EAST HAVEN, Conn. — Police commissioners in East Haven voted unanimously Tuesday to recommend that the mayor fire the police chief instead of letting him retire amid allegations that officers abused Latinos.
In a 5-0 vote, the commissioners recommended that Leonard Gallo be fired. Among their accusations, they said he failed to provide leadership, which was evident in last week's arrest of four town officers.
The officers have been accused of waging a campaign against Latinos that included beatings and false arrests. They have pleaded not guilty.
Mayor Joseph Maturo Jr. is not obligated to follow the commission's recommendation and is expected to ignore it. In announcing Gallo's retirement Monday, the mayor said the chief acted selflessly. He praised Gallo, saying he performed admirably and was a devoted public servant.
Gallo's lawyer, Jon Einhorn, did not address the commission during its meeting Tuesday. He said in an interview after the vote that it was a political act.
"It carries as much legal significance as the guy selling coffee on the corner," he said.
Commissioner Frank Piergrossi called the vote a "very sad day for the community."
"There's no joy in this room tonight," he said. "The captain of the ship is responsible for his ship."
More than 100 residents attended the meeting, and many denounced the recommendation to fire Gallo, who is an unnamed co-conspirator in the federal indictment accusing him of blocking the police commission's efforts to investigate misconduct. Einhorn denies the claims.
Many say that beyond the issue of alleged abuse against Latinos is a broad divide in East Haven between the Republican mayor and his backers on one side and Democrats who supported his predecessor, whom he defeated in November.
"Tell me this isn't political," resident Angelo Santomassimo told the commissioners.
Resident Paul Carbo told commissioners they should be fired if they tried to dismiss Gallo.
"I think this town should stand behind their policemen," he said.
Fred Brow, chairman of the commission, said Gallo shouldn't be allowed to retire and cash in on a retirement package he estimated at more than $100,000.
"To put this money in the hands of an individual who did not properly run the department in years is just not right," he said.
The commission compiled a lengthy list of accusations against Gallo. It said his "supervisory neglect" was evident in the indictment of the officers, he failed to conduct internal investigations, illegally barred the Board of Police Commissioners from police headquarters, failed to submit state required racial profiling data and failed to investigate complaints.
It was not the first time the commission voted to recommend his ouster. Commissioner James Krebs said commissioners urged the previous mayor, April Capone Almon, to fire him. She instead put the chief on administrative leave in April 2010.
Maturo defeated Almon last November and quickly reinstated Gallo, drawing criticism even from some supporters.