PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The city solicitor’s office has informed Providence City Council Finance Committee Chairman John Igliozzi that he does not have the power to prevent the city from paying a consultant in the fire department.
City Solicitor Jeffrey Dana said Thursday he spoke to Igliozzi after the councilman ordered the city treasurer to stop paying former Fire Chief George Farrell, who was hired by the city last year to help the administration crack down on what it believed was an abuse of the department’s injured-on-duty policy.
Igliozzi claimed that Farrell had outlasted a city ordinance that allows pension recipients to return to city employment for 75 full days or 150 half days per year, but the law applies to the calendar year, not the last 365 days. Since Jan. 1, Farrell has worked 53 days. He earns $8,494 per month from his pension.
“He does not have the authority to direct the treasurer not to issue checks,” Dana told WPRI.com.
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Igliozzi said Thursday he believes the treasurer has the power to stop paying an employee or consultant if they are in violation of a city ordinance, but he acknowledged that the 75-day policy appears to apply to the calendar year only.
Igliozzi said he intends to work with his colleagues on the council to “adjust the ordinance” to apply to the fiscal year rather than the calendar year. He has also criticized Farrell for repeatedly failing to attend Finance Committee meetings where his presence has been requested.
When Farrell was hired to the part-time position last November, Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare acknowledged the former chief would likely continue working for the department in 2016 when the clock reset on the 75-day policy. Farrell is paid on a per diem basis.
At the backdrop of the Farrell issue is the ongoing legal battle between the firefighters’ union and the city over how much firefighters should be paid for the administration’s decision to restructure the fire department from four to three platoons. The change, which was designed to curb callback overtime costs, required firefighters to go from working an average of 42 hours a week to an average of 56 hours.
Igliozzi’s committee has expressed frustration with how the administration has handled the department overhaul, in part because the department is expected to end the current fiscal year well over budget.