Guest MINDSETTER™ Tom Kenney: Elorza Leading Charge Against the PFD

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


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I’m sure that many people are sick and tired hearing about the Providence firefighters’ battles with Pare and Elorza. You can’t begin to imagine, however, how sick and tired Providence firefighters are of the way they are being treated by this administration. Especially the way the administration continues to ignore and break the law without any repercussion from the authorities, the press or the people.

Just with regards to the Providence Fire Department they have broken the Federal Family Medical Leave Act guidelines, the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act and the RI Open Records law. Now it has come to light that they have broken the RI State Fire Marshall’s directive of bringing four separate fire stations up to meet the RI Fire Safety codes - all of this with little or no consequences to the City. They are also in blatant violation with the firefighters’ contract which plainly and certainly states that members will receive overtime for hours over and above 42 per week. This coming even after the mayor testified under oath before the General Assembly this past year that, “…we agree that the firefighters should be paid for the extra hours, it’s just a matter of whether we pay them at straight time or the overtime rate”. The firefighters are being paid under $5 per hour for the extra hours, almost a year later.

Now the Commissioner of Public Safety is refusing to accept a well-written, fact-based post incident report by PFD members assigned this task by ACOD Mello. The City is not mandated to make the changes suggested in the report, but to not accept the report and order them to rewrite it is simply an act of political extortion on the part of Pare and Elorza.

I have been critical of Pare of late, with just cause. It needs to be acknowledged, however, that the man behind this whole mess is Elorza. Pare is merely an employee doing whatever his boss tells him to do whether he agrees or not. Make no mistake, I believe he does agree with his boss, but he’s not making the call. He doesn’t have the authority to make his own decisions if he wants to maintain his $150K job. He must be terribly desperate for the money to allow his prestige and legacy to take such a giant step back from being the commander of one of the country’s most highly regarded law enforcement agencies to being the hired lackey of a small man who still lives in his mother’s basement.

I really don’t understand the dilemma. The City Council knows that they are being lied to by the mayor and his staff. The press knows that they are being lied to by them, and the taxpayers can certainly see by now that they are being lied to as well. Yet no one seems to be able to demand the truth from this administration.

Chief Mello Retires

The retirement of Chief Mello this week ushers in a new low in the fire service. For the very first time in the history of this country, to my knowledge, a medium to large sized municipal fire department has absolutely no Chiefs running the department in Headquarters. Not a single person with even a tiny bit of fire service experience or training. In order to be in compliance with NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) 1500 guidelines (the law in RI) the PFD would need to hire or promote at least six new chiefs to Headquarter positions – Command Staff. This is just another blatant disregard of the law by this mayor.

Simply hiring a new Chief of Department will not suffice. This department needs to hire at least another 100 firefighters as of yesterday! They need to restore the Command Staff with fire officers not retired state police officers. They need to invest more money into the front line services of the fire department instead of hiring more people at over $100K to the mayor’s office.

Equipment which is desperately needed such as new apparatus (some first line trucks are over 20 years old) and portable cyanide detectors are not being purchased due to monetary constrictions even though these purchases could, and would, save the lives of citizens and firefighters alike. You can’t run a public safety department in a major city by nickel and diming the budget. The latest thing that seems to be happening in the City of Providence with regards to the financial constraints is that the area private ambulances are refusing to respond to minor medical emergency transports requested by the fire department because they are not being paid.

Mayor Elorza needs to rethink his war on the PFD and get down to responsible management of the City. Someone’s, quite possibly a firefighter’s, life will depend on it!


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