Saturday, June 10
ANDOVER — School Superintendent Sally Doyen has asked state police to remove Resident Trooper Robert O’Connor as the D.A.R.E. instructor at Andover Elementary School, saying he admitted he was involved in a sexual relationship with the married mother of a student.
In a May 22 letter addressed to O’Connor, Doyen said he made that admission in a May 9 meeting with her and Principal John Briody.
‘He is no longer welcome’
Doyen wrote to Connecticut State D.A.R.E Coordinator Rafael Morales and Sgt. Jay Fontinella from the Troop K state police barracks, O’Connor’s supervisors, on May 16, saying O’Connor’s actions “led to the conclusion that he is no longer welcome nor able to teach” D.A.R.E. at the school, and requesting confirmation he will be removed from Andover’s program.
Doyen attached the letter she later sent to O’Connor regarding his behavior.
The Journal Inquirer obtained the letters through a freedom-of-information request.
Doyen’s letters give the following account:
- In the May 9 meeting with school administrators, O’Connor said he developed a sexual relationship with a student’s mother when she came to him for help after receiving a speeding ticket. He said he became aware of the woman’s problems with drug abuse two weeks after meeting her.
O’Connor said he never met with the woman “inappropriately” at the elementary school or on town property. But he admitted to having “contact” with the woman “a couple times” in his office at Town Hall with the door open — usually with her 2-year-old daughter there.
- Doyen told O’Connor she was concerned about his ability to teach D.A.R.E. at the school because the program focuses on teaching children the skills needed for “responsible decision-making” and to “resist harmful behaviors.”
O’Connor then attended and spoke at the elementary school’s D.A.R.E. graduation ceremony on Thursday, May 11.
- In a second meeting on May 11, requested by O’Connor, he told Doyen his reputation has “never been questioned” and he had never received any complaints about his behavior during his five years of teaching D.A.R.E. to sixth-graders in Andover.
Doyen told O’Connor she would “review the situation and would consult” with Briody.
Doyen’s letter cites D.A.R.E. America National Policy and Procedures regarding the decertification and suspension of instructors in the program. One of the causes for discipline, she cited, is “conduct unbecoming a D.A.R.E. instructor.”
“D.A.R.E. instructors must conduct themselves at all times in a manner which does not bring discredit to the law enforcement community, themselves, their fellow officers, or the D.A.R.E. program,” the policy says.
Doyen told O’Connor at the meeting that if the community learned about the extramarital affair he “would not have the respect or credibility” to continue as the school’s D.A.R.E. instructor.
As a result, Doyen informed the officer she would recommend that the officers overseeing the program remove him as the D.A.R.E. instructor.
“I expect that should you remain in Andover as the resident state trooper, you will respond appropriately to any circumstances in which we require a police presence or assistance,” she wrote.
- Doyen wrote in the letter that she planned to share the information about O’Connor’s conduct with the Board of Education in executive session during its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 14.
Doyen and First Selectman Robert Burbank declined to comment this week.
D.A.R.E. procedures say O’Connor’s coordinators have 30 days to submit a report on the situation since receiving Doyen’s letter on May 16. That means the report should be completed by Thursday, June 15.
Troopers O’Connor, Fontinella, and Morales did not respond to requests for comment.
According to state records, O’Connor earned about $122,000 in 2016 through salary and overtime pay.
The trooper, 49, is a resident of South Windsor. He previously worked as a resident trooper in Somers.
He began working as resident trooper in Andover in 2012, including as the elementary school’s D.A.R.E. instructor.
The Finance Board had recommended the town discontinue the resident trooper program, budgeted at $203,000 in the 2017-18 town budget, but restored the position following expressions of public support.
In April, O’Connor spoke during the public comment portion of a Finance Board meeting in favor of the trooper program. He said the police coverage improves the town’s safety, adding that his value is demonstrated as the elementary school’s D.A.R.E instructor.
A member of the Andover Board of Education, Whitney Covell, said her grandmother, Barbara Covell, saw O’Connor having sexual relations with an unidentified woman in his police cruiser in Townsend Cemetery in 2015.
Whitney Covell recounted the story to the Journal Inquirer last week because Barbara has since died.
A person who asked not to be identified provided the Journal Inquirer with a photo showing the woman referenced in Doyen’s letter sitting on O’Connor’s lap in the trooper’s office at the Town Office Building at 17 School Road.
The photo is dated Wednesday, April 26, at 8:49 a.m. O’Connor said at April’s Finance Board meeting his work hours are 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The source questioned how long town officials knew about O’Connor’s behavior as the woman has visited his office, attached to the Town Office Building, several times.