Trumbull Democratic Town Chairman Tom Kelly and Town Council Minority Leader Mary Beth Thornton released the following statement Monday:
Trumbull Democratic Town Committee leaders on Monday called for the immediate resignation of Police Commission Chairman Roger McGovern, whose altercation with a local Stop & Shop employee in August has led to a media spectacle, embarrassing the Police Department, and undermining the town’s faith in the fairness of First Selectman Tim Herbst.
In the case, a Bridgeport man, 33-year-old Bernardino Nieva, was riding his bicycle home on August 19th after working at Stop & Shop. He lost control of the bike at the intersection of Main Street and Blackhouse Road, hitting McGovern’s Cadillac Escalade. Nieva said McGovern demanded $2,600 for damage to the vehicle and flashed a badge. He also claimed that McGovern—at least once with associates—visited his home and workplace repeatedly for weeks afterwards, demanding money and showing a badge.
Herbst said late last month that local law enforcement would refer the matter to the state’s attorney to determine whether there were violations of any laws, or whether charges should be filed. The matter has also been referred for investigation to the Trumbull Ethics Commission. In the meantime, though, McGovern remains on the police commission, overseeing administration of the town’s law-enforcement agency while under a cloud himself. That is unsustainable, said Democratic Town Chairman Tom Kelly.
There are several questions which should be answered at the outset, said Kelly. “Why did the initial reporting of this matter indicate that the investigation was closed and no further action would be taken? Was this matter re-opened only after it was reported in the Trumbull Times? Would the same result have taken place had the newspaper not reported this story publicly?
Kelly also noted that the matter was referred by the Police Commission to the Trumbull Ethics Commission. According to the Town Charter, the Code of Ethics approved by the Town Council determines what sanctions can be applied. However, the Charter specifically states that any alleged violation which may also involve a criminal violation “shall be referred to and reserved for appropriate criminal authorities.” So the jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission is questionable, according to Kelly.
“Trumbull Democrats are also disappointed that the composition of two of the most powerful Boards in Trumbull, the Police Commission and the Ethics Commission, is not representative of our Community. The First Selectman has appointed twelve regular and alternate members to these Commissions. All twelve of them are men. Although more than 50% of Trumbull residents are women, the First Selectman has not appointed a single woman to either commission.”
“It’s appropriate to let the authorities investigate what actions ought to be taken in the legal realm, but it’s well past time for the first selectman to insist on Mr. McGovern’s immediate resignation,” said Democratic Town Committee Vice-Chairman Mary Beth Thornton. “There is a major distinction between respecting an ongoing legal process, and allowing an embarrassment for the town and the Police Department to continue. Whether he broke any laws or not, Mr. McGovern has clearly compromised his ability to guide the Police Department—that should be as apparent to First Selectman Herbst as it is to every other resident of our town.”
Whether McGovern improperly demanded money from Nieva or impersonated a police officer is something for the investigators to establish and act on, said Thornton. “But we do know without a doubt that Mr. McGovern stalked Nieva for several weeks afterward. It’s partly on video. That alone is disqualifying.”
Herbst, Kelly said, has shown a troubling pattern of double standards. He holds his political opponents to one standard—issuing highly personal and inflammatory public denunciations. He demands immediate resignations, and demands that Trumbull Democrats denounce people’s private behavior.
“Mr. McGovern has been one of Mr. Herbst biggest supporters since the First Selectman appointed him to the Police Commission. In July of 2015, Tim Herbst personally chose Mr. McGovern to introduce him at the Republican Convention when he was nominated to run for a fourth term. Herbst’s relentless partisanship has impaired his ability to be evenhanded. He’s created a toxic political environment, even at the expense of our fine Police Department’s reputation. It’s time for this to stop.”
“Let us be clear,” Kelly said. “First Selectman Herbst should apply the same standards to one of his biggest supporters as he does to those who do not support him.”