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City Doles out Raises to Top Officials Despite Deficit

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Providence has dished out raises to top officials, even as the city continues to battle deficits and a wide number of rank-and-file workers have gone without a pay increase for more than half a decade, GoLocalProv has learned.

Raises ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 were issued to five management-level employees between December 31 and January 7—at the same time that a new audit was released, showing the city ended 2012 with a $15 million deficit. A new report warns that the city is on track to end this year in another deficit, at about $11 million, according to one preliminary estimate.

Some of the raises have come with promotions. Topping the list is David Ortiz, the former press secretary who was promoted to communications director with nearly a $25,000 pay bump.

Second in line with a $13,000 raise is the new director of operations, Alan Sepe, a long-time city worker who once admitted to lying to investigators in Operation Plunder Dome because he “didn’t want to be a rat.” As operations director, Sepe now oversees four departments—Public Works, Parks and Recreation, Purchasing, and Public Property.

Two managers in the Providence Water Supply Board received raises in the form of 5 percent step increases but were not promoted to any new positions. Richard Caruolo and Joseph Spremulli, both deputy managers for separate divisions, each received about $5,000. A third department manager was given about $800 more, according to data provided in response to a record request. (See below table for full breakdown.)

‘Sends the wrong message’

Councilman Luis Aponte said he recognized that Mayor Angel Taveras has the authority to make decisions about spending within his budget—which is the only department budget that is not itemized—but he nonetheless questioned what message the raises sent to the rest of the city. “The question I would have is, in these fiscally challenging times with the austerity measures that have been imposed on the rest of the city employees is this the message we want to send?” Aponte said.

Councilman Davian Sanchez noted that two of the raises were among the Mayor’s personal staff. “David Ortiz and Alan Sepe both worker under the Mayor’s budget and if they’re getting raises what kind of message is that sending to the city?” Sanchez asked.

Over the past two years, pay cuts and benefit reductions have largely been the norm for the bulk of the city workforce—even as some of them have been asked to take on more responsibilities while the city confronted what was once a $110 million deficit.

Across the board, the three major city unions have made concessions and learned to live—and work—with less. The Providence police force has not received a raise in at least six years. They are due to receive their first pay hike in July. When the city firefighters struck a deal to help the city in 2011, they made concessions on minimum manning, vacation time, and pensions and gave up a 3 percent pay increase that summer. Likewise, members of Local 1033 took cuts in pay and longevity in the same year.

The city is still in the midst of winning concessions and increasing revenues. Last year, the city struck a deal with retirees on pension reform that eliminated some of the larger COLAs, but the issue isn’t settled. Retirees have until March 1 to raise objections to the deal and one additional month to opt out of it. A large number of retirees backing out could undermine the reform plan.

The city is also in the process of finalizing an agreement with Providence College that is expected to net $3.8 million in added revenues for the city.

Mayor overspent own budget

The raises for Ortiz and Sepe also stand out because both are funded through the budget for the Mayor’s office. Last year, Taveras overspent the budget for his office by $125,000, the city’s annual audit shows.

Council member Sabina Matos said it was her understanding that funding for both positions is within the budget for the current year. “I would be concerned if they were going to be hiring someone else and spending more money,” added Matos, a member of the Special Committee on Ways and Means, which oversees city spending.

Matos and Councilman Michael Correia said they could see how the raises don’t look good for the city. But both said they understood the rationale behind them. Correia said he would not have supported the raises had there been no justification for them—such as the promotions for Ortiz and Sepe.

The two Providence Water Supply Board members who received raises did not get promotions, but both have taken on added responsibilities over the past year as the department has been reorganized, according to Correia. Matos said that reorganization was actually supposed to save money.

A third council member, Kevin Jackson, also did not object to the raises, saying the funding for them was likely tied to the contracts for the positions to which the city officials had been promoted.

Third round of raises

When Taveras first took office in January 2011, he tackled the city’s staggering $110 million deficit by taking a 10 percent pay cut, making his staff do the same, and eliminating more than a dozen non-union jobs. Taveras said he wanted to lead by example.

But his message of fiscal austerity and shared sacrificed was soon put to the test when the Taveras administration doled out $236,000 worth of salary hikes to non-union workers in late February 2011, leaving some to question what kind of example was being set. At the time, city officials said the raises were promises that had already been made to individual employees under the David Cicilline administration.

Another round of smaller raises followed in the summer, again raising questions of fairness in the face of fiscal austerity.

Yesterday, Ortiz, who is the official city spokesman, did not respond to repeated requests for comment, including questions about why some raises were issued in the absence of promotions and whether the city plans to hire a press secretary.

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Wasn't the mayor previously consolidating positions,remember thats why he gave Mike Damico the $175,000 salary. Last year or so, ortiz was quoted in golocal prov, (D’Amico earns about $175,000, but Ortiz notes that his position represents a consolidation of the director of administration and director of operations roles.)"

Now we need the director of operations back. If Taveras consolidated the director of administration and director of operations and D'amico was doing that for 175k and now Sepe takes over the newly elected director of operations for 118k, does this mean Damico will be getting a cut in pay???? Not likely, so now we have a pay increase and a position back and Damico keeps his money, we also have two deputy chiefs of staff,how many bosses do we need,this isn't the Pentagon!

"Council member Sabina Matos said it was her understanding that funding for both positions is within the budget for the current year. “I would be concerned if they were going to be hiring someone else and spending more money,” added Matos, a member of the Special Committee on Ways and Means, which oversees city spending." Councilwoman they may be in the budget, but how about saving some money in the budget, after all the mayor was over his budget last year and if Damico was doing the job of which he got a raise for and Sepe is now getting a raise, how does that not cost more money???

"A third council member, Kevin Jackson, also did not object to the raises, saying the funding for them was likely tied to the contracts for the positions to which the city officials had been promoted" Contracts??? I thought the city was going to court to break some union contracts,but we cant break any contracts for these positions???

This is totally outrageous and just another example of the mayors hypocrisy! They should all get a cut in pay , cut all the big bosses down to 75k a year, if you dont want the job ,take off ,the city is still in a financial mess. While providence residents have got hit with higher car taxes and real-estate taxes , this is totally uncalled for!!!

Remember these raises that were reported by golocal in 2011

The three directors receiving pay increases were Public Works Director Paul Thomas, whose nearly $4,000 raise will put him over $100,000 for 2011; Director of Neighborhood Park Services and Recreation Elizabeth Charlebois, whose $5,545.42 raise puts her above the $84,000 mark for the year; and Stephanie Fortunato, whose pay increased by almost $10,000 when she was promoted to Deputy Director of Arts, Culture + Tourism.

Fortunato and Janine Schwartz, who received an $11,000 pay increase to become Cultural Affairs and Film Manager, are new positions, according to Ortiz. The city did not respond to questions regarding whether the new jobs were posted for the public to apply for.

The other pay increase of $5,715.44 raise went to Karen Gomes, the city’s fiscal manager for Parks and Recreation, who took over fiscal operations for the Recreation Department, Ortiz said.

Comment #1 by anthony sionni on 2013 02 21

At the end the day Taveras is a JAD, Just Another Democrat doing what democrats do best. He may be playing the numbers game, figuring he has enough support for governor regardless of how many people he P$%#es off.

Comment #2 by David Beagle on 2013 02 21

I hope this article is re-printed when he runs for Governor.

Comment #3 by shawna amitrano on 2013 02 21

What a slap in the face to the taxpayers.
WE GET THE GOVERNMENT WE VOTE FOR. Will you vote for this phony again?

Comment #4 by Chris MacWilliams on 2013 02 21

Whether it's Town hall, City hall or the Halls of Congress, their all a DEN OF THIEVES !

Comment #5 by Mark St. Pierre on 2013 02 21

Three people got promotions and two people got step increases. Now, I don't know if they were overpaid for their promotions, but if not, why is this a story?

Comment #6 by Karen McAninch on 2013 02 21

Of course these people got raises. Do you have any idea what airline tickets, greens fees, valets, massages all cost these days?

You just get back to work, and leave these elite people alone.
Don't worry, the raises will be paid for by them raising your taxes. Don't you worry about a thing.

Comment #7 by pearl fanch on 2013 02 21

@ Karen McAninch, this doesn't bother you? I'm not even a resident of Providence and this steams me! These crooks, er, I mean elected LEADERS cry the blues about finances in the city, get the concessions from the unions (I'm not a fan of unions in the least) threaten with tax increases and then give their pals some pretty significant raises!! THIS IS EVERYTHING THAT IS WRONG WITH THIS WHOLE DAMNED STATE AND YOU WONDER WHY THIS IS A STORY!!!!!! GET A FREAKING CLUE!!!!

Comment #8 by Patrick Boyd on 2013 02 21

As a union rep., I'd be the first to object if higher paid employees are getting a better deal than the rank and file. I'm just saying that this article doesn't say that. If the pay for the promotions is excessive, to me that's a story, but I don't think getting paid more for taking on a more responsible job or getting a step increase that is based on longevity is necessarily wrong.

Comment #9 by Karen McAninch on 2013 02 21

The Mayor has the right to dole out raises and hopefully the unions will grow backbones again and start fighting to keep our constantly shrinking benefits. If the unions don't (1033) start representing the body rather than the executives the body should start taking a more active roll in the governance of the union.

Comment #10 by Ronald Syper on 2013 02 21

So you're a spender too then Karen? Providence's and Rhode Island's financial problems are revenue problems a opposed to spending right?

Comment #11 by Patrick Boyd on 2013 02 21

Sure the mayor has the right to give out raises, but not in the condition that the city is in now, while raising everyones taxes! He should cut everyone's pay even if they are doing more, thats life!

Comment #12 by anthony sionni on 2013 02 21

A 25k pay bump and a 13 k raise? would you get that at your job, for taking on more work and responsibilities ? I doubt it!

Comment #13 by anthony sionni on 2013 02 21

What I would like to know is what the previous Communications Director or Director of Operations made, what comparable jobs pay, or whether jobs were consolidated, that sort of thing. I'm just saying the article doesn't give you that kind of information and lumps everything together. If someone had been hired off the street for one of these jobs, shouldn't that be just as newsworthy?

Comment #14 by Karen McAninch on 2013 02 21

the bottom line is they have to many directors that are way overpaid! If they were hired off the street it would be newsworthy.

Comment #15 by anthony sionni on 2013 02 21

liberal hackdom at its finest! buying support early mista taveras? every tax paying slave in providence should be outraged! this guy is no better than chichi.these people just throw in our faces and we take it!hope you all enjoy opening your next property tax bill.

Comment #16 by LENNY BRUCE on 2013 02 21

I agree. The headline makes this seem like much more than it is. This one tells us more about Beale than Taveras.

Comment #17 by Russ C on 2013 02 21

beth petrone is not worth $84K..she was Paolino's secretary

Comment #18 by frank bentley on 2013 02 21

and he still wants more money from the state.... still crying about needing more money for the state

never laid off anybody , except for political reasons.

and he will get out of prov, like cicclini , before it collapses

Comment #19 by jon paycheck on 2013 02 21

Are you crazy david ortiz give him all he wants

Comment #20 by Howard Miller on 2013 02 22

I've doubled my responsibilities at work, and kept the same pay.
I keep telling myself, I'm lucky to have a job.

Comment #21 by pearl fanch on 2013 02 22

My point exactly @pearl fanch !

Comment #22 by anthony sionni on 2013 02 22

As a union rep., I'd be the first to object if higher paid employees are getting a better deal than the rank and file. Karen McAninch
Karen McAninch

sometimes you have to wonder when a union rep defends the mayor giving out pay raises when the union gets no raise..
is there a story here?

Comment #23 by jon paycheck on 2013 02 22

Mayor Angel Taveras, hearing that the pheasants could not afford bread because of crushing taxation, remarked, "Let them eat cake!"

A raise only for the inner-circle demonstrates the obliviousness and selfishness of the political upper-class in Providence.

A lesson in Economics 101 for Mayor Taveras and his ilk:

1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.

2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.

3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!

5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.

Comment #24 by Christopher Lee on 2013 02 22

Funny, when a private agency (ProCAP) was accused of over-spending in the face of a deficit it was called mismanagement by Tavares. Which is it? If you have a 26 million dollar hole, can you give out raises without it being mismanagement?

Comment #25 by Kati Loreen on 2013 02 22

thank god almighty that the TWO deputy general managers for the water division in Providence went from $104,000 to $109,000.....I mean $104,000 just doesn't go as far these days as it used to! Freaking joke, pathetic absolutely pathetic

Comment #26 by Mike Meehen on 2013 02 23

I lost a $50,000 a year job about 5 years ago and went to a job after 10 months where I made $15,000. I really think that there is no need for a pay raise for these people. If they don't like a pay cut or go without a raise, I'll take their job for $75,000 a year. My bills go up every year for taxes and water and sewer and I don't see us getting any benefits from our tax increases. Since when is a car that is 9 years old worth getting taxed on a value of $7000? It only cost barely over $10,000 brand new.

Comment #27 by Neal Rogers on 2013 02 24

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