Former Providence fire chief returning to oversee department operations

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Another former Providence fire chief is returning to his old department.

Michael J. Dillon, who served in the fire department for 39 years before retiring as acting chief in 2013, is being hired to oversee day-to-day operations following the retirement of asst. Chief Scott Mello.

Dillon’s official title will be operations chief and he’ll be paid on a per diem basis, according to Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare. In a similar role, Mello earned $108,000 annually.

Payroll records show Dillon earns $6,520 per month from his service pension. He is eligible to continue receiving his pension check because a city ordinance allows pension recipients to work 75 full days or 150 half days per calendar year.

Dillon is the second former fire chief to return to the department this year.

In November, ex-Chief George Farrell was brought in as a consultant as part of the administration’s effort to crack down on what it claimed was an unprecedented abuse on injuries on the job following Elorza’s decision to restructure the fire department from four to three platoons.

The change, which required firefighters to go from working an average of 42 hours a week to an average of 56 hours, has resulted in a massive surge in retirements in the aging department. Pare said the department is down to 344 firefighters, but the budget that takes effect July 1 includes funding for 80 new firefighters.

Farrell is still eligible to work for the department, but Pare confirmed he has not been on duty for several months.

The administration and the union have been locked in a months-long legal battle that will likely be resolved by the Rhode Island Supreme Court if they can’t reach a settlement. Last September, the two sides were ordered to arbitration by a Superior Court judge in order to determine how much firefighters should be paid for the 14-hour increase to their average work week.

The city has also been accepting applications for a new permanent fire chief for several months, but officials have been quiet regarding the status of their search.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

 

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