Journalism / New Haven Register

Saybrook names Spera deputy chief

By Rachael Scarborough King Register Staff
June 19, 2008

OLD SAYBROOK — The Police Commission has promoted Lt. Michael Spera, the only applicant for the job, to deputy police chief.

The promotion comes at a time when the attorney general’s office is investigating the department and Police Chief Edmund Mosca is under scrutiny for his handling of a department fund.

Spera was sworn in Tuesday morning.

The commission last month decided to restructure the department and bring back the deputy chief’s job, which was eliminated four years ago. Commissioners said they did not intend to search outside the department for the new deputy chief, and Spera was the only one of the town’s three lieutenants to apply.

The motion to appoint Spera passed by a vote of 5-2, with Commissioners Rich Metsack and Ray Dobratz dissenting.

Metsack said he voted against the promotion because of the shortage of candidates.

“We just didn’t have anyone to choose from,” he said. “We’re going to have him in there forever because he’s so young and that happened once before with Chief Mosca, and after someone is in a certain seat so long, it’s almost like they own it.”

Mosca has been chief for more than 37 years.

Last month, Metsack voted against the reorganization plan because he wanted the commission to require the deputy chief to have a college degree, which none of the three lieutenants had.

Spera said most of his role will be to oversee the day-to-day operations of the department and serve as its second in command.

“It’s an honor to be selected by the commission and appointed as the deputy chief, and I look forward to continuing to serve the people of Old Saybrook,” he said. “The recent reorganization provides a lot of opportunities for us to build on a very strong foundation in our police department.”

But some in town questioned the move while Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s investigation is ongoing. Blumenthal is looking into Mosca’s use of the McMurray-Kirtland Memorial Fund, which the chief initially termed a private fund used at his discretion for department expenses.

In March, the Freedom of Information Commission ruled that fund’s records are in fact public documents.

Blumenthal said the investigation is continuing.

“Our investigation is active and ongoing and we’re seeking additional documents and possibly other evidence but we will conclude as soon as possible,” he said.

Town resident Mary Hansen, who filed the FOI complaint for information about the fund, said she thinks the commission should have delayed making a decision on the deputy chief position until Blumenthal finishes his investigation.

Hansen read a statement criticizing the commission at a meeting Monday night at which Spera was promoted.

“I made my comments and it did nothing,” she said. “These people just seem to think that this investigation by the attorney general is just something that you talk about, that it doesn’t really exist.”

Hansen said she will look into challenging the meeting, because she believes Commission Chairwoman Christina Burnham should have recused herself. Burnham said she represented Spera in his application for a subdivision before the town Planning Commission, but she added she does not believe it created a conflict of interest.

“It’s been completed, it’s closed,” she said. “It has absolutely nothing to do with the police department and I was never in a fiduciary relationship with him.”

Hansen said she also plans to investigate whether it was proper for the commission’s entire interview of Spera to be conducted in executive session. The commission returned to public session to vote, but there was no chance for input from the audience.

Spera, 33, started in the department as a dispatcher when he was 18 and became an officer when he was 21. He will earn $88,000 a year as deputy chief, including overtime.

“His resume showed us that he had education and training suitable for the job — he’s had 13 years of experience on the job,” Burnham said. “He successfully answered all of the commissioners’ questions and we decided that he was the appropriate person to promote.”

Spera’s lieutenant position will not be filled. As part of the restructuring, the commission decided on a system with the chief, one deputy chief, two lieutenants and five sergeants. The commission is now working on hiring three new sergeants to fill the jobs.

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