Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Police report details PW employee’s motor vehicle violations, says Kleinhans told officer ‘not to tell anyone’ about incident

By Suzanne Carlson
Journal Inquirer
Published: Wednesday, June 29, 2011 12:08 PM EDT

VERNON — A police report about a temporary employee who was cited for multiple motor vehicle violations indicates the man’s boss, Public Works Director Robert Kleinhans, told the investigating officer “not to tell anyone about the violation.”

But Kleinhans said today that he didn’t try to cover up the incident, which happened while the man was performing work for the town.

“I didn’t make any comment like, ‘don’t file a report.’ I just said … that it not become a big issue,” Kleinhans said. “I just asked that it not be bandied about, that’s all.”

The incident involving temporary employee Paul E. Griffin happened June 21 about 1 p.m. after Officer Kevin R. Slater and police Capt. Stephen Clark were in the Police Department’s roll call room and noticed a driver on a motorcycle enter the restricted rear parking lot, the police report says.

Slater went to investigate and saw that a public works employee, later identified as Griffin, was checking on a malfunctioning garage door at the department, the report says. The officer then checked the motorcycle’s license plate number with the Department of Motor Vehicles database and couldn’t find a record of the vehicle.

“It then occurred to me that I did not see a public works vehicle parked in the parking lot,” Slater wrote in the report.

The worker told the officer his name was Paul, and indicated the motorcycle was his. When asked to provide registration and insurance information, “he immediately began to get nervous and was having difficulty answering my questions,” the officer wrote in the report.

Griffin, 34, of Ashford, gave the officer excuses for not having the information, the report says, but Slater checked motor vehicle records and found that Griffin’s license expired in 2006 and that he had been stopped and ticketed in 2010 for driving without a license.

“I then asked him if the Public Works Department knew about his license status and he initially refused to answer the question,” Slater wrote in the report.

Griffin said he had “not driven PWD vehicles,” the report says.

Slater contacted Kleinhans at the Public Works Department, the report says, and he told the officer he was unaware that Griffin did not have a license and asked that he be brought back to the public works shop.

“He then advised me not to tell anyone about the violation,” Slater wrote in the report.

The police report, which is on file at Vernon Superior Court, says Griffin was issued a misdemeanor summons for several motor vehicle infractions, including driving without a license, misuse of license plates, operating a motorcycle without an endorsement, driving an unregistered motor vehicle, and driving without insurance.

He was released on a written promise to appear in court, which he did on Monday. The case was continued until July 11, according to court records.

Three days after the incident at the Vernon police station, Griffin forfeited a bond from a Jan. 6 incident in Mansfield, in which police ticketed him for speeding, driving without a license, and driving an unregistered motor vehicle, according to court records.

Bond forfeiture is essentially a mechanism by which the court fines a defendant for a motor vehicle violation.

Griffin has had several infractions disposed of as a result of bond forfeiture, starting in 2003 when Vernon police ticketed him for speeding on Route 83.

In 2005, he was ticketed again, and it is unclear from court records what his original violations were, but even though the case was disposed of it was reopened five years later. Griffin was assessed additional violations for driving without a license and illegally passing another vehicle, and he pleaded guilty and paid fines and costs totaling $311 on Jan. 13, 2010, according to court records.

On May 26, 2010, state police in Tolland ticketed Griffin for driving while talking on a cellphone and driving without a license. That case was disposed of three months later after Griffin forfeited a $100 bond, court records show.

Kleinhans acknowledged today that Griffin worked for him at his private development company prior to working for the town, but said Griffin is not a town employee because he was hired through an outside temporary employment agency.

“Originally he was hired to work as a mechanic — he was filling a need in the winter — and he got outstanding reviews from his supervisor for his technical ability and that opening could not be filled from anywhere else,” Kleinhans said.

When that employee returned to work, Kleinhans said another person went on sick leave, so the union agreed to extend Griffin’s employment until Aug. 31.

“I was unaware that his license had expired, but he did not drive,” Kleinhans said.

As for the Police Department incident, Kleinhans said, “he evidently, during lunch, went up to see what the problem was, rather than have someone in a town vehicle take him there. Unbeknownst to me, he took his own vehicle up and of his own volition went up to look at it. That’s what happened.”

Though he is not a bona fide town employee, Kleinhans said, Griffin has a public works uniform, “for identification, because he goes to various sites.”

Kleinhans said he didn’t want word of the incident to spread because it’s a “non-issue” since Griffin doesn’t drive town vehicles.

“I don’t know what business it is of anybody’s,” he said.

Kleinhans added that since the violation, Griffin has presented him with a valid driver’s license, but he still is not driving town vehicles “because he’s not a town employee.”

Employees who drive town vehicles have their licenses checked, Kleinhans said, “We have all kinds of checks and balances on drivers and licenses.”

Kleinhans said he felt the issue with Griffin was not significant and expressed reservation about speaking about it to a reporter.

“You know, I’m not really supposed to be talking to you here,” Kleinhans said. “You’re intimating that there’s a cover up. There was no attempt at covering anything up.”

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