Guest MINDSETTER™ Tom Kenney: Let Pare Go Before He’s Vested

Thursday, August 17, 2017


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Commissioner of Public Safety Steven Pare

It’s feeling somewhat like a broken record to me having to submit an article a few times a year to remind the general public of the terrible state of the once proud Providence Fire Department under the command and care of Commissioner of Public Safety Steven Pare and Mayor Jorge Elorza. As the mayor is planting the groundwork for Providence to officially become a sanctuary city for illegal aliens and lose federal funding and putting up parking meters and “charity” meters around the city he allows Pare full reign running a public safety department of which he is not qualified to ride the trucks, never mind make policy changing decisions! 

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.


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