Probe into Duda's conduct still open
Chief Boyne told The Spectrum he is not yet able to release the results of a probe into the alleged misconduct of former Lt. James Duda because new complaints have come forth that require further examination.
After a Monday meeting with Mayor Pat Murphy, the chief said the investigation could lead to criminal charges.
He said he is conferring with the State's Attorney's Office in Litchfield whether the initial allegation about former Lt. Duda's behavior constitutes a criminal offense.
Chief Boyne declined to comment on the nature of those allegations, but sources close to the investigation have said the former NMPD officer, 45, intentionally destroyed computer equipment, which would be a direct violation of department policy.
Mayor Murphy has also declined to comment on the specifics, though she admitted Monday the matter started with complaints related to computer damage.
However, the mayor said her decision to fire Lt. Duda was prompted because as a supervisor he is held to a rigorous standard and it was her belief his conduct and decisions had undermined his ability to perform that role.
Chief Boyne placed then Lt. Duda on paid administrative leave Feb. 8 after the chief apparently had received complaints of inappropriate behavior by his lieutenant.
The lieutenant subsequently submitted the paperwork to retire as of May 27, his 25th anniversary with NMPD, when he would be eligible for a full retirement package with medical coverage.
Former Lt. Duda's base annual salary had been $71,500. His pension was calculated to be about $43,750.
At this point, his rights to a pension are under review.
Although he was deemed ineligible for an early pension, or immediate payment of a partial pension, as a police officer he is reportedly vested in the retirement program and during his tenure in New Milford has contributed 6 percent of his income annually to the plan.
Mayor Murphy said she is seeking a legal opinion about what Lt. Duda is actually entitled to receive.
With his termination agreement, the former officer was paid $7,975 for earned vacation and another $4,400 for accrued vacation.
He is also entitled to apply for unemployment compensation and COBRA medical insurance.
Numerous efforts to reach the ex-cop for comment have been unsuccessful, but he has retained attorney Daniel Hunsberger of Ridgefield to represent him in this matter.
So far, Hunsberger said a "cloak of secrecy'' has surrounded allegations that preceded his client's termination.
Beyond some vague generalities, Mr. Hunsberger said former Lt. Duda has been given no insight into what prompted his dismissal.
"It's extremely difficult to comment when we have not been advised what the issue is,'' Mr. Hunsberger said.
The attorney said he has filed FOI requests to obtain information related to the case but so far has not received any.
"We haven't been given anything other than his letter of termination," Mr. Hunsberger said. "There was no opportunity even for a rebuttal.''
He said an example of how "fair the town is playing'' is that the former lieutenant received a settlement proposal on Feb. 28 that would have made his last day March 1.
He was to have 21 days to review the proposal and another seven days to sign.
Instead, he was fired on March 4.
Mr. Hunsberger noted the town is already backpedaling on its position on taking away pension benefits to which the ex-cop would be entitled.
"This is extremely unfair to Jim how they are handling it,'' Mr. Hunsberger said of what, in this matter, he believes constitutes a "rush to judgment.
"He's been crucified before he's even been tried," the attorney claimed.
"My guess is when this is all done there will be a lot of backpedaling.''