‘Leave of Absence’: Moynihan Seeks to Retain Parks & Rec Commissioner After Second Domestic Arrest


New Canaan’s highest elected official is seeking to retain a Parks & Recreation Commission member on the appointed body following the latter’s second arrest in one year in a domestic incident, records show.

First Selectman Kevin Moynihan is asking whether Commissioner Jack Hawkins could take a “leave of absence” instead of stepping down from Parks & Rec following the latter’s May 11 arrest for disorderly conduct, according to emails obtained through a public records request.

The Town Charter “provides that Parks and Rec shall have no fewer than 7 and no more than 11 members,” Moynihan said in a May 23 email sent to Parks & Rec Chair George Benington and Tucker Murphy, a staffer in the first selectman’s office.

“I don’t know if there is precedent for leaves of absence on boards and commissions,” Moynihan continued in the email, adding that he was copying in the Town Clerk’s office for clarification. 

The email string followed a May 23 inquiry from NewCanaanite.com regarding Hawkins’s status on the Commission.

Weapons removed from home

New Canaan Police Chief Leon Krolikowski forwarded the following police report on Hawkins’s latest arrest to Human Resources Director Cheryl Pickering Jones at 7:49 a.m. on May 12, according to the emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. Pickering Jones then forwarded it to Moynihan at 8:29 a.m. that same morning, the emails show: 

“Family Violence—Arrest—613 New Norwalk Road, Author: [New Canaan Police Officer] Jeff Pollock, May 11, 2022: Jack Hawkins DOB 5 19 76 charged w Dis Con after dispute with soon to be ex wife. This is the 2nd time our Dept has been called there within 4 days. Both parties and neighbors state situation is deteriorating. Shotgun and ammo removed from home. Hawkins to spend night at hotel and No Contact Order in place.” 

The report also noted that two young children reside in the home. The report provides more information than police had released to the press in an arrest report immediately following the incident.

Town response: “Not uncommon”

After this news outlet inquired about Hawkins’s status on Parks & Rec at 8:56 a.m. on May 23, Moynihan in a 12:12 p.m. email to Pickering Jones said he “did not see” the above-cited police report that she’d forwarded to him 40 minutes after receiving it about two weeks prior.

“Why wouldn’t Leon give me a heads up?” Moynihan said in the email, referring to the police chief.

Moynihan then phoned Hawkins, the emails show, saying in a reply to Benington and Murphy, “George, I spoke to Jack. He is going to call you.”

Benington responded to the email string at 2:27 p.m. on May 23 as follows:

“Tucker & Kevin, Good afternoon. Jack Hawkins just called me and told me what was transpiring in his life. Pretty rough stuff right now but this is not uncommon at the beginning phase of divorce proceedings. Regarding P&R Comm, he asked for a leave of absence from now until 12/31/22 to get matters sorted out. He does not want to resign but if pressured, he will resign before outright expulsion. Jack understands the media exposure both on himself and the Town. Are leave of absences acceptable? We have 11 members. Does the Town By-laws allow us to have 10? Personally, until matters get cleared up, I don’t think Jack should continue on P&R but I want to find as ‘soft a landing’ spot for him as possible. Welcome your input and please advise as to how I should proceed.”

It wasn’t clear whether Moynihan had already broached the prospect of a leave of absence with Hawkins during their earlier phone call, and then researched the Town Charter.

“I am extremely fearful for my safety”

Appointed to Parks & Rec in December 2018, Hawkins had been arrested in a domestic incident one year ago, on May 31, 2021. The initial disorderly charge later was dismissed (more information on that below). Nevertheless, his wife filed for divorce less than two months later, Connecticut Judicial Branch records show. According to a Relief from Abuse Affidavit that Hawkins’s wife filed this month in state Superior Court, she “had to call the police” in December 2021 “because Jack was refusing to let me leave my home with my [child].”

“He blocked my vehicle in the driveway with his vehicle and I was in fear for my safety and that of my son,” she said in the affidavit.

“After I filed for divorce, Jack began videotaping me in my home while making rude comments under his breath about me in front of our minor children,” she continued. “He was trying to get me upset on camera and would follow me around the house, every move I made while saying rude things.”

In April, the elementary school attended by one of the Hawkins children contacted the state Department of Children and Families because the child was “brought to school with a black eye that my husband says occurred when his hand slipped trying to buckle my [child] in the car and [the child] was being fussy with him,” the affidavit said. “I was not home when my [child] suffered a black eye, I was away for the weekend and was not informed of [the child’s] injury until the School reported it to the DCF. I believe this matter is still being investigated because the social worker has not told me otherwise.”

Since Hawkins’s wife filed for divorce, “Jack has become more and more aggressive and erratic towards me,” she said in the affidavit.

It continued: “He has been posting messages, almost daily, on social media calling me nasty names. Both in person and on social media he calls me ‘trash,’ ‘piece of [expletive],’ ‘leech,’ ‘terrible mother,’ and calls me a ‘whore.’ He routinely makes these comments in front of our children and to our children. The other day he told the children, ‘Look kids! See that….that’s a whore’ while pointing at me. It is deeply upsetting to our kids who cry and tell their daddy to stop.”

When the parents are in the house at the same time, “he slams doors and kicks/throws boxes of my belongings,” her affidavit said.

“On Mother’s Day, May 8, 2022, he took our children and would not answer his phone,” it continued. “After repeatedly trying to contact him he finally answered and said ‘That’s what it is like when you don’t answer your phone.’ ”

Hawkins was arrested a few days later: “Jack had been attempting [to] destroy my medication that he took from my car after stealing my keys,” she said in the court document. “I started to videotape him and he got more and more aggressive with me, physically tried to take my phone away, and fought with me when I resisted. Even though I resisted his trying to take my phone and the kids yelled at him to stop, he persisted in trying to grab my phone from me, following me down the hallway. The force of him trying to take my phone away and wrestling with me against my will finally caused me to fall down five stairs into our living room. Our children were crying when this happened. Our [child] was originally on my back getting a piggyback ride when this all started. I had to quickly put [the child] down because Jack was so aggressive with me and I did not want my [child] to get hurt.”

Though Hawkins’s actions “have always been aggressive,” his wife said in the affidavit, “at this point his behaviors are so regularly bad, they are escalating and I am extremely fearful for my safety and that of our minor children when they are around their father.”

She asked the court to grant her a restraining order as well as exclusive use of the home. “He does not respect authority which was evidenced during his recent arrest when the police officer told him to the give him the keys to my car that he had taken from me and Jack refused saying the car belongs to him,” the affidavit said.

It continued: “I am pleading with this court to grant my kids and me some peace and protection from my husband’s violent and aggressive behaviors we have been living with for too long.” 

Superior Court Judge Stephanie A. McLaughlin on May 17 signed a protective order that Hawkins must surrender “all firearms and ammunition” and stay away from the home, among other conditions. The order was set to expire May 24, court records show.

Under a May 24 custody and parenting plan filed in the divorce proceeding, neither parent is to “demean, disparage, or speak negatively in any manner about the other party in front of the children or on social media” or “physically discipline the children by hitting them in the face or head.”

Earlier arrests 

New Canaan Police, as authorities typically do in such cases, had withheld the details regarding Hawkins’s initial arrest last year, saying it was a domestic matter. 

At the time, Moynihan had said at first that he would meet with police to discuss the arrest, then later admitted that he had not done so. “I am satisfied based upon the conversations I had with Jack and others that that matter was not something to be concerned about if it was a husband-and-wife thing,” Moynihan told NewCanaanite.com at the time. “Let’s say it that way. I don’t think people realize the nature of the dispute.”

Hawkins’s wife did provide details in the Affidavit for Relief from Abuse: “On May 31, 2021, my husband, Jack W. Hawkins III, was arrested, along with his mother for disorderly conduct. His mother had grabbed and pulled my hair, during the incident. And my husband, Jack, came up to me and punched the door jam right next to my face.”

Then-Parks & Rec Chair Rona Siegel called for Hawkins to step down at the time. “I have zero tolerance for domestic violence, whatever the situation is,” Siegel said at the time. “It’s 2021. We don’t do that. I don’t care what the circumstances are.”

Both Moynihan and Hawkins’s criminal defense lawyer said at the time that Hawkins had merely intervened in an argument between his own mother and wife. “He quickly and successfully de-escalated the situation,” lawyer Mark Sherman said at the time, adding: “It’s shameful that his political adversaries would somehow attempt to weaponize this relatively benign and private family matter.”

It wasn’t clear whom Sherman had been referring to as “political adversaries,” though Siegel is a Democrat while Hawkins, like Moynihan and Benington, is a Republican. In January, during an organizational meeting that Moynihan oversaw, Siegel was ousted as chair of Parks & Rec by a 6-5 vote, with Hawkins himself seconding a motion to elect Benington as chair. (Those voting in favor of Benington also included Keith Richey, Gene Goodman, Jake Granito, Hawkins, Steve Haberstroh and Benington himself.)

The disorderly charge last year, though the first brought by New Canaan Police, was not the first time Hawkins had been criminally charged in Connecticut. State Judicial Branch records have shown that Hawkins on Feb. 21, 2020, was arrested and charged with second-degree breach of peace and reckless driving. Because that had been a Connecticut State Police arrest, NewCanaanite.com in June 2021 filed a public records request for an incident report with the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection. In January 2022, the agency’s Middletown-based Reports and Records office responded that they were withholding the report because the case “is pending prosecution and the full report is not subject to public disclosure at this time.” It isn’t clear whether that case has since been adjudicated or what court is processing it—the records office could not immediately be reached for clarification. 

It’s also unclear whether Hawkins had informed the town of the misdemeanor charges at the time of the 2020 arrest.

After the 2021 charge had been dismissed, on Sept. 8, Hawkins emailed this news outlet saying, “It was amusing to see the four or five articles that you wrote mentioning the domestic incident that occurred at my house in May. As my lawyer and I informed you, this was a verbal disagreement between two women in my house during which I intervened when I felt that the situation was getting too heated. I was astonished when you went as far as implying that this was a violent incident, even though you were already aware that it was not (see your comments with Ms. Townsend). Considering how many articles you mentioned this incident in, I was also surprised that you didn’t publish an article when the charges were dropped. Nevertheless, all charges against everyone involved in the incident have been dropped.”

Hawkins then reviewed his professional history in the email, addressing discrepancies between the resume he’d submitted to the town prior to appointment on Parks & Rec and service records cited by the Los Angeles Police Department, U.S. Army and U.S. Marines.

Hawkins said, in part, “Note, you elaborated on these first few years of my enlisted military service, but most of my military service has occurred as a commissioned officer after those first few years, including being activated for COVID-19 and for the BLM riots.” He added, “Furthermore, outside of public service, I am currently the CFO of an advertising company and a professor teaching graduate level economics and finance courses.”

According to state court records, Hawkins has not yet pleaded in the most recent arrest. He did not attend the May 11 Parks & Rec meeting. The Commission’s next meeting is schedule for June 8. Parks & Rec is charged with “promoting long and healthy life styles through active recreation,” according to the town website.

The Domestic Violence Crisis Center in Stamford provides services, support and education for the prevention and elimination of domestic violence. Its 24-hour hotline is 888-774-2900. Services are all free and confidential, multilingual and multicultural.

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