Police Union Files Grievance, Countdown Till Firing Overturned

Another detail emerges from the Couture firing. While awaiting the eventual hearing Couture was left as road supervisor for 10 months. From the Advocate:

Police union attorney Richard Gudis said he gave the grievance to police Chief Harry Rilling shortly after the decision was made Tuesday afternoon.

Rilling said he is not authorized to overrule the trial board’s decision to fire Couture.

Gudis said he forwarded the grievance, which said Couture was fired without just cause, to the state Board of Mediation and Arbitration Wednesday morning.

Couture was fired for telling former police Lt. Thomas Cummings on Oct. 26 that Cummings was under investigation by Westport police for allegedly having sex with a 15-year-old Weston boy.

The trial board decided Couture’s actions were unbecoming an officer and imparted confidential department business to someone not entitled to receive it.

At the time, Couture commanded the Youth Bureau, which investigates crimes committed by and on young people.

Last year, Couture, 44, earned $116,860 in salary and overtime pay, according to City Hall records. His current salary was $77,621.

The police union contract stipulates that the employee must be 48 years old to begin collecting a pension. Couture won’t be eligible to collect until July 2012.

With 24 years in the department, Couture at that time will be eligible to collect 60 percent of that salary or $46,500 per year, City Hall records show.

Unlike retirees, the union contract says those who have been fired cannot collect one day’s pay for each year they have served in the department.Rilling said Couture’s separation pay – the amount owed him for unused vacation time and time owed – was calculated Wednesday, but he did not have the figure available.

Unlike retirees, Couture is not entitled to health insurance.

“He and his family are holding up as well as can be expected under the circumstances. Steve Couture is a solid police officer, husband, son and father and he will continue to be so regardless of the injustice he has suffered at the hands of the cowardly police commission,” Gudis said.

Police commissioner Peter Torrano dismissed Gudis’ comment and chalked it up to a vigorous defense.

“He is an attorney trying to do the best he can for his client. I understand his need to be protective,” Torrano said.

Gudis said seven elements make up what is considered just cause for a disciplinary action.

“They failed to meet several steps of just cause, including there was an incomplete investigation and the penalty was not commensurate with the offense,” Gudis said.

Gudis said he did not know when the state board would hold a hearing in the matter.

“Steve could easily have been rehabbed. Why he was left on the road as a supervisor for the last 10 months shows that they had confidence in his abilities,” Gudis said.

source: Advocate, Police union files grievance over sergeant’s firing, By John Nickerson, 09/25/2008

46 comments

  1. anon

    Mayor Moccia was warned numerous times that Torrano would be a problem as a Commissioner and wouldn’t leave his previous personal conflicts behind. Now it has come to pass.

  2. Anonymous

    #3 why stop there the city has had enough,even the best damage control experts are questioning their own efforts.

    What the city has lost has always been behind mirrors.While the city thinks growth is the answer very few have looked around to see other cities and towns mistakes.

    We are now seeing layoffs from cities who hired to maintain their safety,how does Norwalk cut to the bone when there is no bone or in our case back bone?

    Can we wait for an election? The taxpayers need to see some figures as we wait for the shelter figures the red herrings are growing.

  3. Huh

    Couture despite, whatever prior good record, appears to have tipped off an alleged felon and thereby aided him in destroying evidence. They had to terminate him and don’t count on reinstatement. Playing with skulls is one thing upstate, but it is likely that aiding an alleged child molestor will not play as well with an arbitration panel. Child molestor charges are radio active.

    Didn’t Moccia have to duck this given Cummings had previously supported him and had contributed to his campaigns? Kind of an obvious conflict for the Mayor.

    It still is an unfortunate mess, but Couture just did not think before calling his bud on this one.

  4. anon

    when will you people get it. sleaze, sleaze, sleaze and more sleaze. open your eyes and do the math. here is a guy who is so committed and is even in charge of youth bureau, yet he calls a pedophile to give him a heads up. i don’t care that they are friends (?) there must be some point where common sense and good judgement slip in for a moment. think about all the cries of injustice. look back over the cummings blogs and see how many stuck up for him as a “stand up guy” who was victimized by the department. couture is no different ethically or morally. he and those of his ilk have be ripping off the city for years! jsut because nobody looked hard enough or followed up on his well known abuses don’t assume he was such a good cop. he is a self aggrandizing, greedy, slimy little reptile who sees himself as slick. his firing is well earned and the correct course of action. whatever the state says, he doesn’t deserve to be a cop anywhere and never did. he is an immature idiot…..wow, for a minute there i felt like i was writing about cummings again. well, birds of a feather…….

  5. anonymous

    The investigation he spoke to him never occurred, and still hasn’t. The victim didn’t cooperate. It is like telling a drug dealer that he better stop selling drugs or he will end up getting arrested.

  6. anon

    The state labor board is going to rely heavily on whether this punishment is consistent or disparate to other punishments the department has handed out in similar situations. Obviousy it is not. They will also look at whether the department and commission investigated this in a fair and impartial manner. They will also consider any procedural errors in the investigation and trial board, starting with whether the investigation started prior to proper notification and whether it was completed within the contractual time frame. Apparently it was not. The trial board chose not to recognize these issues, while the state labor board must. The entire thing may be thrown out on a technicality, like many other norwalk investigations have been.

  7. anon

    not true, an investigation was conducted which led to others coming forward. who knows what the great couture’s warning brought about in terms of destruction of evidence. analogy very poor by the way.

  8. anonymous

    The state labor board also strongly considers prior disciplinary record, the city’s use of progressive discipline, and whether some type of retraining can correct errant behavior without the need for termination.

  9. Anonymous

    Its amazing the police dept has any time to fight crime.We have had our yearly hooker raid,Now its time for our yearly bag of dope arrest and if we are lucky they will find another gun or two that was thrown due to malfunction.This is what we pay Rillings for?

    Do we get a discount on the police budget if we do without the next sideshow? I’m sure the dancing bears have already performed at the community room at the station so whats left within this budget?

    Whats sad is since the council gave the red light for the new cruisers we have lost more than what was voted on,now what? Bikes,Horses? Foot patrols are out,the streets are way too dangerous.

  10. anonymous 1234

    You heard it hear first. The state labor board will give Sgt. Couture his job back with 60-120 days suspension. They will deem the punishment excessive for the offense. They may criticize the internal investigation for sloppiness and not being in a timely fashion. I will then repost requesting the resignation of the Chief, the commissioners, and the internal affairs department.

  11. anon

    I think the state will look for similar cases in Norwalk’s recent past and try to mediate a similar punishment. The closest in similarity is a police officer who found out about an active investigation in which his son was using a car similar to a police undercover car to pull over girls. The officer then interfered with the investigation by destroying evidence. The officer was arrested, so the offense is a bit more severe that Sgt. Couture’s, in which there was found to be no criminal act. The state will likely reverse the Commissioners’ decision and impose a punishment very similar to the officer’s that was arrested for interfering with an investigation and destroying evidence.

  12. turfgrrl

    Does anyone know what the technical guidelines for holding a hearing are? Apparently in DC, they had to rehire 15 fired officers because of missing deadlines for disciplinary hearings, and we already know that the Norwalk Police failed to file cases with prosecutors on the Spa raids …. The DC deadline was 55 days following a complaint.
    The District’s personnel rules set critical time frames for cases investigated by the police internal affairs unit. Officers under investigation can request a hearing before a police trial board. They must be notified in writing of the charges against them. Once a hearing is requested, or a written notice is sent, the department has 55 days to issue a final decision on sanctions.

  13. anonymous

    I believe that they have to inform an officer of an internal investigation within 24 hrs. They then have to complete the investigation within 60 days. And yes, this is going to be an issue in this case.

  14. Ex Cop

    Article 19 of the contract covers disciplinary action. It requires the officer complained about be notified within 24 hrs, and requires the internal investigation to be completed within 60 days, but that can be extended another 30 days at the request of the officer doing the internal investigation. Internal investigations must be started within one year of the alleged rules violation.
    In this case, a complaint was made, to another dept, about Lt Cummings, who has been arrested and resigned. Lt Cummings was Sgt Couture’s immediate boss and an old friend. Sgt Couture told Lt Cummings there had been a complaint made to another dept, and that complaint was not being pursued, at the request of the family of the boy involved. Couture claims to have told Cummings he could not continue such behavior and would be arrested the first time a viable witness/victim came forward. Other complaints against Cummings surfaced later and he was arrested.
    The only complaint filed against Sgt Couture was the complaint by the Chief that Couture didn’t report the story about Cummings to the chief immediately, even though the State’s attorney had oredered Couture not to. I would love to hear the state’s attorney’s explanation for that. Were they concerned others in the dept. were involved with Cummings ? There is no claim, nor evidence, of any destruction of evidence.
    In other cases where there are criminal charges and departmental charges, the time limits on departmental investigation have been waived, at the request of the State’s attorney’s office, to avoid conflict with the State criminal case.
    I doubt if deadlines will be much of an issue, but it will be very difficult to justify to the State, using Sgt Couture as a street supervisor for a long time, as they did, and then deciding he should not be a police officer. My guess is the firing will be reversed and the City will have to take him back. The City will try to negotiate something where they avoid paying back pay for any time between the firing and the re-instatement.
    If the City uses some common sense and the benefit of lessons learned from previous cases, (they never do) they will negotiate some settlement as soon as possible and avoid being ordered to reinstate and pay a lot of back pay for time when Couture was not working.
    In another case currently in the news, another officer was fired by the chief and the commission, without a hearing, for alleged sex crimes against a high school girl. That firing will probably not be challenged for a number of reasons and the criminal trial should begin next Monday.
    The department is quick to take action where crimes have been charged, to its credit, and tries hard to maintain high standards. I’m sure Cummings was told to quit or get fired. In this case, the bad guys are going to court on criminal charges and probably to jail. Couture should have been reprimanded, or, at most, suspended for a few days. If I was the chief, I would have made sure the commission brought that state’s attorney into the hearing and heard his explantion.

  15. anony

    Hey ex-cop. If the Norwalk Police Department still had good guys like Jon Dyer investigating things, the Department would be a lot better off.

  16. Anonymous

    Who could Cashin pass the test to,we seem to have some very unstable cowboys working the late shift its a wonder the shift commander hasn’t moved to the court house and set up shop.Its been said accident reports are abundant.

    Be it John or anyone else time spent pretending all is well has to get to some,get out retire and see the station in the rear view mirror seems to be the logical step for any vet of Norwalk.

    What about the morale has anyone thought about that? Word is it sucks and has been for a while.

  17. anon

    Speaking of games of chance…
    I would imagine that Cummings, King and Couture were all presented with the same choice: retire (with any benefits allowed to them at that time), or possibly get fired.
    All three had allegedly broken criminal laws and/or departmental code. All three new that breaking such laws/codes could result in being fired.
    Why is everyone now so upset because one of these guys chose to take a chance and the result was that he got fired. He knew what he was doing was not right. If the person involved was not his good friend, but say, someone that he didn’t like on the NPD, would he have called that person or done the right thing? If the person involved was not Cummings but say an ordinary citizen, would Couture have rushed over to this citizens house to warn him that he did a bad thing?
    He did what he did because he was more interested in protecting his friend than the safety of minors.
    He did something wrong, he got caught.

    Now, should he have been fired? I say the NPD is finally waking up. Wasn’t everyone aghast when Callahan was allowed to keep his job? Wasn’t everyone shocked that someone could break laws/codes and not get fired?
    Why the double standard now?
    I say, clean house and earn the respect of the citizens of Norwalk.
    Keep everyone accountable. There are many fine officers on the NPD, who treat their job with the respect it deserves. Let those who don’t, know where the door is.

  18. anon

    Callahan was fired and the City was reversed and ordered the City to take him back. If a violation as ghastly as taking body parts to use as an ashtray is not serious enough to terminate someone, what makes the city think that a less serious violation will result in their termination being upheld? What would the opinion be if the Sgt, knowing the case is closed because the victim and family refuse to cooperate, did not confront the Lt., and the sexual activity between the cop and youngster continued while the police decided what to do next, since there was no cooperating victim. Would we now be screaming about how the Sgt failed to take any action to protect the young man?

  19. Anonymous

    Anyone ever wonder why these names of offenders are not on the Norwalk police site where they belong?

    http://www.city-data.com/soz/soz-06850.html

    http://www.city-data.com/soz/soz-06851.html

    http://www.city-data.com/soz/soz-06854.html

    I guess no matter how it ends up with our officer there seems to be enough room to list him as well.But why Norwalk police has not listed them is anyones guess,some of these didlers live next to school bus stops,I know some parents would be outraged if they knew.

    The amount of these guys in Norwalk simply is amazing and if you have children I would be concerned if they live on your street.

    Does Norwalk have a web master? The fire site is also years old an update would bring at least crime fighting into the 21st century.No wonder we can’t take back our streets we are still using old methods something the ATF or FBI training center could educate us with.

  20. anon

    please don’t use the state’s decision with Callahan as the place to set the bar. OJ was found not guilty as well. The standards set by the state can be wrong and offense and detrimental to the public as well in many instances (such as with skull boy). the department did the right thing in firing him and they did the right thing with couture.
    by the way the other two reprobates were allowed to keeep their benefits and pensions because they did their time and had hit retirement age. couture has not got the retirement age. so sorry. consider it retroactive payment for the quality and quantity of service received. besides, if you factor in all the dough he has amasssed while avoiding doing his job and taking care of personal stuff he is well ahead of the game.

  21. anon

    # 25 – no, its not about whether I like it or not, it is about what is right or wrong. just as in courts when decisions are made as a result of strategies and theatrics as opposed to facts and truth. callahan deserved to be dismissed and was not fit to be a police officer. king, same, cummings, same, couture same, next guy, same. i really can’t be too emotionally connected anymore because it doesn’t involve me. however, do not tell me that just because three attorneys on a panel are the final true judges as to what is right or wrong in a moral, ethical or common sense context. simple union nonsense is what you are spewing. it is that mindset that keeps the trash in the department instead of being discarded.

  22. Anonymous

    Officer Cummings was not just gay; he was a pedophile and in charge of kids, no less. He got sexually aroused for our sons who are young, impressionable and legal; but apparently “legal” was not young enough. The irony is rich here that one of our kids passed himself off as an adult, and a cop gets a hand-slap with full benefits. What about when perps succumb to the entrapment of ADULT cops, thinking they’re gearing up to diddle a child? No victim there, and the crime is impossible to commit but the cops have a field day with the attempt bust.

    I have no respect for Cummings’ brethren cops because I didn’t see them protest against this pedophile, his crime and his bid to get full benefits for a cop life that was a lie. If his brethren cops really believed in enforcing child predator laws, they should have enforced loudly the law against this scumbag and brought shame down on him as easily as they bring shame down on entrapped innocents. Otherwise, their sympathy for his benefits can’t be disassociated from a sympathy for his crime. They must all be child sex perps themselves. Cummings got off more lightly than a liquor store owner who got busted by an underage-teen sting with cop-supplied fake IDs.

    Oh, and speaking of stings, this makes me wonder what is going on in the mind of a cop who volunteers to surf the web with immunity for child porn? We all know the psycho-physical effects on men who view sexually explicit porn. What about the cops viewing these pictures; the cops that didn’t protest against Cummings? Are they repulsed enough? And if they’re so repulsed by those images, how can they engage in such a perversion? Did “Cum”mings do that stuff?

  23. MrBozak

    How come none of these guys are going to jail with me in December? I plead guilty to possession of Marijane with intent to sell on Tuesday, I manned up to my mistakes and agreed to a one year sentence and 1000$ fine.
    Yet these so-called men of integrity do nothing but hide behind their badge and union like COWARDS. Do you expect people of such low moral standards to protect and serve? How can you expect a person of higher moral to work along side such?
    Have they no dignity or humility???????
    I did the crime and I will do the time, will these cops match me?

  24. MrBozak

    I have also suspended my campaign for Mayor, due to the economy. And of coarse incarceration. But I promise to return and bring back the gallows as soon as possible, dont wanna end up with one of these cops as cell mates…

  25. Ex Cop

    Where does anybody get the idea Cummings is getting off easy ? He was arrested and is out on bond. Smart money is on him getting prison time. No way is that getting off easy.
    Couture is not accused of any crimes. He was accused by the department of various charges after the State’s Attorney reviewed the evidence and found there was not enough evidence of any crime to justify issuing an arrest warrant. The commission reviewed the departmental charges, found him guilty of some violations, and fired him. Without having participated in the hearing, it is impossible to know what he was really guilty of, or how serious the rules violations were. He may have done some stupid things, but he was an a position never imagined when they wrote the rules. Maybe he desrves some sanction, but the firing will be overturned.

  26. Anonymous Too

    Wouldn’t it be ironic if it turns out that the young man from Westport contacted Lt. Cummings after the Westpot Police contacted him, and told Lt. Cummings that the Westport Police were investigating him. What if Lt. Cummings then wiped his computer after this, and it was several weeks before Sgt. Couture was notified? What if the Norwalk Police knew this before the hearing and failed to reveal this information? Would the State Labor Board take this into consideration since one of their reasons for firing Sgt. Couture was he gave Cummings the opportunity to destroy the computer?

  27. Mr. Walker

    Hey MrBozak-
    The reason “these guys” are not going to jail with you is because they haven’t been convicted yet. Unlike you- two of them haven’t been charged with crimes- only violating Department regulations! As far as Cummings goes he hasn’t even been to trial yet! You’ll have to find another “boyfriend” in jail.

  28. Youth in Norwalk

    SGT. COUTURE is SCUM! He is supposed to protect kids. HE SO TOLD Cumming’s he was being investigated and deserved to be FIRED!
    Lt. Cummings was a married man and has two teenage sons. Couture is married to. It makes you wonder if he is a closet case who gets it on with men at the Glory Hole Book Stores and who know’s where else. A man of HONOR would never protect a child molester. I don’t care if it is his friend. Couture has kids. Would he be so inclined to hold up the Blue Wall if it was one of his children that was having sex with Mr. Cumming’s!
    I think NOT! WE reap what we sow Coulture. You are a liar for denying what you did and deserve to be canned! Karma works in mysterious ways. May you and yours suffer to the extent that you are lying. What goes around comes around. And when it really comes you’re way don’t be surprised! It may take a lifetime but it always does. You protect kids man! I’ll say it again. If it was one of you’re kids you would have strung him up, Not warned him! If in fact he is guilty of the crimes he is accused of.

  29. anonymous

    BETTER YET !!! A new rumor is that Deputy Chief Rosmary Arway, who was the Captain in charge of Lt. Cummings and Sgt. Couture at the same time of the incidents, abruptly resigned and had her last day today so she can go to the Arbitration Hearing for Couture and testify that Couture notified her of the Cummings investigation and that she failed to notify the Chief of Police. She is willing to take the blame now because she is no longer a City employee and can not be disciplined. That is why she opted out of her contract one year early. If she does testify to this there are still two issues, why didn’t Couture ever tell this to the investigators or testify to it during his trial board and why didn’t Deputy Chief Arway testify to this if it was true. I question the timing and credibility.

    I also heard that in the very begining of the investigation with the 15 year old from Weston she while acting as the Department Liason tried to get to boy to withdraw his complaint and offered to get him four tires for his Jeep. !!! Deputy Chief Arway can’t stand Chief Rilling and vice versa so this is her last chance to get back at him and Commissioner Torrano. The plot thickens.

  30. Ex Cop

    #36 anonymous
    If any part of what you just posted is true, somebody(beside Cummings) should go to prison. There is no way retired Deputy Chief Arway will perjure herself at the Labor Board to help Couture. There is no way she had any negotiations with the boy from Weston, if he exists, who never told his story to, nor was identified by, police. There was no investigation because they never identified him. Cummings was arrested on charges involving other boys who came forward after that story came out. That story about a boy from Weston, could be a complete fabrication, intended to bring out other victims. If it was, it worked.

    Is she still around ? I heard she was moving to Florida.

  31. anonymous

    Ex-Cop
    Don’t try to not know all, of course she is still around, today was her last day and then she goes to Florida, even though she hasn’t been able to sell her Norwalk home. Arway did speak with the boy from Weston during the original complaint, she was assigned as the NPD liason by Rilling. The Weston victim does exist and was interviewed by the Westport Detective and eventually by States Attorney Colangelo. The Weston boy and family did not wish to go forward with the complaint as to aviod further troubles and humiliation. The Weston boy identified Cummings by his name, address and vehicle he drove, he didn’t know he was a Norwalk Police Lt. The other boys,victims, came out later during the investigation. That is how it happened. Don’t forget you are an Ex-Cop, you may not have all the info.

  32. anonymous 2

    I think 36 is just trying to stir up a dust storm. Couture will get his job back on the fact that he had no prior disciplinary action against him and the punishment is excessive. Arway probably left due to difficult working conditions. In a hostile working environment where you and your supervisor do not get along and each is out to get the other is not an enjoyable place to be. When the opportunity arises to go to better working conditions and increase your income, who wouldn’t do the same? From what I hear, Couture’s firing was a politically motivated decision by an administration that was under fire for previous disciplinary actions against other employees and were trying to appear tough. It will backfire at a labor board hearing, especially if details about a negotiated settlement offered by the City and then backed out of by the city come out.

  33. anonymous

    # 36 Answering
    In a hostile work environment you sue or threaten to sue, just like Arway did in the past. Also the claim of a hostile work environment is difficult to defend when she doesn’t work 8 hour days or show up every day and oh yeah, part of her work day included teaching classes online from her office and getting paid another salary. As I opened my post in # 36 I stated a new rumor. I was told that Couture has ststed that if Arway testifies he will get his job back. AS far as getting his job back, who knows, anything can happen with a Labor Board. In the end they are all a bunch of unethical, self-centered police officers out for themselves, not the public at large that they are supposed to serve. Dust or dirt may come up who knows?

  34. Anon

    36-sounds like you might be one of those self centered police officers looking out for yourself. Any comments about the other deputy chief that was running his own business from a desk in the PD?

  35. anonymous 36

    Sure, he did that too and you can say the name, Kulhawik. It all goes to all the comments made over the past two years about how the department is run. Very few at the top, if any are actually doing there jobs to run a department. He has his little ring that he protects too. You have to look out for yourself now because nobody else will. I’m just posting what I heard and what I know is going on, if it offends you or the side you defend I,m sorry. I don’t have a pony in the race.

  36. Ex Cop

    #36 anonymous
    I spoke to the Westport detective, and she never got the name or spoke to, a boy from Weston. She got a story, maybe your kind of rumor, from somebody who had just parts of it. She knew the location described was in Norwalk and passed off what she had to Couture who knew right away who the pedophile had to be, based on description of him, his car, and his apartment. What happened then has been rehashed here, and at a police commission hearing, already, and does not need repeating. Newspaper stories brought out other victims and subsequent investigation of their stories led to Cummings arrest.
    I don’t know, for sure, but I believe Arway has not worked for the City since putting in her papers. Her retirement started yesterday. The time between was sick and vacation time she had accumulated.
    For the record, there are no cops on the labor board. They generally act as an appeals panel and rule on the local agency procedure, not on the merits of the case against the employee. They will not decide if Couture was right or wrong, only if the process used to fire him was proper. If they find it was not, they can order him re-instated.

  37. anonymous 36

    Ex-Cop
    Sounds good. But, she didn’t notify Couture first, it was Det. Perez and he called States Atty Colangelo and then Couture was involved. The Weston victim was identified and that was when Arway was assigned as the liason. I believe she was present at Cummings apartment while the States Atty Office executed search warrants. The Weston victim was interviewed and does not wish to go forward. As for Arway, she has been in and out of work since her retirement notice and yes using up vacation and comp time.
    And the Labor Board will determine if procedures were followed for due process and determine if the punishment fits the crime.

  38. anonymous 36

    True Anonymous 2 about the offense, but it is not always necessary to have progressive discipline to terminate an employee. If the offense is serious enough or aggregious enough in the eyes of the Trial Board and the Arbitrators the termination may stand. They will take Couture’s employment history of no serious or I don’t even think any minor discipline issues into account while looking at the offense and the punishment. We will have to wait and see.