Stratford probes confidential breach

RICHARD WEIZEL

Connecticut Post, Article Last Updated: 04/03/2008 12:29:42 AM EDT

STRATFORD — An internal probe into the leaking of background information from the personnel file of officer applicant Christian Miron has been taken over by Police Chief John Buturla's office.

But information in the report has raised questions about whether Miron should be disqualified as a candidate.

Experts familiar with police hiring practices outside Stratford agreed the release of background information on Miron, 29, the younger brother of Mayor James R. Miron, is a serious breach of confidentiality, but that some of the issues raised in Miron's report are cause for concern.

"Frankly, I have never heard of this serious a breach of an applicant's confidential information," said John Sopchack, a former Milford police officer and professor of psychology at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport.

"This places the Stratford Police Department in a very difficult position because if they hire this individual, he's bound to be under even more intense pressure than the usual new officer," he said. "But they also can't pass him up because of the release of this information."

Buturla, meanwhile, said if and when those responsible for the leak are found, "they will receive the full extent of discipline, up to and including dismissal." He declined to say whether the probe had identified any potential suspects.

A detailed, nine-page background investigation leaked from Miron's personnel file shows he scored well on the written and oral exams and received "rave reviews" from several references. He was issued a conditional offer of employment and a psychologist who interviewed him (a standard procedure) recommended he be hired but with "strong reservations."

Buturla and Deputy Police Chief Joseph LoSchiavo declined to comment specifically on the content of Miron's background check, or what is in his file. But the town's two top police officials said there are three automatic "disqualifiers" for a police officer candidate: a felony record, a drunken-driving conviction and perjury.

While Miron's background check reveals none of those crimes, the report does note several borderline issues that could derail his hiring, experts said.

Among those issues:

l Miron admitted smoking marijuana fewer than 10 times in the past decade, the last time in September 2006.

l He showed deception on a polygraph test when asked about driving after consuming alcohol and his current medical condition. He said he has a 5 percent disability in his neck after a car accident in 1994.

l Doubts raised by a psychologist about "a somewhat unstable work and academic history." According to the report he has held several jobs and, after studying at American University and essentially flunking out, he received a bachelor's degree in political science with decent grades from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield.

The psychologist from Behavioral Health Consultants noted Miron appears to have an "extreme naivete about law enforcement and the role of a police officer."

Both Buturla and LoSchiavo said that generally those are among the factors "heavily considered when hiring police officers."

The town's Police Department has filled three of 13 vacancies.

The psychologist also noted "There is the possibility [Miron] will have either difficulty as a police officer or will become disillusioned and change his mind about his desire to even become a police officer."

However, state Rep. Terry Backer, D-Stratford, the Long Island Soundkeeper who employed Miron, said he "would make a good police officer because he is calm and level headed."

Another supervisor at SHU said Miron is a "dependable worker" and "a problem solver."

While he doesn't believe his brother should be given any "special treatment," Mayor Miron said he should also not be "penalized in any way because he's my brother and some people clearly have personal and political agendas to keep him from being hired."

Christian Miron declined to comment on any of the issues raised in his personnel file or background report, but he issued a written statement to the Connecticut Post, saying: "I'd love to serve as a police officer in my hometown. Given the opportunity, I think I'd be very good at it. All I want is a fair shot.

"I expect to be treated the same as anybody else and given the same opportunities — no more, no less. I scored highly on all of the objective components, did well in my interviews and as a result placed highly. I haven't seen this report and I intend to consult with legal counsel."

Still, not everyone feels the person who leaked Miron's background information to the media and Town Council should be punished.

Town Council Chairman Michael Henrick, R-10, said whoever leaked the information "should be commended."

"Everyone knows it's the same old system of nepotism that allows relatives of the mayor and others to get jobs they are not qualified for," Henrick said. "It's time we put a stop to it."