Probe finds complaints against North Providence police ‘unfounded’

NORTH PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — An investigation into a North Providence police officer’s accusations of sexual harassment and discrimination found the claims were legally “unfounded,” according to a 74-page report released Monday.

Mayor Charles Lombardi commissioned the investigation last June, after the police department’s highest-ranking female officer, Lt. Diana Perez, filed a lawsuit. Perez accused the acting chief and the mayor of creating a hostile work environment. She claimed her male supervisors made derogatory comments about her and other female officers, and that she suffered retaliation when she brought her complaints to the mayor.

Although the report found no legal grounds for the allegations, it did conclude some comments made to Perez were “objectively offensive.”

Lombardi said he was “relieved” with the report’s conclusion, but said he would address the comments. He also acknowledge that there was a morale problem in the police department.

Perez attended the mayor’s news conference Monday. She told Eyewitness News off camera that she’d never thought she’d have to fight for her dignity.

Perez’s attorney, Alberto Aponte Cardona, had harsh words for Lombardi following the news conference.

“The fact that the mayor couldn’t look Diana in the face once tells you everything you need to know about him,” Cardona said. He added that they would continue to battle the town in court, and examine whether town officials colluded with the attorneys paid to compile the report.

Lombardi said the town’s acting police chief would stay in his role for now, but said he wasn’t sure if that would change.