Rutland officer under investigation retires
By Brent Curtis
STAFF WRITER | June 14,2013
Staff File Photo
Officer Joseph “Michael” Warfle has retired from the Rutland Police department after 29 years.
Rutland City Police Officer Joseph “Michael” Warfle has retired, ending an eight-month internal investigation but not a criminal investigation still being reviewed by the Vermont attorney general’s office.
Warfle, a 29-year veteran of the force, has been on paid administrative leave since October for unspecified issues related to his receipt of workers’ compensation benefits.
An internal investigation conducted by city police and a criminal investigation conducted by Vermont State Police and the attorney general’s office started eight months ago have yet to be resolved and, in the case of the internal review, will never be completed.
“The RCPD considers the pending internal review of Mr. Warfle’s conduct closed,” Rutland Police Chief James Baker wrote in a statement.
Asked later about the unfinished internal review, Baker said he couldn’t comment about the details of the case but said it wasn’t uncommon for internal investigations to last many months.
“In my experience it’s not an unusual amount of time when you’re working through personnel issues,” he said. “I understand the public may see that differently.”
Assistant Attorney General Cindy Maguire, head of the criminal division of the Attorney General’s office, said the criminal investigation was continuing but declined to comment further or offer any kind of timeline for its completion.
Warfle’s attorney, John Paul Faignant, said the retirement was not prompted by the investigation.
“He probably would have gone out sooner, but he was waiting for the internal investigation to be completed,” Faignant said. “That didn’t look like that was going to happen. ... He wants to get on with his life.”
Faignant said the length of the internal investigation was “unacceptable,” but they had no legal action planned against the city. He said Warfle planned to take a more hands-on role in his job as the Pittsford police chief as soon as the criminal investigation concluded.
“We need the AG to either stop playing games and either charge him or release him,” Faignant said. “I wish I had some way to affect that. The only thing the AG’s office seems to care about is when the media gets interested.”
Faignant said Warfle waived his rights to privacy, allowing the AG to access the information from the internal affairs investigation.
“The AG has all the information is needs to make its decision,” Faignant said. “Why that decision hasn’t been made I can only attribute to some agenda which we do not know.”
Faignant has asserted Warfle’s innocence in the past, saying days after the investigation began that the investigation was unmerited and was the result of what he described as a series of clerical errors and miscommunications on the part of the city and its insurance carrier, the Vermont League of Cities and Towns.
“They failed to coordinate the collection of information and to properly analyze the workers’ compensation pay,” Faignant said during an interview in October.
Faignant said Warfle began collecting benefits after undergoing a medical procedure required to correct damage to his hips incurred 20 years ago when a car struck him while he was on duty as a city police officer.
Warfle collected workers’ compensation at the time of the original injury and was warned that he would probably develop long-standing medical issues due to the injury, Faignant said.
While he has been unable to work in the city after the department placed him on administrative leave, Warfle has been allowed to work part time in an administrative capacity in Pittsford where he serves as the town’s police chief.
Pittsford Town Administrator John Haverstock said Warfle would remain on restricted duty until the criminal investigation is complete and the Select Board votes to fully reinstate him.
Rutland Police Union president Lynette Gallipo said recently the union hasn’t gotten involved in either the case involving Warfle or officer Thomas Fuller, who was also placed on paid administrative leave in December. A criminal investigation of Fuller ended with the Attorney General’s office finding no evidence of criminal activity, but an internal review continues.
While the union hasn’t involved itself in either of those cases, Gallipo said her membership was dealing with hardships due to the longtime absence of the two officers coupled with the recent departures of several other officers and a dispatcher.
“We’re short-handed and we keep hearing that we’ll be getting more help soon,” she said. “We just want a timeline of how long or short a wait it will be.”
Baker said the department is in the process of adding two new officers — one who recently graduated from the police academy and another who is undergoing field training after moving to Rutland from a department in Schenectady, N.Y.