State Dept. responds to WFD record complaint

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The Rhode Island Department of State has responded to a complaint levied by Warwick resident Rob Cote in regards to his allegation that Warwick Fire Chief McLaughlin improperly disposed of records that document and provide context into changes of shift for Warwick firefighters.

“Please note that we take such complaints extremely seriously,” the letter of response from Kaitlynne E. Ward, Director of Director of State Archives, Library and Public Information, reads. “Please be advised that we have provided the Warwick Fire Department with formal notice of your complaint and of the possible breach of their statutory record-keeping obligations under law. Additionally, we are working on corrective action with the Warwick Fire Department, including scheduling a records management workshop to provide training on the proper care and disposition of records.”

Cote alleged during a Nov. 20 meeting of the Warwick City Council that between July 1, 2016 and May 30, 2017, McLaughlin disposed of approximately 1,391 Form 109 documents. The documents require four signatures prior to allowing a firefighter change a shift, and the firefighter must indicate a reason for changing their shift on the Form 109.

Once those documents are signed by the firefighter requesting the shift change, the firefighter taking the shift, the platoon chief and the battalion chief, they are – under authority of the Rhode Island Office of the Secretary of State Records Retention Schedule LG2, Section 2.6.4 – to be retained for four years. A violation of this law could incur a $20 to $500 penalty per document disposed of.

McLaughlin responded in November to questions regarding the Form 109 records for a Beacon article that reported Cote’s public allegation. The chief said that the fire department retains its accountability sheets, however these documents do not provide the written reason as to why the firefighter requested a change of shift, merely the fact that a shift change occurred and the firefighter who took the shift showed up for work.

Cote alleges that the documents have been purposefully not retained because they would show that firefighters have utilized the change of shift system to avoid using vacation and sick time, a charge that McLaughlin has denied.

Ward wrote in the letter that, while the Public Records Administration is responsible for administering protocols related to record retention, they do not have the authority to investigate complaints. As a result, Cote forwarded his complaint and Ward’s letter to the Rhode Island Office of Attorney General.

McLaughlin said on Wednesday afternoon that he had not yet been contacted by the Department of State in regards to the complaint, declining to comment further.

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RISchadenfreude

I hope this amounts to nothing more than a written warning...Mr. Cote is not wrong, but because Warwick's taxpayers can ill afford a fine of up to $695,500.

Friday, February 2
Thecaptain

The chief destroyed the documents, the chief should be fined in accordance with the law.

Friday, February 2
RISchadenfreude

MUCH more likely he'll never pay a cent, just legal wrangling and when they fail to prove intent upon appeal in a couple of years, he sues the State Dept., and very likely you, for his legal expenses; it'll end with him saying, "Oops- I didn't know; I'll never do it again...I promise!" and getting a reprimand...maybe he'll just resign and retire to Florida where he can spend his pension in peace at a much lower tax rate.

The lawyers will be the only ones who get paid.

Or the Form 109's will magically appear because a bunch of firefighters are getting writer's cramp right now- be on the lookout for a lot of sick days/disability for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome...

For someone who is so smart about some things, I'm surprised you don't know how this will play out.

Friday, February 2
Kammy

I think that it is an important step to make a statement. If nothing is done it gives the appearance that it is allowable and there are no ramifications to blatant disregard to city/state requirements. The timing cast doubt upon the explanation as to why the records were destroyed as well. Nothing erodes the trust of the public quicker than a lack of transparency. If Mr. Cote is wrong then the truth will come out. If Mr. Cote is right and he has shed light on a very big issue then it needs to be investigated. It would cost the taxpayers money either way.

Friday, February 2
Thecaptain

Here is the law:

§ 38-1-10. Disposal of records.

No public official may mutilate, destroy, sell, loan, or otherwise dispose of any public record without the consent of the public records administration program of the secretary of state.

§ 38-1-4. Keeping of records in vaults provided – Penalty.

Whoever unlawfully keeps in his or her possession any public record, or unlawfully removes the record from the room in which it is usually kept, or alters, defaces, mutilates, or destroys any public record, or violates any provision of this section, shall, for each offense, be punished by a fine of not less than twenty dollars ($20.00) nor more than five hundred dollars ($500).

Notice that the law states WHOEVER. It does not state that the agency of the employee shall be fined. It does not say that the municipality shall be fined. It states in simple language - WHOEVER.

Since the chief has openly admitted on video that HE disposed of the records, HE should be fined.

If you get stopped for speeding, is the ticket written to the driver or to the manufacturer of the car?

The law is quite simple.

Friday, February 2
Warwickcitizen

Captain

I think is disgusting that you come here and disparage the reputation of the fire chief. Do you know him or anything about him or his family? Your truly an embarrassment to yourself and your family by doing this.

Your also a coward. I think if we looked into your background I wonder what we would fined?

Saturday, February 3
Thecaptain

Warwick Citizen (Bill Lloyd)

Feel free to look into anything you want. You will find I hold 5 federal licenses, security clearance at all major airports in New England, clearance at the WTC NYC, TWIC, SWAC, the list goes on and on. So feel free to disparage me for pointing out a clear departure from protocol as required by state law and feel free to blame the person that uncovered the continued violations. After all, anyone who is not a fire man is sub human, not worthy of anything, must be a coward, and has no life or future. Because in your mind, that is the most noble job on the planet. New flash, not everyone wanted to do that, which is why we have engineers, doctors, lawyers, carpenters, nurses, pathologists, and garbage men.

I'm still wondering Mr. Bill Lloyd, after you promised to go on the air live on 630 WPRO with Matt Allen to justify yourself writing a letter to CVS and demanding that they fire an employee who spoke out about the WFD pension liabilities, you never went on the show, and refused to answer multiple requests to do so. Yet I am a coward. As I said before, say that to my face, maybe you can find the nerve to do it on Feb. 21st.

Saturday, February 3
Thecaptain

By the way Bill, clearly you weren't the sharpest kid in English class. The use of the word "your" in your diatribe is actually spelled you're. Just sayin'.

Saturday, February 3
FASTFREDWARD4

Cote should run. He know all. what will he say this time they vote 6-3 5-4 Run Hope you do. Because on this I have been watching Your just a bully. That all I have to say. But people have a right to say what they want. But your complant is going no were. Will wait and see. Like you said when your 2 daughter move your really going to act wild. I hope your family don,t move. Because your special. Thank you

Monday, February 5