Pubdate: Fri,  3 Sept 1999
Source: New Haven Register (CT)
Copyright: 1999, New Haven Register
Author: Gregory B. Hladky


HARTFORD -- Fred Brandi of Hamden was hired in June as a deputy
sheriff despite having a felony drug conviction on his record, New
Haven County High Sheriff Frank J. Kinney confirmed Thursday.

Kinney said his understanding is that Brandi's conviction happened 18
years ago in Florida.

However, according to the Florida Department of Correction, Brandi was
convicted on March 5, 1986, and sentenced to three years in prison for
attempted drug trafficking and conspiracy. He was released for good
behavior in April 1988 after serving two years.

Kinney acknowledged that his office never conducted a criminal
background check on Brandi or on any of the other deputy sheriffs he
has appointed to serve legal papers.

Kinney said Brandi, 40, is well known in the Hamden community and that
he didn't see the drug conviction "as an impediment to swearing him in
as a deputy."

Fred Brandi is the son of the prominent Hamden Democrat Joseph Brandi,
a former police commissioner and vice chairman of the Hamden
Democratic Town Committee. Joseph Brandi had no comment.

"That's amazing," state Rep. Michael Lawlor, an East Haven Democrat
who is co-chairman of the legislature's Judiciary Committee, said of
the failure to perform a criminal background check.

"In Connecticut, if you want to be a school bus driver you have to go
through specific background checks. ... but not if you're going to be
a peace officer?" he asked.

"That does not make sense," said Lawlor. He pointed out that, while
convicted felons are banned from buying guns in Connecticut, deputy
sheriffs are technically "peace officers" who are allowed to purchase

Kinney, however, defended his appointment of Brandi as a deputy

"It was a drug charge," he said of Brandi's conviction, "but it was
probably the same type of youthful indiscretion that (Republican
presidential) candidate George W. Bush admits to."

Gov. Bush has denied any drug use within the last 15 or 20 years, but
has not ruled out what he termed "youthful indiscretions" prior to
that time.

Neither Kinney's office nor those of Connecticut's seven other high
sheriffs have a formal policy prohibiting the hiring of convicted
felons as deputy sheriffs or special deputies.

Deputies serve legal papers, while special deputies guard courthouses
and transport prisoners.

Kinney acknowledged Thursday that recent reports on the hiring of
sheriffs with criminal pasts is likely to result in reforms that may
prohibit or restrict the hiring of convicted felons.

Earlier this year, Kinney hired state Rep. William R. Dyson's son,
despite Michael Dyson's record of felony convictions in 1990 and 1991
on drug and gun charges.

Kinney and Dyson, who is co-chairman of the legislature's influential
Appropriations Committee, deny that Dyson's opposition to efforts to
abolish the office of high sheriff had any connection to his son's

Dyson's committee is co-chaired by Sen. Joseph J. Crisco Jr.,
D-Woodbridge, whose father and son work for the New Haven County
sheriff's office.

Dyson and Crisco led the successful fight to kill the sheriff system
reform plan.

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