Investigation of ‘toolgate’ needed
When you need equipment, tools and supplies to complete a personnel project in your home or yard where do you go to get those products? Most probably go to one of the big box retailers such as Home Depot to purchase the product or lease the equipment. That’s not the case however for one longtime public works employee in the City of Warwick.
Instead he had access to his own “Home DPW” store at the public works facility on Sandy Lane Road. There he could borrow whatever taxpayer supplied material he needed to complete personnel projects courtesy of a phantom policy implemented by his boss that shielded him from the alleged illegal activity.
Last week the Warwick Beacon reported that the police stopped long-time DPW employee Kenneth Naylor. Allegedly Mr. Naylor was seen entering the public works city yard on September 28. He was later stopped where police found $2,000 worth of city equipment and supplies in his truck.
Keep in mind that according to Rhode Island General Law 11-41-1 an individual caught stealing or conspiring to steal anything valued over $500 could face a felony theft charge. But as of now Mr. Naylor appears to have escaped prosecution by law enforcement officials since acting DPW director David Picozzi indicated that he enacted a policy to allow employees’ use of taxpayer purchased equipment for personal use.
City Personnel Director Oscar Shelton told the Beacon that after consulting with Mr. Picozzi and shockingly with Mr. Naylor himself that Mr. Naylor agreed he would not grieve through his union the “severe suspension” being imposed on him. What kind of message does this send to the honest, hard working public works employees who go to work each day and follow the rules?
It is not known what precipitated the police to conduct the surveillance of the DPW yard but I suspect it was an employee in the department. An anonymous email was sent detailing some of the circumstances.
The author writes, that the action taken by city leaders is “just a slap in the face to the rest of the honest employees” and fears “If anyone speaks out, there will be retaliation”. Where is the union leadership to protect these workers instead of protecting Mr. Naylor?
Under what executive order by Mayor Avedisian, what city council ordinance or resolution did Mr. Picozzi receive the authority to implement such a program? Did Director Shelton approve of this policy? Is there an actual written copy of the policy on file with the personnel office or anywhere else in the city for that matter?
Being that Mr. Naylor was caught with cast iron piping that he said he was going to use to secure a sinking deck at his property, how could anyone dismiss the fact that these supplies would never have been returned?
Did Mr. Picozzi maintain any log documenting when equipment was borrowed, who borrowed it, the type of equipment and when it was returned? What was the policy if the equipment was broken or if it came back in need of maintenance? Who paid for this work? Can Mr. Picozzi provide an itemized inventory of all equipment and tools purchased over the last few years and whether the equipment is still operational? If not, what happened to the equipment?
The simple fact is that this incident reeks of corruption at a time when taxes in Warwick continue to increase. We already have seen the attitude of city leaders to avoid answering questions from the public regarding any fiscal issue. Could it be they are hiding alleged criminal activity by supporting the modus operandi of shutting taxpayers out of the process?
The anonymous writer said it best, “If the right people get this information, maybe someone will get an investigation started to hold those responsible accountable” and “I only hope someone who reads this cares enough about how this city is run and does something about it.”
Warwick taxpayers need to demand a thorough investigation of the “TOOLGATE” cover-up by law enforcement officials outside the city such as the FBI and determine who else may be responsible for this alleged illegal activity.
Robert Cushman is a former City Councilman and school committee Chairman. Join the discussion on “The Taxpayers Spin Political Column” on FaceBook.