Mayor Elorza wants to revoke pension of cop fired for racial comments

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza is calling on the city’s Retirement Board to revoke the pension of a former police officer who was fired for making racially insensitive comments to a black colleague.

David Marchant, who served in the police department for 21 years, was fired for the comment in 2015. A Superior Court judge upheld the firing in June.

“Upon hearing of Mr. Marchant’s racially-biased and discriminatory statements about another police officer, we immediately moved to terminate his employment from the police department,” Elorza said in a statement. “His suggestion that one officer’s safety was somehow less important than another’s simply because of that officer’s race showed a callous disregard for his fellow officers and for the standards we expect of our employees.”

The incident that led to Marchant’s termination occurred in December 2014, when he and a black Providence police officer responded to a report of a suspicious package. After facing question about whether proper protocol was followed in handling the package, Marchant told another officer, “how I handled it was okay because I had the black officer open the package,” according to court documented.

Marchant has claimed he was just joking. The black officer said the remarks made him feel “hurt” and “disgusted” and “near speechless.”

Marchant had not previously filed to receive his pension, but a spokesperson for Elorza confirmed an application has been filed.

Revoking a retiree’s pension for “dishonorable service” is not easy and can lead to a costly legal battle for the city.

The most well-known case is the battle over the pension for Frank Corrente, a former chief of staff to former Mayor Buddy Cianci who was convicted after a federal investigation into corruption in City Hall.

The Retirement Board awarded Corrente a partial pension for the time he worked in City Hall that didn’t include the federal investigation and a Superior Court judge upheld the ruling. But lawyers for then-Mayor Angel Taveras asked the Supreme Court to overturn the pension. The Supreme Court later sent the matter back to Superior Court.

No final decision has been made on Corrente’s pension.

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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