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Updated: Monday, 30 Jan 2012, 7:13 PM EST
Published : Monday, 30 Jan 2012, 5:58 AM EST
East Haven, Conn. (WTNH/AP) - East Haven Police Chief Leonard Gallo is retiring from the force effective Feb. 3rd, Gallo's lawyer said Monday.
Mayor Joseph Maturo made the announcement outside his office at a press conference Monday morning. The hall leading up to Maturo's office was crammed with both media and residents.
Maturo said the search for a new police chief will begin immediately. "I expect the road ahead to be difficult," he said.
The retirement comes less than a week after four East Haven police officers were arrested by federal authorities on charges including deprivation of rights and obstruction of justice. Those officers have pleaded not guilty.
Gallo's lawyer, John Einhorn told the media Gallo's decision to retired was due to his "desire to not be a distracting element in the current investigation." He added, "He is not guilty of any wrong-doing, in either a civil action or potentially, any criminal action. He should not be arrested, and if arrested, he will be acquitted of any charges. His retirement is not an admission of any wrong-doing and should not be construed as such."
Gallo apparently has been referred to as an unnamed co-conspirator in the federal probe, accused of blocking efforts by the police commission to investigate misconduct. His attorney has denied the allegations.
Gallo had been suspended as chief in April 2010 after the FBI launched the criminal investigation, but he was reinstated to the post in November after his friend Mayor Maturo took office.
"He has been an unwavering supporter of the town of East Haven," Maturo said.
Gallo has been a police officer for 42 years, and the East Haven Police Chief for 14 years.
Before the press conference, Maturo met with members from the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs commission.
"Our position is that we wanted the resignation of the chief and we wanted his [Maturo's] resignation as well. That doesn't mean we weren't willing to have a discussion, obviously, if not, then we wouldn't be here," said Isaias Diaz.
No retirement package has been agreed upon; Gallo and his attorney are still working out the specifics.
But some members of East Haven's Board of Commission, which will meet Tuesday night, want Gallo to be terminated, as they believe criminal charges are imminent. If Gallo were to be fired, there is the possibility the town wouldn't have to compensate him for unused sick and vacation time, which could total more than $150,000.
Frederick Brow, chairman of the town's police commission, said Monday that the commission is preparing to vote Tuesday night on whether to recommend to the mayor that Gallo be fired. He said he believes Gallo should not be allowed to retire.
"It's been a general breakdown in control in that department for quite a while and it's time for Gallo to be terminated," Brow said.
He estimated that in retirement, Gallo would receive a severance lump sum of $130,000 to $150,000, plus an annual pension of $27,000 to $28,000. Brow said Gallo should not be rewarded for his conduct.
If the commission voted to recommend that Gallo be fired and Maturo agreed to fire him, Gallo would still get the pension but lose the severance pay, Brow said.
"Little surprised it happened the way it did. Although we sort of expected it to happen. I feel what he did, he did so because he gets his pension," said James Krebs, a Police Commissioner.
Community reaction was swift, although many were not surprised by this latest chapter of East Haven drama.
"I feel happy, because I'm Spanish," said Fabio Acsevedo of East Haven. "I feel good what's happening because we all have the same rights to be in the United States."
A state representative had another perspective. "If this is the case [Gallo's retirement], it gives the mayor the opportunity to take care of some of those systemic issues that exist in the department," said Representative Andrew Ayala, a Democrat from Bridgeport.
AFSCME Council 15, The Connecticut Council of Police, also weighed in on today's announcement. "Last week was a tough week for East Haven police officers, and for police throughout Connecticut. This week is a time to start heading in a new direction where the focus can return to public safety and a healing of wounds. Despite the work and dedication of Chief Gallo, his continued presence would have only served as a distraction to turning the department around," wrote Jeffrey Matchett, union's executive director.
Gallo's officially retires Friday, February 3rd. Deputy Chief John Mannion will take over until a new chief is chosen.
Below is Mayor Maturo's statement:
On Friday evening, January 27, 2012, Chief Leonard Gallo notified me of his intent to retire as Chief of the East Haven Police Department. This morning, he submitted to me written notice to confirm that his retirement will be effective on Friday, February 3, 2012.
While Chief Gallo's departure comes at a difficult time, it provides a unique opportunity for the Department to move forward
with new leadership; an opportunity for the Town to move forward with the healing that is necessary given recent events; and most importantly an opportunity for the entire East Haven Community to move forward as a unified group to embrace the changes that will follow.
The search for a new Chief will begin immediately. The process will be transparent, and the candidates carefully vetted to insure selection of the person most qualified to lead the Department through this crisis. The new Chief must possess the ability to effectively restructure the Department; implement suggested reforms; and reach out to and work closely with members of all segments of the East Haven Community to build trust between the Community and the Department.
I expect the road ahead to be difficult. The selection of a new Chief with a vision of hope for the future and the skills to realize that vision will restore morale to the Department and faith to the Community that it serves. Until such time as a new Chief is selected, Deputy Chief John Mannion will assume the duties of Chief.
Chief Gallo has always been an unwavering supporter of the Town of East Haven. He has been a devoted public servant, and performed admirably in both his personal and professional life. His decision to retire at this time is a selfless act, designed to assist in the healing process. I thank him for his years of devoted service and wish him the best in his future endeavors.
There will be no further comments regarding this matter.
For additional information, please contact the East Haven Mayor's office 203-468-3204. The Town of East Haven's website is www.townofeasthavenct.org .