Officials on leave as borough continues investigations into social media posts

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By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

NAUGATUCK — Two high-ranking borough administrators are on leave as officials continue investigations into racist and violent social media posts that surfaced last month.

Screenshots of social media posts made by a teenage daughter of Police Chief Steven Hunt and Naugatuck High School Associate Principal Johnna Hunt became public Jan. 22 and circulated on social media. The posts were made in 2019 after Steven Hunt was sworn in as chief. Two of the posts talked about shooting Black people.

The posts sparked a public outcry denouncing the comments and demanding the borough take action.

“A flaming arrow was shot into our hearts on social media. There were some very horrific words that were on social media and there’s been a lot of activity surrounding that,” Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said Feb. 3 during the Board of Mayor and Burgesses meeting. “At this time, there are four separate investigations and reviews that are going on in the borough.”

The borough hired two law firms — Karsten & Tallberg, LLC and Michelson, Kane, Royster & Barger, P.C. — to conduct separate investigations.

In a later interview, Hess said the investigations will delve into Steven Hunt’s conduct, how the police department has been running before and under his command, department policies, and other areas. The borough is paying the firms about $175 an hour, he said.

Borough officials are also working with the Greater Waterbury NAACP, which is conducting its own investigation.

Steven Hunt took personal leave the week of Jan. 25 and was placed on paid administrative leave on Feb. 1, Hess said. He said the borough’s labor attorney, Nick Grello, recommended the administrative leave, which he added is a standard practice when employees are the subject of an investigation.

“Mr. Hunt is on administrative leave until the investigations are completed and the determination is made,” Hess said.

Deputy Police Chief C. Colin McAllister is the acting police chief for the time being, Hess said.

Hess said he anticipates the investigations will be finished by the end of the month.

The Board of Education is conducting its own investigation.

Board of Education Chairman Jeff Litke said he was unable to comment on the investigation because it relates to student conduct.

“We are committed to addressing the issues of racism, discrimination and social justice in our community,” Litke said. “It is our priority to provide our students a safe and welcoming place to learn.”

Johnna Hunt is on leave as well, according to officials, though the exact nature of the leave is unclear.

Naugatuck High School Principal John Harris referred questions regarding her status of to the Board of Education.

In an emailed response to questions, Litke did not address her status.

Messages left with Superintendent of Schools Christopher Montini seeking comment were not returned.

Steven and Johnna Hunt released a statement Jan. 23 condemning the posts and apologizing.

“On behalf of our family, we sincerely apologize to all those who were hurt by this,” they stated. “We are left, however, as parents of a scared, regretful child who has and will continue to suffer the consequences of her poor and inexcusable actions. While we fully intend to hold our daughter accountable for her mistakes, we will continue to offer her the same unconditional love any parent would show a child who has erred but showed remorse.”