A police officer in Ansonia is speaking out after being passed over twice for a sergeant’s position despite scoring the highest on written exams.
“This promotion will set a major precedent within the department and is likely to cripple many members’ hopes of moving up in their careers within the department,” Detective Jonathan Troesser wrote in a letter to the Ansonia police commission Feb. 2.
The police commission, based upon a recommendation from Mayor David Cassetti, voted to promote Officer Edward Magera to sergeant during a meeting March 15.
One of the commissioners, Paul Heon, abstained from the vote without stating a reason.
According to the terms of the police union contract with the city, the mayor can pick any of the top three scoring candidates on a promotion exam. The police commission has the final say on the appointment.
While the rules are the rules, Troesser said the sergeant’s position has traditionally been given to the candidate who scores best on the promotional exam — something he’s done twice for the sergeant’s position.
Magera earned the second highest score.
Troesser said Mayor David Cassetti passed him over in 2014 but in a private meeting said Troesser would “get (the promotion) next time.”
He wondered whether his past service as president of the police union was held against him.
Cassetti said he couldn’t recall whether he promised Troesser a promotion in 2014.
“I can’t remember if I said that or not,” the mayor said. “I may have told him ‘You could always try again.’”
The mayor conceded the promotion was a break with precedent, but said he wanted to promote an officer from the department’s patrol division to the vacancy.
Troesser is a detective.
“In the past, past administrations always picked the top guy to avoid some kind of controversy,” Cassetti said. “I wanted to pick from within the patrol (division).”
In Ansonia sergeants are paid 11 percent more per hour than the department’s most experienced patrol officers. Detectives are paid 9 percent more.
In his letter to the commission, Troesser, while not alleging anything underhanded took place, said that “Promotions based upon outside factors such as nepotism, favoritism or discrimination will always leave a sour taste in all other members of the department for many years to come.”
“I would hate to see a precedent set for the members of this department, especially the newest officers, that striving to be the best does not always pay off in the end,” he said.
Asked if future candidates for promotions could be discouraged, Cassetti said “absolutely not.”
The mayor said the police department’s promotion system is solid. In this case, a respected patrol officer is getting a sergeant’s badge, he said, while Troesser is serving the community as a detective.
“Eddie Magera had a chance. He was a patrolman. Now he’s a sergeant. He’s moving up.”
Both Troesser and Magera attended the Police Commission’s meeting March 15.
After the vote to promote Magera, Troesser congratulated him and the pair shook hands.
Magera declined to comment on Troesser’s letter.
A 12-year veteran of the force, Magera, an Oxford resident, has won several awards and citations, including a Medal of Valor from the New England Police Chiefs Association.
He is a firearms and Taser instructor, trains new police officers, and serves as an “officer in charge” of patrol officers in the absence of a sergeant.
Magera has also volunteered in the Special Olympics Torch Run and participated in several “Stuff a Jeep” and “Shop With A Cop” events.
“Throughout my career with the department I have been committed to making not only myself a better officer but to also bringing that knowledge that I obtain through my training back to my fellow officers,” Magera wrote in a March 1 letter to the police commission. “With your approval I am enthusiastic about taking on the position of Patrol Sergeant and am committed to support, lead, guide, and continue to train my fellow officers to the best of my abilities.”
Police Commission President Ann Pitney said the commissioners agreed with the mayor’s pick.
“We just discussed the mayor’s letter, talked about how we felt about it, and that was it,” Pitney said. “This is the first time I can remember we’ve run into this kind of thing. We felt that the mayor had made the right choice.”
Police Chief Kevin Hale said he’s glad to fill the vacancy, which was created last summer with the retirement of Sgt. Randy Guisto from the department.
“We’re glad to have the position filled,” Hale said. “There were three excellent choices, they all did well.”
Troesser said he may file a complaint with the state labor board, but hasn’t yet made up his mind one way or the other.
A copy of the letter he sent to the police commission is below. It is a public document.