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Providence Councilman Claims He Was Wrongfully Fired by Treasurer’s Office

Thursday, March 01, 2012

 

Providence City Councilman David Salvatore claims his First Amendment rights were violated when he was fired from the General Treasurer’s office after co-authoring an op-ed on pension reform in the Providence Journal.

In a statement released Thursday evening, Salvatore acknowledged that he was terminated on Feb. 16 and claimed that the Treasurer’s office has “repeatedly provided this false explanation for my termination.”

The Treasurer’s office has not released a statement yet.

Salvatore’s full statement is below:

On Thursday, February 16th, the General Treasurer’s Office violated my First Amendment right of free speech and terminated my employment because the Providence Journal published my op-ed piece on January 30th regarding my work as chairman of the Providence City Council Subcommittee on Pension Sustainability. The plainly stated purpose of the article, co-authored by City Council President Michael Solomon, was to "encourage all stakeholders — employees, retirees, the people of Providence, business owners and anyone who cares about our capital city — to follow the work of the subcommittee in the coming weeks, to give us feedback, and to share with us your ideas and your concerns. We need everyone’s participation to make 2012 the year for Providence pension reform."

During my employment by the General Treasurer's Office, I was responsible for the day-to-day management of the unclaimed property and business services divisions. At no time did I ever have any job duties regarding pension funding or pension policy- making. Indeed, at no time was it ever even stated or claimed that there ever existed any conflict between my job duties for the General Treasurer Office and my outside role as a public citizen and Providence City Councilman. There was never any claim or allegation of any such conflict, because there was never any such conflict. Never.

As General Treasurer Raimondo was quoted in the Journal on October 14, 2011, "To be clear, as the treasurer I have no constitutional or other jurisdiction over the non-MERS [plans]....." The retirement plans of concern to the City of Providence are precisely the non-MERS plans over which the General Treasurer's Office disclaims any jurisdiction.

When I was fired on February 16, I was shocked and immediately requested an explanation. In response, I was given the false explanation that I was being fired “due to a lack of performance.” Not only was my job performance fully satisfactory, never once had any ever questioned my rate or quality of production at any time during my employment by the Office of the General Treasurer dating back to July 2007.

Nevertheless, since February 16th, the Office of the General Treasurer has repeatedly provided this false explanation for my termination to many within the Office of the General Treasurer and to many outside the Office of the General Treasurer.

The truth is that but for my reasonable exercise of my First Amendment rights, in matters unrelated to my job duties, the General Treasurer's Office would not have terminated my employment in clear violation of my rights under the Constitution.

Indeed, the General Treasurer's Office threatened to terminate me last fall to restrain my First Amendment free speech. At that time, on the threat of termination, the Treasurer’s office barred me from testifying before the House and Senate Finance Committees on the issue of pension reform.
While I acknowledge that I was an at-will employee with the State, it is also very clear that the law absolutely bars the State from firing an employee because they exercise their right of free speech regarding matters of general public concern. I was an excellent employee and was punished for reasonably exercising my First Amendment rights in a manner that in no way conflicted with my work duties or detracted from my performance.

Rather than abide by the Constitution, rather than treat me honestly or fairly, I was fired in an abusive manner that attempted to harm my professional reputation for excellence and integrity.

I began work at the age of 8 delivering the Evening Edition of the Providence Journal. I have worked long and hard and effectively ever since.

In my entire working career, I was only fired once. On February 16, 2012 I was fired in violation of the United States Constitution because I had reasonably exercised my First Amendment free speech rights.

Together with the other dedicated members of the Providence City Council, I will continue to encourage all stakeholders to use their collective best efforts to study and evaluate the best means of coping with our very demanding pension reform challenges.

I look forward to continuing to effectively and energetically represent my constituents through my work on the Providence City Council. That commitment remains as true today as it was on the day I first announced my candidacy.

 

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