Chief: Fairfield police captain resigns after probe reveals he mishandled complaint

Fairfield police Capt. Christopher Tursi resigned this month following investigations into his handling of a harassment complaint filed by a female employee.

Fairfield police Capt. Christopher Tursi resigned this month following investigations into his handling of a harassment complaint filed by a female employee.

Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media

FAIRFIELD — A high-ranking member of the town’s police department has resigned following investigations into his handling of an employee’s harassment complaint, the chief said.

Police Capt. Christopher Tursi resigned May 12 after an Internal Affairs probe concluded he mishandled an employee's 2019 harassment complaint and his responses to investigators were “untruthful” when asked about whether he read text messages sent to the woman.

“This incident occurred prior to my tenure as chief. Upon being sworn in, I immediately ordered an Internal Affairs investigation into the matter,” Chief Robert Kalamaras said. “While our goal is to always be as transparent as possible, this was a sensitive personnel matter where the privacy of the victim was paramount.”

Tursi’s attorney, Norm Pattis, did not respond to requests for comment.

According to an Internal Affairs report obtained by Hearst Connecticut Media, a female employee in the department was “subjected to harassment and unwanted conduct from a fellow male employee” beginning in August 2018.

According to the report, the woman said the male employee spent months sending her unwanted text messages, leaving unwanted gifts in her office and personal vehicle, as well as making unwelcomed visits to see her in her office.

In May 2019, the female employee reported the incidents to Tursi, who was her direct supervisor, the report said.

Tursi verified her complaint and issued the male employee a verbal order to have no further contact with the woman, according to the Internal Affairs report.

The male employee retired from the department several months later. However, the report said it was not related to the woman’s complaint.

However, in July 2020 when the woman asked to review the male employee’s personnel file, she discovered there was no documentation of her complaint and there was no indication a warning was issued to the man, according to the report.

Former Police Chief Chris Lyddy also drafted a written “no trespass” order on July 20, 2020, prohibiting the male employee “from being on the property of the Fairfield Police Department.”

According to the Internal Affairs report, the female employee reported this to the town’s human resources director, James Haselkamp, in August 2020.

A private attorney, Christopher Hodgson, was asked to conduct a formal inquiry into the matter at the request of Fairfield Town Attorney James Baldwin and the Board of Police Commissioners.

Following the release of Hodgson’s final report, Kalamaras ordered the Internal Affairs investigation into “the possibility of alleged policy violations that pertain to the mishandling of the investigation by Captain Tursi documented in the Hodgson report.”

The Internal Affairs report identifies three major issues resulting from the incident.

The first issue states Tursi improperly discouraged or interfered with the woman when he told her that the male employee she was complaining about was a “well-liked guy.”

In the summary, Tursi admitted to making the statement to the female employee, but claimed it was not intended to dissuade her from making a complaint. Rather, he said, it was to stress that the man was well liked and if she “put that out there and you start talking about it, gossip and rumor mill is going to be, ‘what kind of part did you have in it,’” according to the report.

“It was about [maintaining] confidentiality ... [and] not in any way to dissuade her from making a complaint,” Tursi said in the report.

The second issue was that Tursi read the text messages sent to the female employee from the male colleague, told her to delete the messages and then later denied seeing them, according to the report.

The female employee details the incident in her written complaint to Haselkamp, explaining the May 2019 situation.

In the complaint, the woman states she went to Tursi’s office and told him everything that had led up to that point. She handed the captain her phone so he could read the texts for himself, the complaint said. The female employee stated Tursi assured her he would speak to the man and told her to delete the messages, according to the complaint.

However, during his Internal Affairs interview, Tursi admitted to being verbally told about the text messages, but when asked if he ever read the texts, he responded, “I don’t believe so, no. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them,” according to the report.

The Internal Affairs report concluded the available evidence “strongly supports a conclusion that Captain Tursi did, in fact, read the text messages presented to him by the female employee, and did, thereafter, direct her to delete them.” The report states the reasonable inferences based on this show Tursi’s subsequent denials were “untruthful.”

The third and final issue highlighted in the report states Tursi originally failed to properly document the female employee’s harassment complaint in May 2019.

All three issues violate several department policies, according to the report.

“Shortly after the conclusion of our internal investigation, Captain Tursi requested the Board of Police Commissioners accept his resignation from the Fairfield Police Department, to which they unanimously agreed,” Kalamaras said. “Our department is committed to upholding the highest standards of policing, which includes taking all allegations of misconduct seriously, and we will continue to maintain the utmost professionalism and accountability within our ranks.”