its next regularly scheduled meeting.
“All other mail addressed to one or more members of the Police Commission, whether at the Police Department address, the Town Hall address, or otherwise, shall be immediately forwarded to such member(s) at their home address.”
I request that this suggested alternative be evaluated by legal counsel along with Chief Spera’s suggested approach.
Citizen Complaint B
From: Joe Maselli
Date: September 4, 2020 at 3:02:20 PM EDT
To: Chub Wilcox <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: Frankdkeeney Subject: Re: Citizen complaint policy
Although I am always happy to have conversation about possible ways to improve department and a commission, I am uncomfortable with your correspondence outside of a public meeting.
Contacting myself or the chairman requesting an item be put on the agenda is one thing, but presenting arguments and trying to influence people‘s thoughts on the matter should never take place outside of the public meeting, I believe it It is in direct conflict with the manner in which public commissions must operate.
Citizen Complaint C
From: Chub Wilcox <email@example.com>
Date: September 8, 2020 at 10:26:56 AM EDT
To: Joe Maselli
Subject: Re: Citizen complaint policy
Joe, I re-read the definition of “meeting” in Connecticut’s FOIA, and you are absolutely correct. I never would have thought that an email would be regarded as a “meeting,” but that just goes to show…. Thanks for the heads up, and I won’t do that again.