HARTFORD, CT – The Connecticut State Police Union is seeking a court-ordered injunction to stop a new promotion process for troopers.
But according to the Office of Attorney General William Tong, the injunction shouldn’t go forward because the three troopers and the union who filed the complaint haven’t exhausted other administrative remedies.
Attorneys in Tong’s office filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit Thursday on the grounds the court has no jurisdiction over the promotional process unless all administrative remedies have been exhausted.
The lawsuit seeking an injunction was filed in late November – two months after the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection and Department of Administrative Services instituted a new process for promoting sergeants which the union calls “illegal” and based on a “system of spoils” and “patronage” rather than merit.
DESPP Commissioner James Rovella and DAS Commissioner Josh Geballe and their departments are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
The new process was an attempt by DAS to modernize the promotion process, said Brian Foley, executive aide to Rovella. “That modernization mirrors that of the troopers entrance exam process as well as the promotional process for the other state agencies.”
The new process would also apply to anyone seeking a promotion to the rank of lieutenant, Foley said.
Troopers Dimitrie Bogiatzo, a 13-year veteran of the state police, Ryan Cloukey, a nine-year veteran, and Wayne Glaude, who has been on the job six years, were not asked to move forward in the new process after the first round of questions even though they are qualified for the promotion, the lawsuit said.
The three are listed as plaintiffs along with the union seeking an injunction to halt the new process and revoke the promotions of those who made it through to the final round. The union also wants the court to rule whether the new process aligns with state law regarding merit-based promotions for state employees.
About 60 of the 260 troopers who entered the new promotion process failed to make it out of the first round, including Bogiatzo, Cloukey, and Glaude, the union said. The trio found out that others had moved forward through the process from other troopers, the lawsuit said. They were not given an explanation as to why they didn’t make it further in the process, the union said.
“It was not apparent what criteria were used to determine which candidates advanced for further consideration and which candidates did not,” attorneys for the union said. For the candidates who did pass, there was no ranking system in place relative to each other that would fall under merit-based rules, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit did not specify how many, or if any, candidates were promoted under the new process.
Under the previous system, candidates for promotion within the state police took an in-person multiple-choice exam, completed a professional profile, and did an oral presentation in two parts.
Each step of the process was objectively scored, the union said. The candidates with the highest scores moved to the top of the list for promotions.
The new process which kicked off in September includes an application, two rounds of general referral questions, the completion of a professional profile and an oral interview, the union said. The union called the new process “subjective” rather than “objective,” which the organization said could lead to the type of patronage the state was trying to avoid.
The new process “will not avert the type of flawed appointment process” that the state law governing promotions for state employees “was enacted to prevent,” the union said.
The president of the CSPU, Andrew Matthews, did not return phone calls Thursday. The union represents troopers, sergeants, and master sergeants, according to court papers.
Attorneys from Tong’s office, which is representing Rovella, Geballe, and the two state agencies, declined comment.
But in papers filed Thursday, Tong’s office contended that the injunction was improperly filed since the union didn’t first seek a ruling on the new process from DAS, which handles promotions and promotion guidelines.
The union has a right to challenge the promotion process, Tong’s office conceded, but it must seek a ruling from DAS before a lawsuit can be filed.
A Hartford Superior Court judge is slated to hold a pre-trial conference with the attorneys for the union and attorneys from Tong’s office Monday. The judge will schedule a hearing at a later time based on the conference, court papers said.