Hacked emails show Clinton campaign was concerned by Providence firefighter dispute

Doughty on State of Mind

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A threat to picket a Hillary Clinton fundraiser by the head of the Providence firefighters’ union was labeled “very unreasonable and ridiculous” by a top aide to the Democratic presidential candidate, according to a hacked email.

In a Nov. 25, 2015, email made public by Wikileaks, Nikki Budzinski, Clinton’s labor outreach director, warned that union president Paul Doughty told her firefighters would picket outside of an event in East Greenwich that was to be attended by former President Bill Clinton unless he received a letter in writing stating that Mayor Jorge Elorza would not be in attendance.

The email was written to Tina Flournoy, former President Clinton’s chief of staff. Budzinski said she explained to Doughty that Elorza was not invited to attend, but the union president maintained he would picket the event without a letter from the mayor.

“I told him I would have to share this with both President Clinton and HRC’s senior staff,” Budzinski wrote. “He told me to go ahead.”

In a follow-up email, Flournoy explained that tension between the firefighters and Elorza was “one reason” the fundraiser was not being held in Providence. She noted that firefighters have a “penchant to picket because of issues with the Mayor,” recalling that a similar situation occurred during Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.

In the end, Elorza, a Democrat, did not attend the Dec. 7 fundraiser at movie producer Chad Verdi’s offices. The firefighters did not picket the event.

The email exchange came at the peak of a dispute between Elorza and the firefighters over the mayor’s decision to restructure the fire department from four platoons to three in an attempt to generate cost savings. The changes led to a spike in retirements and a lawsuit over back wages that still has not been resolved.

The two sides have reached an agreement to move back to four platoons in exchange for a reduction in minimum manning, but a proposed five-year contract has not yet been approved by the City Council. The Council Finance Committee meets Tuesday evening to discuss the deal.

Doughty declined to comment on the emails Tuesday morning.

Clinton aides have refused to comment on the authenticity of the emails apparently stolen from campaign chairman John Podesta’s account and published by Wikileaks, which has been accused of ties to the Russian government.

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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