Sources: Lt. Duda to bow out at NMPD

New Milford police Lt. James Duda was placed on administrative leave last month because he intentionally damaged police department computer equipment, sources close to the department said this week.

The sources provided no details.

Lt. Duda, 45, of New Milford, was removed from duty Feb. 8 and placed on paid administrative leave after his alleged conduct was reported to his supervisors, sources said.

After being suspended, the veteran police lieutenant filed a letter of his intent to retire.

Repeated attempts to reach Lt. Duda for comment this week were unsuccessful.

NMPD Chief Shawn Boyne initiated the leave and is now conducting an internal investigation into the matter.

Chief Boyne has stated he is not at liberty to discuss any details of the case because it is a personnel issue.

Almost a week after his suspension, Lt. Duda submitted a letter informing town officials he intended to retire upon reaching his 25-year eligibility date of May 27.

New Milford officials have said his leave apparently would not influence his ability to retire and collect his pension benefits.

Lt. Duda's base salary is $71,500, and his expected retirement benefit is about $43,750 a year.

"It is with heavy heart that I submit my intent to retire,'' Lt. Duda wrote in a letter addressed to New Milford personnel director Alan Chapin.

"The last 25 years at the New Milford Police Department have been a growth experience and have provided me with many diverse opportunities," wrote Lt. Duda, who was hired in May 1986. "However, it is time for me to retire.

"I am looking forward to expanding my horizons and accepting new challenges as I begin a new chapter in my life," according to the letter. "I wish the town, the New Milford Police Department, and all of its employees much success in the coming years.''

As a supervisor, Lt. Duda is not represented by the police union.

On Tuesday, Mayor Pat Murphy said all she could say about the matter at this time is the chief is investigating allegations about Lt. Duda's conduct and the town is negotiating a deal that would sever his ties with the department and allow him to begin collecting his pension immediately.

The conditions for that agreement would become public once those documents have all been signed, the mayor said.

Mayor Murphy said she understands there might be those who argue if Lt. Duda acted improperly he should not be eligible for his pension, but she emphasized he is entitled to those retirement benefits.

The mayor said he has accrued benefit time that would allow him to collect "as of right now.''

Asked whether Lt. Duda's conduct constitutes criminal liability, the mayor said she would reserve comment until the chief's inquiry has been completed. She said she expects that would be done soon.

"The chief has a background in internal affairs, so he does pretty good investigations,'' Mayor Murphy said.

"He's very factual, and he doesn't sugarcoat," the mayor said. "I know he will find the facts and make a recommendation that is best for the town and the agency.''

During Lt. Duda's tenure with the department, he earned numerous letters of commendation for his arrest record and leadership, according to his personnel file.

The file also indicates he has been disciplined or reprimanded at least four times since the late 1980s.

According to his personnel file, one of those instances was in 1988, when officials state Lt. Duda inadvertently damaged a department radio, for which he had to repay half the cost.

In 2007, he was reprimanded for an improper expense requisition for shirts, the file states.

According to Lt. Duda's personnel file, in 2000, when he was a police sergeant, Duda entered an alcohol education program in connection with a drunken-driving charge related to a one-car, off-duty motor vehicle crash that had left him injured a few months earlier.

After successfully completing the program, charges were dropped.

Two years later, Lt. Duda earned a promotion to the department's sole lieutenant position.

Mayor Murphy said Tuesday her intent in this matter is to do "what's most beneficial for the community.''

She said ,as a supervisor in a department where leadership is critical, Lt. Duda should be held to a high standard of professional conduct.

The mayor said she finds it "personally upsetting'' when there is a breach of those standards, because townspeople depend on the integrity of their police officers, "and I want them to do that still.''