Free systems for Conn. cops raise ethical issues

Thursday, November 1, 2007

NEW CANAAN, Conn.--Disciplinary action taken against 11 police officers in this city on Sept. 12 has local alarm companies talking about when and where it's appropriate (or inappropriate) to give out free alarm systems and no-cost monitoring.
New Canaan Police chief Edward Nadriczyny on Sept. 12 announced that 11 current New Canaan police officers had received free alarm systems and free monitoring from New Canaan Alarm Company. Although there is no evidence of "a quid pro quo," the department's investigation determined that the situation "created an appearance of impropriety."
Each of the officers was suspended from duty for one day without pay, or forfeited a vacation day.
Paul Chludzinski, owner of New Canaan Alarm, did not return a call seeking comment.
Chludzinski is not a member of the Connecticut Alarm and System Integrators Association. Asked if CASIA has ever addressed ethics questions about free alarm services, CASIA past president Jamie Orvis said no.
"We have a statement of ethics, but a situation like this has not come up in the past," he said.
Free services are generally reserved for charities, or courtesy discounts may be given to friends, but free services for public officials is questionable, Orvis said.
"We should remind our members to be discretionary in how they hand out free services. [Free services for police officers] could disrupt the balance of trust between municipal service providers and our industry, a balance that's very important," he said. Chief Nadriczyny said some of the officers had been receiving free services since 1999. The most recent free system was installed in early January.
"It would appear that [Chludzinski] was buying referrals," Orvis said. When the officers responded to burglaries, they may have been more likely to refer New Canaan Alarm Company to people who had been burglarized, he surmised.
This is not the first time that New Canaan Alarm Company has been in the news recently. In June, its former bookkeeper, Lisa Odierno, was found guilty of embezzling close to $700,000 from the company. It was a June 28 anonymous letter from Odierno, according to published reports, that sparked this investigation. According to a Newsday story, Odierno's relatives have claimed that "a company executive's involvement in the theft" may have been overlooked by New Canaan police officers who received free services from Chludzinski.
However, the police investigation determined that "no officer who had a personal business relationship with the New Canaan Alarm Company was part of a criminal investigation of [the Odierno embezzlement case]."