BERLIN – The town has hired an independent attorney to investigate allegations brought forth by a disciplined police lieutenant that Deputy Chief John Klett makes inappropriate comments and uses demeaning language when dealing with staff.
Klett is one of two internal candidates under serious consideration to be promoted to police chief when the current Chief Paul Fitzgerald retires in late October. Lt. James Gosselin, the third internal candidate to vie for the job, withdrew his application on Aug. 21 and instead filed a complaint against Klett with Fitzgerald.
The complaint was mailed to The Herald anonymously. Fitzgerald confirmed Tuesday that the town has hired an attorney from the Hartford-based Shipman and Goodwin to investigate the allegations detailed in the two-page document.
“What we’re trying to determine is did any of these employees complain to anyone, are these allegations accurate, and do they want to complain now or is it all driven by one person who has a vendetta?” Fitzgerald said.
In the complaint Gosselin detailed incidents involving several other staff members that included Klett using off-color language about women to other officers, calling a dispatcher “stupid” and making slurs referring to homosexuality in front of the department’s first “openly gay officer.” Fitzgerald declined to provide The Herald with a copy of the complaint but said the employees who are mentioned will be interviewed. The department and the town’s Human Resources Department have not received any complaints about Klett’s behavior, Fitzgerald said.
Police Commissioner Ryan T. Zelek said the commission is aware of the allegation but is waiting for the investigation to conclude before taking any action. He said the commission will most likely be discussing the matter at their next Police Commission meeting on Sept. 20, which is when Police Commission Chairman Robert Peters previously said a decision on hiring a new chief or expanding the search to external candidates will be made. The Police Commission is the sole authority to hire and fire officers.
The commission will not make a decision until the investigation is complete, Peters said Tuesday. “The allegations are false until they are proven true,” said Peters.
The Herald has submitted a Freedom of Information request with Fitzgerald seeking Gosselin’s complaint and any internal affairs investigations involving Klett or Gosselin in the past two years.
Gosselin was disciplined in November after an internal affairs investigation confirmed that he arranged for an officer who was terminated for medical reasons to attend a recertification training session as a Berlin police employee. Gosselin received a five-day suspension from the Police Commission. The suspension was rescinded after Gosselin filed a grievance with the Connecticut Labor Board.
Gosselin was also recently suspended for being “untruthful” about whether or not he approved overtime for another employee, Fitzgerald said. In that case, the other employee and a witness said Gosselin had approved the overtime, but Gosselin denied it, the chief said. He received a three-day suspension, Fitzgerald said.
Both Gosselin and Klett are working in their usual capacity at the department as the complaint is being investigated. Neither returned phone calls seeking comment Tuesday.
Fitzgerald hopes to have the investigation completed in the next two weeks so it won’t impede the selection of the new chief. “We understand the seriousness of the complaint,” Fitzgerald said.
Staff Writer Charles Paullin contributed to this story.
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.