Guest MINDSETTER™ Tom Kenney: Destruction of The PFD
Monday, February 22, 2016
Since then Mayor Elorza has begun (in his State of the City address) to speak of mysterious figurative lock boxes and other things known only to him. His claim of numerous construction projects that are ready to break ground in 2016 is only a reality in his mind. His own administration can’t point to any solid projects to which he referred.
He vowed a transparent and honest administration under his watch yet it seems like integrity is nonexistent in many of his directors and department heads. I will only address those relating to the Providence Fire Department, for this is the only area in which I have a working knowledge.
The Providence Fire Department is the 2nd oldest continuously operating professional fire department in the country, having been established in 1854. Since that time the department has enjoyed a reputation of excellence, in large part due to the knowledge and experience of its excellent leaders. Since its inception the department has always been lead by Chiefs who have been career members of the department.
That has suddenly been changed. In Elorza’s 1st year in office as mayor he has totally stripped the once proud PFD of all of its experienced administrative leadership. A retired state police veteran with absolutely no experience in anything remotely resembling a fire department is now acting as the City’s Commissioner of Public Safety and its fire department’s Chief of Department.
Although the department had gone through a downsizing of personnel in its Headquarters over the last few years there were still PFD veterans steering the department until this mayor and this commissioner decided to decimate it. Last year at this time there were 5 chiefs, with years of fire service experience, on duty in HQ’s when you walked through the office, the Chief of Department, 2 Assistant COD’s, an EMS Chief and an Investigative Chief.
Walking through the same office today you would encounter a single person wearing a PFD Chief’s uniform – Assistant COD Scott Mello who was demoted from Acting COD by the Commissioner, who took over as Acting COD in addition to his other duties. You would also pass an office held by another retired state police officer, William Trinque. He is acting as the department’s Investigative Chief. He is being paid, under the PFD’s budget, his previous salary of Director of Communications (over $112,000). In addition there is another person in his old job being paid the same salary. Mr. Trinque is working under the PFD even though he is 62 years old. A City ordinance states that all (union and nonunion) employees under the PFD must retire by the end of the year in which they turn 60.
There is another office being occupied by a civilian working under the PFD who was hired by the Commissioner to write applications for federal grants for the PFD and PPD by the name of Michael O’Toole. Mr. O’Toole held pretty much the same position in Boston some ten years ago before he was convicted of fraud for directing business generated by these grants to companies in which he had financial connections. He is also listed as Deputy Commissioner. His salary is over $125,000. So much for an honest and transparent administration seeking out only the people of the finest integrity.
There is one more office in HQ’s which is currently being occupied by a consultant hired by the mayor and the commissioner – previously fired COD George Farel. Mr. Farel was forced out of his job as COD by the same commissioner who now has agreed to pay him $2,900 per week in consulting fees even as he is still collecting over $100,000 a year in a pension from the City. Mr. Farel has his own set of integrity issues in addition to having done a terrible job at leading this department which lead to his dismissal a few years ago.
So much for saving money on the PFD. These jobs alone total almost ½ million dollars under the PFD budget and lend not a single bit of useful experience or knowledge to the running of the department. Between the mayor, the commissioner and their inept group of cronies the Providence Fire Department is being completely ruined. This has all happened in under a year.
There have been numerous new recruits who have left the PFD for other fire departments over the past year. These members have been welcomed as highly trained professionals by these fire departments from other cities and towns and hired immediately. Their training was at the cost of the Providence taxpayer. There have also been over 75 retirements by senior firefighters and officers in the past year which has cost the department well over 1,000 years of firefighting experience. These losses have left the PFD undermanned and under experienced. This loss will undoubtedly result in serious safety issues for the firefighters and the general public in Providence.
The only person confident that the City will prevail in arbitration against the firefighters is Elorza himself. He continually diverts questions of how he intends to pay for the ruling if the City loses, by simply stating that he’s confident they will prevail. No one else shares his view. As of right now the City would owe each and every firefighter over $12,000 should the firefighters prevail and that number grows weekly. Does he have that much money in his figurative lock box?
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