Arbitration panel upholds termination of Simsbury sergeant
SIMSBURY – An arbitration panel recently upheld the termination of a Simsbury police sergeant who was accused of secretly recording conversations with superior officers.
In a 2-1 decision dated Sept. 1, the state Board of Mediation and Arbitration panel upheld the termination of Sgt. Jason Trombly, who had been employed by the Simsbury Police Department since 2008.
In a brief statement, Town Manager Maria Capriola said the town was pleased with the decision.
“We are pleased that the arbitration panel upheld the decision of the Police Commission to discharge Mr. Trombly. We wish him the best in his future endeavors,” she said.
Attorney Jeffrey Ment, who represented Trombly in the grievance procedure, called the decision “terrible” and said he was “shocked” at the outcome.
“The idea the arbitrator believed the chief conducted a fair investigation is stretching the imagination to the furthest extent possible,” Meant said. “The chief clearly could not have possibly conducted the investigation considering he was the complainant, or the victim so to speak, investigating an issue that he was a witness to. If someone else investigated the matter, the chief would have been a witness because he would have been the complainant.”
The case arose from an April 2019 written warning Chief of Police Nick Boulter issued Trombly for deficiencies occurring during the midnight shift, for which Trombly was the supervisor. (Trombly filed a grievance about the written warning, which was also heard by an arbitration panel in May.)
During a meeting with union representatives, who were also fellow police officers, about the discipline, Trombly said he had “recorded” a conversation he had with the administration, including one in which Boulter had disparaged officers in the department.
Concerned about a subordinate secretly recording conversations with the chief, the union representatives brought the matter to Boulter’s attention.
Boulter began looking into the matter and interviewed Trombly, who denied making any recordings of the administration, including the chief.
During the inquiry, Trombly gave conflicting written answers from the verbal interview he had given Boulter.
Further, police officers testified that they had conversations with Trombly, who admitted having recordings of Boulter making disparaging comments about other officers.
In addition, Trombly said he had taken notes of conversations with Boulter, which Boulter during the inquiry requested to be copied on a thumb drive. The metadata from the information turned over to Boulter, according to the arbitration decision, had been altered and was not the original document. When Boulter requested the original, Trombly insisted he had already turned it over.
In September 2019, Boulter recommended Trombly’s termination, citing “criticism and malicious gossip,” insubordination, lack of respect and truthfulness.
“It is imperative that officers are truthful and honest in their dealings with supervisors,” Boulter wrote in his investigation. “There is no position for an officer in this Department who is untruthful and dishonest.”
The Simsbury Police Commission voted to fire Trombly in November 2019.
The arbitration panel, in a 25-page decision, upheld the termination, stating, “[i]t is clear that [Trombly] was not truthful in his conversations with Chief Boulter.”
“[W]e think that the grievant’s dishonesty was substantial,” the majority wrote. “It occurred over a number of months and included multiple conversations with Chief Boulter. It was not an isolated episode of dishonesty. Moreover he concocted a false storyline which no witness corroborated…we find that the evidence presented supports the grievant’s dishonesty and that the Town has produced a preponderance of the evidence that it had just cause to terminate the grievant.”
Ment, for his part, said Boulter’s investigation into Trombly’s conduct was inappropriate because Boulter was also a witness.
“I argued the linchpin of whether there was just cause to terminate him is did he get a fair investigation?” Meant said. “Only from fair can you get just cause. … If nothing else, the chief should not have conducted the investigation because the conflict of interest required the chief to be a witness in the investigation. But I was unsuccessful. Now the guy with an unblemished 11-year police career is tossed out.”
Ment said Trombly was disappointed with the decision, but said it was unlikely there would be an appeal to Superior Court, as it’s notoriously difficult to have an arbitrator’s decision overturned.
Furthermore, the people who approached the chief about recordings were Trombly’s own union representatives.
Still, Ment did not hold back on what he thought of the decision.
“I think it was a joke,” he said. “This experience has taught me there is no such thing as justice in this system. … Every turn when something could have went wrong [for Trombly, it went wrong for him.
“I’ve seen plenty of people who deserve to be terminated never get terminated. Then this guy, by the chief’s admission is a stellar police officer, he gets canned because the chief can’t stand the idea of someone questioning him and has the audacity to file a grievance.”