BRIDGEPORT, CT – In what some consider a final snub to Mayor-elect Joseph Ganim, outgoing mayor Bill Finch — with just days left in office — renewed Police Chief Joseph Gaudett’s contract for five years on Friday.
“It’s outrageous, it’s appalling,” said Police Union President Sgt. Charles Paris. The union endorsed Ganim with the hope that Gaudett would be shown the exit.
Ganim had urged Finch to refrain from making any policy decisions ahead of the Dec. 1 inauguration.
Asked earlier this week about rumors Finch was going to act on Gaudett’s contract, Ganim said it would be “a mistake for him, Gaudett, the police department, the city.”
“I think that would be reckless and hope he wouldn’t do it,” Ganim said.
But Finch in a statement Friday said his decision, which he believes does not require City Council approval, was all about what is best for Bridgeport.
“Police Chief Gaudett has proven himself to be a trustworthy leader as Bridgeport’s top law enforcement official,” said Finch. “I’m honored to reappoint Police Chief Gaudett to a second five-year term.”
A 35-year veteran of the police force, Gaudett became acting chief in October 2008, during Finch’s first year in office, following the resignation of Bryan Norwood.
In December 2010, Gaudett was appointed chief. While past chiefs have been required to live in the city, Gaudett’s contract permitted him to continue living in Newtown.
Locking Perez out
Finch’s support of Gaudett could have more to do with the individual who Ganim was rumored to want instead — Chief of Detectives Capt. Armando “A.J.” Perez, a 33-year-veteran of the force.
Ganim, who served as mayor for 12 years until a 2003 corruption conviction, mounted an aggressive comeback this year, beating Finch in September’s Democratic primary and winning November’s general election in a landslide.
Perez was Ganim’s driver during his first administration and often at his side during the recent campaign.
It was Perez who, though never charged with anything, stored cases of expensive wine at his home that Ganim received as part of his past pay-to-play schemes.
“How does that make the city look?” said one Finch ally who wished to remain anonymous but confirmed Perez’s possible promotion to chief was of concern. “How do you help the city move forward if that’s the optic?“
Perez has since worked his way up through the ranks and is admired by many of his peers as a hardworking supervisor. In an interview last year he told the Connecticut Post: “Joe Ganim is my friend. And I am very loyal to my friends. I never saw him do anything wrong, only good for the city of Bridgeport and that’s it.”
Whatever Finch’s motives, his announcement Friday appears to leave Ganim with two choices: Work with Gaudett, or buy out the chief’s new contract.
The mood was very somber at the police headquarters Friday, with many officers concerned that Gaudett’s reappointment may tear them apart.
Some contended that a new chief would provide a fresh start in light of the two investigations of the department now going on — the disappearance of up to $38,000 from the safe in the department’s record room and a racist letter that was disseminated in the department.
The city’s Office of Internal Affairs concluded its investigation of the letter, but its report has been sitting on Gaudett’s desk for six weeks with no action.
Paris hinted the union may take some action in response, but declined to comment further.
Finch credited Gaudett with making “tough decisions that have resulted in a stronger department.”
“He’s earned the trust of our community by serving as a strong voice for fair and honest law enforcement practices. He’s led-the-charge in cracking down on crime in the state’s largest city, which has resulted in some of the lowest crime rates the city has experienced in nearly a half-century,” Finch said.
During the campaign Finch frequently touted overall lower crime statistics, while Ganim focused on the rise in homicides and non-fatal shootings, and criticized the administration for not acting sooner to bolster a department depleted by retirements.
As of Wednesday, the mayor’s spokesman, Brett Broesder, said he did not think Finch would renew Gaudett’s contract.
But both the mayor and the chief skipped out that morning on a press conference they had been scheduled to attend to promote the enhanced use of video surveillance.
From The Connecticut Post