McGovern to go before Ethics Commission

Police Commission Chairman Roger McGovern, center, reacts as Commissioner Daniel Portanova, left, reads a resolution referring McGovern to the Ethics Commission.
Police Commission Chairman Roger McGovern, center, reacts as Commissioner Daniel Portanova, left, reads a resolution referring McGovern to the Ethics Commission.

A police commissioner accused of harassing and demanding cash from a Bridgeport man will go before the Ethics Commission, following a 4-0 vote of the other commissioners.

The commission held a special meeting Monday afternoon. The sole item up for discussion was a review and evaluation of Chairman Roger McGovern.

Police are currently investigating McGovern’s actions after a minor traffic incident with Bridgeport resident Bernardino Nieva, who was riding his bicycle on Blackhouse Road when he collided with McGovern’s vehicle. According to police reports, McGovern then confronted Nieve several times over the next few weeks, near Nieva’s home and at his Stop & Shop job, demanding $2,600 for vehicle repairs. McGovern also allegedly showed Nieva a badge and identified himself as a law enforcement officer while demanding money.

After commissioners convened Monday’s meeting, the group immediately went into an executive session, which is closed to the public. Following 40 minutes of closed-door discussion the commission re-opened the public portion of the meeting and Commissioner Daniel Portanova read a resolution into the record referring McGovern to the Ethics Commission. The motion passed 4-0 with Portanova and fellow commissioners Albert Zamary, John Vazzano and Angelo Magliocco voting in favor. McGovern was present for the vote but abstained.

The Ethics Commission is a five-member panel, appointed by a ⅔ vote of the Town Council from candidates recommended by the first selectman. The Ethics Commission investigates accusations of wrongdoing by town employees and officials. Since McGovern is not employed by the town, the Ethics Commission could administer a public reprimand or recommend further investigation by the town attorney or state’s attorney.

But the state’s attorney may already be on the case, according to First Selectman Tim Herbst. In a statement last week Herbst said local police were looking into the complaint and that the matter would be referred to the State’s Attorney’s Office to determine if any laws were broken. Herbst then indicated that if McGovern’s actions violated state laws, Herbst would expect McGovern to resign from the commission.

“No official, elected or appointed, is above the law and we take our responsibility as public officials very seriously,” Herbst said. “If any public official violates the law, they will be held accountable.”

The incident began back in August when Nieva, 33, collided with McGovern’s vehicle on Blackhouse Road. About a week later McGovern, 75, and two other men allegedly confronted Nieva on Madison Avenue, near Nieva’s home. McGovern showed Nieva a badge and said he was a law enforcement officer, then demanded money, Nieva said.

A week after that McGovern confronted Nieva at Stop & Shop, where Nieva is a cashier, and again asked for money. A few days later McGovern came to Stop & Shop and asked the manager for Nieva’s schedule, which the manager refused to provide. When McGovern again came to the store on September 9, Nieva said he was going to call police and McGovern replied, “I am the police” and left, according to police reports. Nieva then called police and filed his complaint alleging harassment. Police have since taken a statement from McGovern and reviewed video from the store. The investigation is ongoing.