NEW: Providence Council Ratchets Down on Dishonorable Service
Monday, March 21, 2011
The Council initiated a review of the Honorable Service ordinance two and a half years ago—in October 2008—but was asked by the Law Department to delay adopting a new ordinance until the pending legal action affecting it was resolved. In January, the legal proceedings concluded, and the Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled that, as originally enacted, the Honorable Service ordinance mandated that a criminal conviction must precede an action by the City to reduce or revoke a pension.
The Council last month revived the ordinance introduced in 2008 by Finance Chairman John J. Igliozzi and Council President Pro Tempore Terrence M. Hassett, and worked with the Law Department to include language in the ordinance that would allow the City to pursue pension reduction or revocation in cases other than criminal conviction. The ordinance adopted last night by the Council reflects those changes.
Majority Leader Seth Yurdin stated that, “The intent of the Honorable Service ordinance, [originally adopted in 1999] always has been to hold accountable individuals who commit a crime related to their public employment.
Unfortunately, it was written in such a way that allowed the City to act against the employee’s pension only when there was a criminal conviction. The new ordinance defines the conduct which is considered dishonorable—whether or not there is a criminal conviction.”
Admissions of Guilt
Making a decision on what types of service short of a criminal conviction would be considered '"dishonorable" to the extent of revoking a person's pension, Yvonne Graf, manager of policy and research for the Council, explained "There are a number of factors to consider. One of the issues that instigated this is that someone could admit to guilt and not receive a conviction."
The wording of the new ordinance refers to indivudal acts of "committing or aiding or abetting the commission of embezzlement of public funds...felonious theft...(and/or) bribery" and leaves the determination of dishonorable service to the City's Retirement Board, after it weighs a list of factors including length of service, nature of the crime and degree of guilt.
Chairman Igliozzi said that, “We knew that the ordinance as originally crafted in 1999 had loopholes that undermined the City’s ability to establish serious consequences for those who break the public’s trust; that’s why we brought changes forward in 2008. With the new Honorable Service ordinance passed last night, the Retirement Board has the ability to take action if it finds the employee has engaged in dishonorable service.”
“We are refining the work the Council began when it established the first Honorable Service ordinance in 1999,” Council President Pro Tempore Hassett stated. “The ordinance allows the City to approach each case with fairness and objectivity, while ensuring that those who engage in dishonorable acts during their public employment do not continue to be inappropriately rewarded for that employment during their retirement.”
The ordinance was passed for the first time by the full Council on March 3, and referred back to committee to address technical concerns. The March 17 vote was the second and final vote required for the ordinance.
- BREAKING NEWS: Providence Moves to Cut Cianci’s Pension
- City Aims to Block Pensions for Criminal Behavior
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