Providence settles lawsuit with firefighter facing child solicitation charge

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A Providence firefighter accused of soliciting a minor has agreed to retire and drop an unlawful suspension lawsuit against the city in exchange for payment for his unused sick and vacation time, Target 12 has learned.

Jason August, 34, will also be allowed to apply for his pension when he turns 55 without a challenge from the city, although the Providence Retirement Board could take its own action, according to a settlement agreement obtained through a public records request.

“Like in any lawsuit there are pros and cons to an agreement,” Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare said. “There was a risk on both sides. Like any settlement we came to the middle.”

August was arrested in 2015 outside the Admiral Street Fire Station following a six-month investigation by the Rhode Island Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. He has pleaded not guilty and the case is still pending.

Earlier this year, August sued the city in federal court claiming Pare violated the firefighters’ union’s collective bargaining agreement by suspending him without pay. August claimed his constitutional rights were violated because the city failed to advise him of his rights to challenge the suspension.

Under the terms of the agreement that was signed July 12, August will receive $26,264 for his unused sick and vacation time, a benefit all union members in the city are eligible for when they leave city employment.

As long as he pays the city $7,200 in outstanding retirement contributions dating back to his suspension, August will be allowed to apply for a pension without the city making a recommendation to the retirement board to “reduce, revoke or divest any portion of his retirement benefits for alleged dishonorable service.”

Retirees are vested in the pension system after 10 years of service, but they aren’t eligible for a pension until they turn 55 unless they are approved for a disability benefit. Because August only worked 10 years, he would be eligible for an annual pension worth about 25% of the average of his highest five years of compensation (approximately $15,000 a year). He will also be eligible for health benefits when he turns 55.

“The pension was a tough pill to swallow,” Pare acknowledged.

An attorney for August did not respond to a request for comment.

The Rhode Island State Police began an investigation into August after it received a tip from the Boston Police Department indicating he was being investigated for allegedly asking for nude photographs from a minor. According to an affidavit, August had reason to believe the Boston 15-year-old he was messaging online was a minor.

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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