Against Mayor Elorza’s wishes, Retirement Board won’t block fired cop’s pension

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Providence Retirement Board ruled Wednesday it won’t seek to revoke the pension of a former city police officer who was fired for making racially insensitive comments about a black colleague.

The board voted 7-2 against revoking or reducing the pension of former Sgt. David Marchant, who was fired in 2015. One member abstained and three were absent.

The decision went against the requests of Mayor Jorge Elorza and Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare, who asked the board to block Marchant’s pension. Pare told the board Marchant’s comments were a black eye for the entire police department.

“It hurts our reputation,” Pare said. “It hurts our relationship with the community.”

But the board expressed concern about the precedent it would be setting by attempting to revoke the pension of an employee who was not charged with a crime. State Rep. Ray Hull, an African-American police sergeant who serves as vice chairman of the board, said he wasn’t sure the city should “go down this path.”

Councilman John Igliozzi, another member of the board, said the board needed to be “reasonable and rational.”

“For all intents and purposes, for 20 years, 11 months and 364 days, the officer had an unblemished personnel file,” Igliozzi said.

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 documents.

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

A Superior Court judge upheld Marchant’s termination in June.

The Providence Journal reported Thursday that Marchant’s pension could be between $2,165 to $3,066 per month.

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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