To the Editor:
I am incredulous about the gross misinformation contained in an ad appearing in the Warwick Beacon concerning the Honorable Service Ordinance of the City of Warwick. The ad excoriates the reputations of six City Council members, namely Council President Bruce Place, Councilmen Steven Colantuono, John DelGiudice, Raymond Gallucci and Councilwomen Camile Vella-Wilkinson and Donna Travis, because they voted against an ordinance proposed by Councilman Solomon that would have drastically changed the existing law on this subject.
This proposal had already gained first passage and was up for second and final passage. What is this tempest all about? What are the facts and fiction?
Fact: Councilman Solomon's proposal (PCO-12-11) would have eliminated full due process to any city official, police officer, firefighter and municipal worker, past or present, convicted of or pleading guilty or nolo contendere to any crime related to his or her public employment. The Warwick Retirement Board would then decide if the employee's pension would be revoked or reduced, thereby becoming judge, jury and executioner. The proposal would allow an appeal to Superior Court only at the employee's request with a time limit of 20 days. Then the Superior Court Judge could not change the "findings of fact" from the local board, and incredibly, the legislation says that the defendant shall not be permitted to have a trial by jury! Hello, Moscow calling! This is still America, not a third world dictatorship. This first generation American reveres our system of justice, purchased with the blood and toil of Americans for two and a half centuries.
Fact: On Oct. 18, 1995, over 16 years ago, three ordinances (PCO-43-95), (PCO-44-95) and (PCO-45-95) relating to Honorable Service, Revocation and Reduction were signed into law by Mayor Lincoln Chafee. As a city councilman from Ward 7, I sponsored these ordinances. They were vetted exhaustively and have stood the test of time. This is not about credit for anything. I had plenty of help. This is about justice. This is about civil rights and due process. We cannot have an appointed local board take the place of our third branch of government, the Judiciary Branch.
In these three aforementioned ordinances, one for municipal workers, one for police and one for firefighters (the first before the Retirement Board, the latter two before the Board of Public Safety), the difference is this: "If the Retirement Board (or Board of Public Safety) determines that revocation or reduction of any retirement allowance or annuity or other benefit or payment to which the employee is otherwise entitled to under this Chapter 16 is warranted the Retirement Board (or Board of Public Safety) shall initiate a civil action in the superior court for the revocation or reduction of any retirement allowance or annuity or other benefit or payment to which the employee is otherwise entitled to under this chapter 16.”
Fact: A real timely test and vindication of the above. Last week, as reported in the Providence Journal, former Providence Fire Chief and Fire Marshal Farrell was granted a disability pension for cancer on Sept. 1, 2011. Captain Potenza, a member of the Providence Fire Department Retirement Board, moved for passage of the disability pension for Chief Farrell. On Sept. 28, 27 days later, another meeting of the Retirement Board revoked Chief Farrell's pension. Hmmm. Chief Farrell hasn't received any kind of retirement check since September of 2011. Next week is the start of 2012. Who got to whom? This is why we have three independent branches of government in our country.