Ethics Commission drops McGovern complaint

The Ethics Commission has dismissed the complaint against former Police Commission Chairman Roger McGovern, seemingly ending a five-month saga that began with a simple traffic incident and eventually escalated to an arrest warrant and McGovern’s resignation from the Police Commission.

In a letter to McGovern this morning, Ethics Commission Chairman Thomas Lee stated that the complaint was being dismissed “due to your removing yourself from the Trumbull Police Commission following a finding of probable cause at an earlier date.”

The Ethics Commission determined that there was little to be gained by holding a public hearing on the allegations against McGovern, Lee said.

“If you were found to have breached the Code of Ethics, the only sanction remaining would have been a letter of reprimand, hardly fit for the breaches for which probable cause was found,” Lee wrote. “Your actions were already investigated by the Trumbull Police Department, which referred the matter, by way of an arrest warrant request, to the State's Attorney’s Office, which was rejected. Further, the power of the Ethics Commission to remove you from office has been negated by your self-removal from office. Consequently, the Commission voted to dismiss the pending charges.”

The complaint against McGovern dates back to an Aug. 19 traffic incident when Bernardino Nieva, an employee at the Stop & Shop on Quality Street in Trumbull, was headed to work on his bicycle on Route 111 at 7:54 a.m. and attempted to turn right onto Blackhouse Road. Nieva said he fumbled with the brake handle on his bike, which caused him to swing wide on the turn. He then struck the driver’s side rear door of McGovern’s vehicle, which was stopped at the intersection, causing minor damage. McGovern was not injured and Nieva sustained a small scrape on his left elbow. The report from the incident indicates Nieva was at fault, but he was not issued a ticket or warning from the responding officer.

In his sworn statement on the incident, Nieva told Trumbull police that he and McGovern had waited for police to arrive so McGovern could get an official report for his insurance.

About a week later, Nieva said, he was on his way to work again when McGovern drove past him, then made a U-turn and pulled into a driveway two houses down from where Nieva lives, blocking Nieva’s bike with his car. McGovern and two other men got out and “surrounded” Nieva, and McGovern asked for $2,600 to cover the repairs to his car. Nieva said he worked at Stop & Shop and didn’t have that kind of money and McGovern replied that he was not going to use his insurance because he would be “kicked off” his policy. McGovern then said he would go to see Nieva at work to talk about it more, according to the report.

When McGovern went to Stop & Shop later that day he told Nieva to borrow the money or get a credit card advance, Nieva said. When Nieva again stated he did not have the money to pay him, McGovern told him to talk to his family and “figure something out.”

It was during this conversation that Nieva said McGovern showed him a badge and said he was a law enforcement official. For his role as a member of the Police Commission, the town issued McGovern a badge.

A week later McGovern went to the store looking for Nieva, who was not working at the time, and allegedly demanded Nieva’s work schedule, which the store manager refused to provide. The manager advised Nieva to call the police if McGovern contacted him again, according to the report. When McGovern returned to the store Sept. 9, Nieva told him he was going to call the police, and McGovern allegedly replied, “I am the police” and left.

Nieva reported the series of incidents to Trumbull police Sept. 9 and the department conducted a three-week investigation that included interviews and an examination of surveillance video from the store. At the conclusion of his report, Sgt. Michael Pires stated his intention to seek an arrest warrant.

Pires further noted that McGovern had not replied to his request for a statement, though he did deny showing his badge in a phone conversation with Chief Michael Lombardo.