Exactly one month after the San Mateo Superior Court expunged his conflict-of-interest conviction, former Broadmoor police chief Michael Connolly is making his comeback, and the unincorporated municipality is welcoming him with open arms.
The Broadmoor police commission tonight swore in Connolly as the $160,000-a-year interim chief of the small police department. The meeting lasted less than ten minutes — and was attended by only one Broadmoor resident, plus Connolly’s wife and sister.
Commission chair James Kucharszky called Connolly a “highly qualified” applicant for the job before the unanimous vote, and said the reinstatement was a “long time coming.”
Connolly, who previously worked as deputy chief of the San Francisco Police Department, stepped down as Broadmoor’s chief in June, 2021, amid allegations that he had illegally installed himself as the head of the department. The San Mateo District Attorney brought charges against Connolly soon after.
The former chief pleaded “no contest” to a charge that he influenced a government decision — his own appointment — in which he had a financial interest. In exchange, the DA dropped two other conflict-of-interest charges. He was sentenced to a year’s probation, a small fine, and was barred from elected office for four years.
But the rules don’t prevent the small-town commission from reappointing Connolly to the joint chief-and-district-manager position again. After his probationary period ended, the San Mateo court granted Connolly’s petition to dismiss his conviction on Dec. 12. Now, the commission has brought him back to the police force.
“Things come full circle for a reason,” Connolly told Mission Local after his swearing-in, wearing a shiny brass badge over his suit.
Broadmoor is a census-designated place in an unincorporated area within Daly City, and its independent police department is funded by property taxes. Its population is less than 4,500.
The town’s police department has a long and problematic past. Three former chiefs — Connolly was not among them — and a commander were accused in a December, 2021, CalPERS audit of defrauding the state pension system. The former chiefs were Arthur Stellini, who also served many years with the SFPD, Dave Parenti, and Gregory Love.
Nevertheless, earlier this week, Broadmoor’s police commission approved a resolution providing former chief Love, one of the accused, with disability pay. San Mateo District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, whose office has filed felony grand theft charges against Love, seemed surprised to hear this when speaking with Mission Local on Thursday. Love was arraigned last month and is scheduled to enter a plea later in January.
Wagstaffe told Mission Local that he also conducted an “extensive investigation” into former chief Parenti’s alleged fraud, but the statute of limitations had passed. He sent the case to the U.S. Attorney’s office, which has a longer statute of limitations, but it declined to pursue charges.
A November, 2022, report by a San Mateo County commission has also highlighted years of the department’s budget deficits, and its practice of drawing from the department’s reserves to balance its budget. It also noted that the Broadmoor Police Protection District does not report its revenue and expenditures after each fiscal year, or discuss its audit results with its commission.
Broadmoor has also been accused of multiple acts of noncompliance with the Brown Act, which forbids public officials from doing government business in private. The municipality was sued by a part-time officer who accused the police commission of failing to vote publicly on its reappointment of one commissioner; a complaint against Connolly also alleged that the commission ran afoul of the Brown Act when it voted to install Connolly as chief in March, 2019.
Asked about Connolly’s past legal issues on Thursday night, Commissioner Marie Brizuela was dismissive. “It was nothing he did wrong,” Brizuela said. “There’s nothing to discuss.”
Wagstaffe explained in a conversation with Mission Local that clearing Connolly’s record was procedural and does not reverse the earlier conviction: “If they complete their period of probation, and they don’t violate their probation, as a matter of law, the court must set it aside,” he said. Connolly can also leave the conviction off of job applications.
Nevertheless, Wagstaffe said, “it doesn’t change the original conviction, it doesn’t say, ‘oops, that was flawed.’” If any police department looked into Connolly’s history, they would still see the previous conviction.
However, Wagstaffe maintains that Connolly likely was unaware of the conflict-of-interest law he violated when he, as a commissioner, voted himself into the chief’s position and voted on his own future salary. Connolly’s wrongdoing, Wagstaffe said, was “not the same as if he was reaching into the till to steal $20,000.”
In the 19 months since Connolly’s departure, a series of chiefs have taken his place. Patrick Tobin, formerly with the SFPD, briefly took over after Connolly’s resignation, followed by Ronald Banta. In December, 2021, Mark Melville stepped in for a year, but his contract was not renewed in November. Since then, Commander John Duncan has been serving as interim chief.
Connolly told Mission Local Thursday afternoon that after he left the Broadmoor police department, he did not maintain contact with its members regarding police matters. But when he learned that the last chief’s contract was not renewed in late 2022, he volunteered to assist.
Interim Chief Duncan was selected over Connolly last fall, but recently stepped down.
“I knew that the commander was going to have a challenge running the department, I just know that from having been there,” Connolly said, referring to Duncan. “The commissioners knew of my abilities and skills, and my availability.”
Connolly says he will serve as interim chief, and does not know yet whether he will remain as permanent chief.
“There’s some challenges to overcome, I’m not gonna paint a rosy picture. The department is not without its challenges,” Connolly told Mission Local, acknowledging he will have to tackle longstanding financial problems, as well as the department’s and his own credibility issues.
“I’m cautiously optimistic, I’m going to do the best job, as I always intended to do,” Connolly said.
Asked to comment on the commission’s decision to reinstate Connolly as its chief, Wagstaffe declined to share his views. “He’s legally entitled to it … and if they feel that’s the correct avenue to go, then I guess that’s how the system works.”