Former city employee charged after allegedly skipping work, grand jury duty

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A former employee in Providence’s tax assessor’s office has been charged with obtaining money under false pretenses stemming from an investigation into whether she was skipping grand jury duty but still asking the city to pay her for the time she took off to serve.

Bethany Rossi, 43, was arraigned in 6th District Court Wednesday morning, according to Amy Kempe, a spokesperson for the attorney general’s office. Rossi declined to comment following the arraignment.

Rossi, who earned $57,141 as an appraiser in the assessor’s office, was terminated by the city on April 14, according to Emily Crowell, a spokesperson for Mayor Jorge Elorza. Crowell confirmed the termination was related to an investigation into Rossi’s jury duty.

Crowell said the city agrees to pay all employees who take the day off to serve on a jury. Grand juries in Rhode Island typically meet twice a week for a period of six months.

According to a police affidavit filed in Providence District Court, Rossi was summonsed to serve on a statewide grand jury beginning in August 2016. The jury was scheduled to meet every Monday and Wednesday at the Kent County Courthouse.

After several months, Rossi’s supervisor became concerned because she “was not submitting the proper paperwork” required to collect a paycheck while serving on a jury, according to the affidavit.

Her supervisor reached out to the jury commissioner’s office, which told him Rossi had been absent from jury duty for three months. Rossi eventually submitted the paperwork to City Hall claiming she served on the grand jury a total of 48 days in order to claim her full pay. But court records reviewed by Providence detectives indicate she only attended jury duty 15 times.

Rossi was charged with obtaining money under false pretense, which is a felony, and filing a false document. She pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to return to court in August.

Rossi had a long career in City Hall. She initially worked in the recreation department and then as a mayoral advance person between 1989 and 2003 and then returned to the assessor’s office in 2012.

Before her termination, Rossi was a member of Local 1033, the municipal employees union. Ron Coia, the union’s business manager, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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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