LETTERS

Elected officials should seek restitution from firefighters

Posted

An open letter to Mayor Joseph Solomon and
Council members:

I am taking this time once again to reach out to you pertaining to the WFD over payment of unused sick pay issue, that I have been vocal about for quite some time.
I understand that the city has now stopped the accruement of the .41 (25%) segment of the 1.66 days that has been rolled into the members accruement after they have been paid the maximum of 1.25 days (75%). If this action in fact has been taken, it is certainly a step in the right direction. However, once again I will argue the case to be made of restitution of the over payments that have been made since 2012.
I have taken the liberty to engage a contracts attorney who has brought to my attention some interesting facts that I will share with you.
In accordance with Rhode Island law, in a contract between two parties, if the contract contains ambiguous or contradictory language, any benefits that are the result of the language discrepancy is solely the responsibility of the maker of the contract. In a collective bargaining agreement, as in the agreement between the City of Warwick and the Firefighters union, both parties are the makers of the contract which means both parties have a mutual responsibility, if language in the contract, or the premise of the contract is misused, modified, or manipulated. This premise has been upheld in case law several times.
As in the case at hand, it is clear, that the historical premise of the contract section of unused sick time, indicates an annual benefit, that is to be paid annually, not to exceed certain percentages and days paid.
Moving from the annual payment schedule to a monthly payment schedule, allowed for manipulation of the historical premise of the contract language, resulting in over payments, which was certainly by definition, not the intent of the benefit that is defined, and that has historically been defined in the contract.
In view of this fact, the arbitration clause in the contract allows both parties the opportunity to correct areas of the contract that either party may interpret as incorrect. This issue, is such an area, that needs to be corrected. In particular, the city is well within their rights to seek restitution from the deviation of the intent of the contract that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars being overpaid.
It is the responsibility of the elected officials to see to it that restitution is made to the taxpayer, that the historical language of the contract is followed, and to provide evidence to the taxpayer that the problem has been resolved.
During the arbitration process, the city should not ratify any future contract until such restitution is repaid to the city, and that the taxpayer is made whole. The city should use this issue as leverage during negotiations, and finally produce a contract that is favorable to the taxpayer. In the absence of the officials of this city to demand restitution, they will have breached their fiduciary duty to the city.
I will also state for the record, that the current city solicitor Peter Ruggiero, presided over these contracts, which by all measure are loosely worded and written poorly which have proliferated the issue at hand. This should not be the case moving forward.
I will re-emphasize that this is not an issue that the past practices can be ignored and forgotten, and fixed moving forward. These monies, from 2012 to present, that have been overpaid, must be reimbursed to the taxpayers coffers.

Rob Cote
Warwick

Comments

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Warwick Man

Captain,

Any idea who demanded years ago we end the yearly payment and go to a monthly payment and the calculations defined in the monthly payout? THE CITY, not the union.

Thursday, October 4
Thecaptain

Warwick man,

Wrong again. In 2012 when all the unions took a zero pay raise, the FF's cried foul and negotiated 2 issues with Avedisian. The first was that they got the max accumulated sick pay increased from 120 days to 140 days. That totaled an increase of 4400 days added to the bank immediately which can be looked at as deferred compensation or a raise. No other union got a benefit increase during that contract year.

The second thing that they did was to change the last few words in the contract under section 6 unused sick pay, (the annual benefit) from the words, "and shall be paid to the employee by the thirtieth (30th) day of March of each year" to the words

"and shall be paid to the employee by the last day of each month."

Then, they began adding in the difference between the allowed percentage to be paid and the residual of the 1.66 days per month. The end result was that a man could take a sick day and also be paid for not taking a sick day in the same month. (which in turn resulted in another man coming in at time and a half) That language allowed the manipulation, however, the important language in the contract addresses the amount of days and percentages that a man can be paid. This "math error" allowed both the number of days and the percentage of payment to be exceeded. These are just simple mathematical facts.

Thursday, October 4
Warwick Man

Captain,

My bad. I forgot you were in the negotiation room with everyone. When this report comes out it will be the one that makes you irrelevant. I can’t wait.

Thursday, October 4
Thecaptain

I cant wait either. Then you will understand how the Warwick School system failed to make you understand 4th grade math.

Thursday, October 4
FASTFREDWARD4

Home come you don't run for city council seat.

Monday, October 8
Thecaptain

Because I don't want to be on the loosing team that gets nothing done and continues to kick the can down the road.

Tuesday, October 9
Hemi_Royed

FASTFREDWARD4, he won't run because he would be exposed as to what he really is. A pretentious little man who is boisterous and is not taken seriously with his venom approach. Further when one has an unhealthy obsession, which he has portrayed for years, educated people view that as an unfortunate ailment that should be counseled. These characteristics are neither representative of society nor proper for community progress. Thus he is unelectable.

Friday, October 12