Guest MINDSETTER™ Tom Kenney: Let Pare Go Before He’s Vested
Thursday, August 17, 2017
Recently Projo reported on a firefighter who was fired by Pare who hired a lawyer and reached a compromise which allowed him back pay and his pension because Pare didn’t follow the letter of the law in the CBA in the dismissal - a mistake that cost the city a settlement to avoid risking punitive compensation from the courts. Also, last year Mr. Pare attempted to strip a Providence police officer of his pension for a first time offense of an otherwise spotless 20 plus year career. Pare was chastised by the Finance Committee for even attempting to strip a city employee of his pension for such a minor offense. It seems that Pare had offered the retiree a chance to sign a document stating that he had committed an intentional breech of conduct and KEEP his job or not sign and the Commissioner would go after the employee’s pension. When the person refused and applied for his well-earned and paid for pension Mr. Pare was determined to follow through with his threat of stopping the pension.
The Commissioner has a long history with threatening Providence firefighters (especially Captains) with this very same choice – his way or be stripped of your pension. I can name at least 5 Captains and 4 firefighters who have retired before they wanted to due to the Commissioner’s direct threat. In all but one case the individual had a spotless employment record. They also had enough time on the job to retire right away. The Commissioner knew that they couldn’t afford to live without a salary or a pension throughout a lengthy court case so they chose to allow Pare to force them into an early retirement. Had any of these members challenged his decision in court they would most certainly have prevailed with regaining their jobs, a reinstated pension and back pay. They simply couldn’t survive the years that it would have taken to work its way through the court system.
It was a running joke on the PFD that if you were a Captain with over 20 years of service and upset the Commish you were going to be forced off the job. He certainly attempted to force me off the job but I retired due to age restrictions before he could accomplish the task. One of the things that upset me that the local media and the general public are completely unaware of is Pare’s complete hypocrisy. He recently attempted to take away the severance pay from Providence police and firefighters for unused sick and vacation time accrued during their careers. He neglects to disclose whether he received severance from the State of RI, probably in excess of $100K, when he retired. He also is collecting over $100K per year in a state pension into which he never paid a dime. From what I’ve heard he is, at this point, simply attempting to hold onto his job as Commissioner to reach his 10 year employment mark which will vest him into another pension - this time from the City of Providence. He will almost certainly collect a higher yearly pension than I for 10 years service. I retired as a Captain with over 35 years of service.
The Providence Fire Department is still attempting to function on a day to day basis with anyone permanently assigned to their Command Staff – the front office. There are two Battalion Chiefs acting on a temporary basis who were transferred to the spots. None of the over 20 Battalion Chiefs presently on the department will voluntarily take a promotion to District Chief or above because they would lose union protection. They are all afraid of being unceremoniously forced to retire the moment they make a decision based on their years of firefighting experience which is in conflict with Pare’s – a career desk jockey in a police department.
The members of the PFD and the citizens of the City of Providence have been very fortunate that no lives have been lost due to the absence of leadership in the Command Staff of the PFD, the Commissioner’s Office and the Mayor’s Administration. This has been a direct result of the professionalism and experience of the rank and file firefighters on the streets. The problem with relying on their experience is that more and more of the seasoned firefighters and officers are retiring at an alarming rate and being replaced, at a snail’s pace, by brand new recruits who have no experience whatsoever. This is an extremely dangerous transition.
Please, Mayor Elorza, Providence City Council members and citizens of Providence let this guy go before he becomes vested and steals another pension from the taxpayers.
Tom Kenney is a retired captain of the Providence Fire Department.
Related Slideshow: The Power List - Politics, 2016
Kate Coyne-McCoy - In baseball, they call them all around superstars - five tool athletes.
McCoy, who once ran for Congress, is a strong political organizer for EMILY’s List, a proven fundraiser for Raimondo’s PAC, strong with the media, and is a top lobbyist.
She is manages to balance being a partisan with her all-around effectiveness. McCoy can do it all.
Lenny Lopes - Whether you’re looking for someone to navigate the halls of the State House, manage your public relations image, or execute a contract, Lopes can do it all.
The affable and well-liked former Chief of Staff to then-Attorney General Patrick Lynch (and prior to that, Legal Counsel to Lt. Governor Charlie Fogarty) had joined forces with Pannone Lopes Devereaux & West before striking out on his own with The Victor Group, taking on such heavyweight clients as Lifespan and online gaming behemoths Fanduel and DraftKings, and more niche healthcare accounts — including the medical marijuana Rhode Island Growers Coalition.
Lopes was tapped this past spring following the tourism debacle by Havas PR to help navigate their way through the Rhode Island waters, and ultimately defend their performance and reputation to stave off their contract cancelation for now. If you’re hired to be a PR firm’s de facto PR brain, you must be on your game.
Two Coast Operative
Matt Lopes - With more than 20 different lobbying agreement Lopes has emerged as a premiere influencer in Rhode Island. His clients range from Dunkin’ Donuts to Amgen to the Rhode Island Airport Corporation.
While managing one of the biggest lobbying practices he is often on the West Coast -- he is a nationally recognized Special Master for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, overseeing prison reform and compliance.
He plays with the big boys on both coasts. Easy for a guy who was a star athlete in high school and at Dartmouth.
Don Sweitzer - IGT (formerly GTECH) super lobbyist plays the game at most every level, with big ties to the Clinton organization that go all the way back to Sweitzer playing a key role with Clinton-Gore in 1992.
Sweitzer’s contacts span the political spectrum - despite his Democratic pedigree, don’t count him out if Donald Trump wins the Presidency as Sweitzer worked for Paul Manafort back in the early 1990s.
Reportedly, Raimondo asked him to serve as her chief of staff - he gracefully declined.
Segal, Bell and Regunberg - These three young Brown grads are emerging as the leaders in progressive causes in Rhode Island and across the United States. David Segal, who served on the City Council in Providence and as a State Rep, failed in a 2010 effort for Congress losing to David Cicilline in the Democratic primary.
In 2016, Segal along with Aaron Regunberg emerged as a powerful force in trying to kill of the Super-Delegate structure in the Democratic primary.
Sam Bell is leading a major effort to re-calibrate the Democratic party to the left the election season. We will know just how good Bell is after September 13’s Democratic primary - Bell is overseeing more than a dozen progressive candidates' campaigns.
Goldberg, Walsh, Ryan and Murphy - These four veteran lobbyists know the pass codes to just about every private office in the State House. For decades they have been the go-to guys. Regardless of who is in power Bob Goldberg, Joe Walsh, Mike Ryan and Bill Murphy are always in vogue.
Only Ryan was not an elected official. Murphy ran the House for a decade, Goldberg had pulled off one of the greatest political coups when he lead a small band of GOP senators and split the Dems to take power, and Walsh was the almost Governor of Rhode Island in 1984.
Combined, they have the lion's share of premier clients and have collected the millions in fees to prove it.
Nicole Pollock - The new Chief-of-Staff for Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza certainly has big shoes to fill, with the recent departure of both Chief Operating Officer Brett Smiley and outgoing Chief of Staff Tony Simon but Pollack has gotten off to a strong start. Following the recent summit on Kennedy Plaza co-hosted former Mayor Joe Paolino and Elorza, Paolino told GoLocal, “[Elorza’s] new Chief of Staff, I’m very impressed with.”
Pollock had joined the administration in February 2015 as Chief Innovation Officer and then served as Chief of Policy and Innovation for the administration before being tapped for the top post. Pollock had previously served in a policy and communications role for the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. A graduate of Brown University, Pollock currently serves on the Board of the West Broadway Neighborhood Association and the Providence Plan.
The city has no shortage of pressing issues to tackle, from devising a plan to handle the ongoing panhandling, homelessness, and drug use issues in Kennedy Plaza, to the ever-looming issue of the protracted legal battle with the Providence Firefighters that could have monumental financial implications for the city, depending on the outcome.
Matt Bucci - The up-and-comer on Governor Raimondo’s staff was in the mix for Chief of Staff or another promotion this summer, but may chose to take his skills and join the world of lobbying or grab another private sector position.
Made news when he was tied to Governor Raimondo’s ill fated and ultimately canceled trip to Davos Switzerland. Raimondo was going to spend a weekend with the beautiful people and raided the non-profit URI Foundation’s scholarship dollars to fund the trip.
The former staffer to Senator Jack Reed is widely respected. Look for news about Bucci in the near future. Too talented to not make a leap soon.
Chris Hunter - The strategy wunderkind has morphed into a well-established operative in his own right in veteran lobbyist Frank McMahon’s public affairs shop, Advocacy Solutions.
The long-time government and public relations manager for the Providence Working Waterfront Alliance, Hunter is equally adept at the State House, having snagged emerging industry client Lyft and engaged in the hand-to-hand combat that comes with lobbying for the Rhode Island League of Charter Schools.
Election seasons in particular are where Hunter’s know-how comes in handy, having managed a number of successful bond referendum in the state. Hunter is a constant presence networking around town, whether it’s hobnobbing with the Providence Committee on Foreign Relations or serving on host committees for key candidates - he’s the combination of both “who you know” and “what you know."
Nick Hemond - None may be more unabashedly and relentlessly ambitious than Hemond, who landed as an associate at powerhouse DarrowEverett in 2014.
The President of the Providence School Board lobbies at City Hall for high-profile real estate clients including Buff Chace and High Rock Management (i.e. the ownership of the Superman Building) and at the State House for labor interests (RI FOP, RI Carpenters Local Union 94), Big Health (the Hospital Association of Rhode Island) and rounding it out with such interests as AAA, the Hospital Association of Rhode Island, and infrastructure firm AECOM.
If that doesn’t sound like a full load, toss in a slew of crisis communications clients in the way of bars and clubs in varying degrees of trouble (read: stabbings, shootings) before the Providence Board of Licenses. Having so many fingers in so many pies (and some of which could appear somewhat conflicting) has raised eyebrows, but in the meantime if Hemond is winning, the checks keep coming.
Leo Skenyon - The seasoned political operative is the man behind the man. Serving as Chief of Staff to Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello, Skenyon helped navigate a more than treacherous legislative session which saw Finance Chair Representative Ray Gallison resign, Representative John Carnevale found ineligible to run at his purported address in Providence, and a slew of financial and ethics issues for a number of Democrats.
The Speaker however emerged from the session having tackled the thorny issue of community service grants, and what had seemed up until this year a nearly impossible task, putting ethics reform — and oversight of the Assembly by the Ethics Commission — before voters this November.
Skenyon has weathered many a political season before, having been the former Chief of Staff to then-Senate Majority Leader Jack Revens in the 1980s, and then a former top aide to Governor Bruce Sundlun and U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell. Now, his boss faces both a Republican and Independent challenger in the general election in November.
Joe Shekarchi - The Chair of the House Labor Committee is running unopposed this year in District 23 in Warwick, marking just the third election season for the powerful politician-lawyer, who first won in 2012.
Given his fundraising prowess, however, one would think that Shekarchi accrued his war chest over a longer tenure, with over $528,000 cash on hand as of the second quarter of 2016, making him far and away the most flush General Assembly member (by way of comparison, Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello reported just over $365,000 cash on hand for the same period; Governor Gina Raimondo had $1.4 million.)
It was managing money that helped establish him on the map as a seasoned statewide political operative — he was the campaign manager for statewide operations for Raimondo when she ran for General Treasurer in 2010. With a number of successes in business and on the Hill, keep an eye on Shekarchi's future plans.
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