New London risk manager resigns over internal dispute

New London — City Risk Manager Paul Gills resigned abruptly on Thursday following a disagreement with Chief Administrative Officer Steve Fields.

He was the second city administrator to leave over the past week, though the reasons appear to be unrelated. Economic Development Coordinator Peter Lent resigned last week due to what Mayor Michael Passero said was a personal reason.

Gills, reached at his home Thursday evening, said he offered to quit following a disagreement with Fields during a meeting with other city personnel surrounding labor issues involving city employees. The meeting was attended by the law director, personnel administrator and others.

“For me it was a professional issue for which I am unwilling to compromise my personal and professional ethics and integrity,” Gills said.

He said he sent an email outlining several labor issues to fellow employees and Fields had threatened discipline.

When Gills threatened to quit, he said Fields “made the unilateral decision to accept my resignation.”

Fields declined to comment on Gills’ resignation, calling it a personnel issue, but defended himself and said, “I have personal and professional ethics I adhere to that I have never in my career compromised ... they drive my professional decisions.”

Gills did not rule out the possibility of a return to city employment if asked and only under certain circumstances.

“I enjoyed my time in the city of New London under Mayor Passero. I love the city and did my best to reduce the total cost of risk to the taxpayers,” Gills said. “However, there comes a time to move on and this is the time. I’m unwilling to compromise.”

Gills said he particularly liked working “with the men and women of New London police and fire department(s) and the unsung heroes in Public Works."

Passero declined to discuss the particulars of Gills’ departure but praised his work in the city.

Gills was hired in 2014 under former Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio at a time when the city was working to rein in its skyrocketing insurance costs. He came with 36 years of experience working with insurance companies and consulting firms.

Gills is credited with creating a culture of safety that helped to minimize liabilities for the city, lower insurance costs and saving the city millions of dollars, Passero said. In 2018 the city was honored with an Excellence in Risk Management Award from the Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency for its proactive steps to control liabilities and establish risk management as a priority.

“He did a fantastic job for the city,” Passero said.

Passero said both Gills and Lent were “valued members of the team.”

Lent’s resignation came last week and was similarly abrupt, without prior notice.

Lent was hired in 2018 after his retirement from the state Department of Economic and Community Development. He had been tasked with recruiting, expanding and retaining local businesses. He could not be reached for comment.

“They both made personal decisions. It’s their private business,” Passero said. “They contributed to the great reputation we have locally and in the region and state.”

Passero said he already has started the recruitment process for replacements in the two positions.

g.smith@theday.com

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