Mayor in no rush to name fire chief

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Mayor Joseph Solomon isn’t in a rush to name the next fire chief, a post that has been filled by acting chief Marcel Fontenault since last May when James McLaughlin retired. Now Fontenault plans to retire effective March 17.

In an interview Tuesday, Solomon said he sees no need to post the job as he expects there will be a lot of interest in the top job from both inside and outside the department. Likewise, he’s not in a rush to name a chief.

So, does he intend on naming an acting chief when Fontenault leaves?

Solomon pointed out there’s time to make that decision.

Meanwhile, he’s pleased with the job Fontenault has done.

“He did the job of three while he was there,” the mayor said. Assistant Chief Edward Hannon retired at the same time that McLaughlin retired, leaving Fontenault as the top in command and in role of filling three positions within the department – two assistant chiefs and acting chief. Solomon said in private business whenever you find one person who can do the job of three, it’s a plus, and the same holds true for government.

Asked about Fontenault’s performance Solomon said, “I’m always pleased when one does the job of three.”

In addition, Deputy Chief Robert Bubar has submitted his retirement papers.

Fontenault, who has been a member of the department for more than 27 years, said Wednesday he had been planning his retirement for some time. “I’m getting ready to move on.”

He said he had hoped an audit of unused sick time pay would have been completed and released by this point, as he would have liked to have that behind him. As that hasn’t happened, Fontenault said he didn’t want to wait too much longer as that would give his successor the time to prepare the 2019-20 budget.

Drawing from his experience when Police Chief Col. Stephen McCartney announced his retirement and people from across the state contacted him about the job, Solomon anticipates calls about the post. Although the Beacon reported last week that Fontenault submitted a letter of retirement there haven’t been inquiries. Solomon thinks it’s early. Furthermore, at that time the date of his retirement wasn’t made public.

Whoever is named chief will face a number of challenging issues, not the least of which are the union’s challenge of the tiered pension system negotiated by former Mayor Scott Avedisian for municipal employees, arbitration over unused sick pay and the lack of contract since last July. Arbitration hearings on the pension dispute have been completed, but a ruling has not been announced. Court action is likely regardless of what side is considered the winner.

Arbitration over the contract, with attorney Vincent Ragosta as arbitrator has been ongoing since last fall Michael Carreiro, president of the Warwick Firefighters, said Wednesday.

He said Solomon has not attended any of the sessions and that Fontenault and attorney Tim Bliss have been representing the city.

Carreiro said arbitration over unused sick pay, which Solomon cut off in June after it was revealed the formula for calculating the pay had been changed under an agreement that was not part of the contract, is not expected to start until this October.

Looming over the department are questions raised by citizen activist Rob Cote and former gubernatorial candidate and founder of Watchdog RI, Ken Block, concerning the alleged “gaming” of paid unused sick time and swapping of shifts at the cost of $247,850.60 from 2015 to 2018, according to Cote and Block’s analysis. The City Council contracted for an audit of department records last February, but the contents of that report have not been released. Under the Access to Public Records Act, the Beacon has filed for a copy of the report or for any findings to date.

Asked about Solomon’s receptiveness to consider a chief from outside of the department, Carreiro said, “We always want to choose from within the department. I think we have many members within the department who would do a great job…we have many battalion chiefs, they can lead us past all these discrepancies that have been going on.”

Asked about reports that the FBI is investigating claims of unused sick pay abuse, which Solomon brought up in a recent interview with WPRI, and whether he had been contacted, Carreiro said he has not been contacted and he is not aware of any firefighters having been contacted by a federal agency regarding the issue of unused sick pay.

Fontaunault, a resident of Burrillville, said he feels like Warwick has become his home. He called the Warwick department “a really good department.”

“I hope the citizens are aware of the caliber of people protecting them. It has been a privilege to serve the people of this city.”

Comments

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Jimmy
Great department, great dedicated people. It’s sad one person is trying his best on a daily basis to disparage it with false accusations .
Thursday, February 21
richard corrente
Mike Carriera, Mayor Solomon and Attorney Vincent Ragosta are three very intelligent people. They will rewrite the contracts in language that is more clear and more fair. That solution will benefit everyone. Don't blame any previous employees for taking a contract that was written in vague language by the previous administration and interpreting it to their best advantage. Just be happy that a solution is being resolved. Don't blame them or their union leaders when Avedisian and his staff offered "side deals". Blame Avedisian. The buck stopped at his desk. No one else's. Jimmy is right in his comment. Happy St. Patricks everyone. Rick Corrente The Taxpayers Mayor
Thursday, February 21
Frugal Fanny
Yeah, he did the job three thieves.
Thursday, February 21
Frugal Fanny
Clown Corrente, you were bashing Solomon prior to the election and now that he's won and you have no chance of becoming a politician anywhere in RI, Joe is now all of sudden your best friend? You also ass kissed Travis and Vella-Wilkinson after you bashed them prior to running for office. Solomon is just as responsible for the current union contracts because he approved them under Avedisian's leadership. Richard, your blowhard comments have gotten to the point of being so sickening that your best bet is to just shut up and go away.
Thursday, February 21
Jimmy
Hello Stacia....
Thursday, February 21
Thecaptain
HEY JIMMY https://www.spreaker.com/user/wpro/cote-podcast-citizen https://www.wpri.com/target-12/mayor-confirms-federal-investigation-underway-at-warwick-city-hall/1791993823 AHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAH
Thursday, February 21
Jimmy
Captain, the real laugh is coming. Trust me.
Thursday, February 21
TCP
Rob, Those podcasts and news videos don’t reveal anything except for the fact that some government agency is looking into something at City Hall. While I realize the FBI cannot discuss whether or not they are investigating anything don’t you think we’d have a little more information if that were the case? I recall a few weeks ago when the feds went into Koch Eye. Within minutes there were photos of federal agents coming in and out of the buildings. Nobody, including yourself, seem to have any photos of this? That seems odd to me. By no means do I think that photos would be the only proof of such an investigation I just find it odd. While I give you and Dan credit for sensationalizing this information there were no facts given. I seem to remember a couple of weeks ago you had a difficult time doing “second grade math” as I believe you call it when it came to the number of firefighters on the job. You were adamant with your numbers but you were pretty far off. Personally, I just find it hard to believe the information you present when it’s simply not presented correctly or interpreted correctly. I thought for sure this issue of the paper would have your apology to the family of the gentlemen who’s funeral you crashed. I’m disappointed.
Thursday, February 21
Jimmy
TCP, The only thing the Dan Yorkes podcast proved was that even Dan is VERY skeptical about the mayor and his actions. I think everyone should be.
Thursday, February 21
TCP
Totally agree.
Thursday, February 21
Thecaptain
Warwick fire dept hired the accounting firm Ward Fisher 8 month ago to refute my findings of the unused sick pay scheme. Where are their findings? Why havent they released a report that contradicts my findings? Why did attorney Ragusta agree that the "side deal" was ilegal? More on the way JIMMY. Don't hold your breath for an apology for something that never happened. Looks like you have selective bias on the postings of anonymous people. It's a common disease amongst some municipal workers.
Thursday, February 21
Jimmy
Captain, why in God’s earth would they release that to you. Trust me the Unions audit has been seen by the city. They are fully aware of its findings.
Thursday, February 21
Daydreambeliever
Robert is an egotistical narcissist. It's all about him with the I'm an expert diver, I'm an expert pilot, I'm an expert at infrastructure, it's always I, I ,I he lives for the attention. As for the Koch Eye investigation you right i did see boxes be taken out by agents. That has NOT happened at the WFD so I'm unsure why your laughing and gloating. No former chiefs or former mayor has been interviewed so please explain the investigation and laughing. Solomon and Merolla will grow tired of Robert in time.
Thursday, February 21
Thecaptain
Remember JIMMY when you said "TRUST ME 100% there is no FBI investigation in Warwick. Looks like your intel wasn't that credible.
Thursday, February 21
Thecaptain
This reminds me of the Seinfeld episode of "JIMMY SAYS" JIMMY SAYS - Trust me the Unions audit has been seen by the city. They are fully aware of its findings. But Fontenault says - " he had hoped an audit of unused sick time pay would have been completed and released by this point, as he would have liked to have that behind him. As that hasn’t happened, Fontenault said he didn’t want to wait too much longer" HMMM, LOOKS LIKE JIMMY IS FULL OF JIMMY !
Thursday, February 21
Warwickcitzen
Captain you haven’t learned your lesson yet. You are a complete MORON. WHY DONT YOU GO BACK TO THE FUNERAL HOME AND HARRASS MORE GRIEVING FAMILIES. you are a disgraceful human being, Karma will come your way it always does. Nobody cares about anything you have to say except your girlfriend Stacia. Crawl back under the rock you came from.
Thursday, February 21
Daydreambeliever
I just watched the 5:00 news on channel 12 with Tim White investigating the broken system in our state regarding sheriff's being out for years costing us millions. Robert that's an investigation. You may want to pay attention. How did you allow Tim White to steal this story?
Thursday, February 21
Jimmy
Captain, I stand by my previous statement. The FBI is not investigating the WFD. You know it and the Mayor knows it, why he would make that claim is beyond me. We will See won’t we.
Thursday, February 21
Jimmy
Captain. You are smart enough to know that their are two audits? The city and union. Unions is back. City’s is not. Why is that?
Thursday, February 21
Thecaptain
UNION IS NOT BACK, city has not seen it. I have just confirmed that.
Thursday, February 21
Captain America
Cote answer this question. Try to tell the truth for once. Were you at the funeral home, while the funeral was taking place, driving around the parking lot and taking pictures of vehicles in the lot and people attending the funeral? If the answer is yes (and we know it is, by your own admission and your pictures showing up on Warwick Watch while the funeral was still taking place), then you owe the family an apology. They did NOTHING to you and have nothing to do with your political grievances. Be a man and own up to what you did!
Thursday, February 21
davebarry
Decades of overtime abuse. Chiefs leaving left and right. Hmmmmmm. Maybe the FBI is on to something. In any event, I look forward to the mayor recouping the tax dollars given out illegally under a 'side' agreement that was not contractual and therefore illegal. Where's the request for the money mayor?
Friday, February 22
Cat
Asking the question because I am unfamiliar with how these things work. If Fontaunault was doing the work of 3 people, who is going to fill that void until a chief is named? I am assuming there are day to day operational duties that must continue to run. Who is next in line for the chain of command?
Friday, February 22
Daydreambeliever
Cat, that is a great question. Our mayor talks the talk but hasn't filled any positions since last May. There are a few men who could step up but they a!so would have to be interested in doing. If he doesn't make one soon the new Chief will at a loss from day 1. If he chooses to go outside that's his right but when appointed who is going to teach him as everyone has retired. The mayor needs to name a chief and an assistant. That job cannot be handled by just one. Chief Fontenault has done his best with no help from the mayor. I just wonder who the next Chief Robert can pester and hurl insults at. His APRA requests will come to a halt until one is named.
Friday, February 22
Jimmy
Cat, Once Chief Fontenault leaves, the department will be with out the top 4 chiefs. (Chief, 2 assistant chiefs and a deputy chief of training). There will be no one officially running the dept. We can assure you that the day to day operations will not be affected.
Friday, February 22
Thecaptain
JIMMY just made the best point. If the day to day operations will not be affected with the loss of the top 4 people, then maybe we don't need them. We need a fiscal manager, not another fireman. We also need thumb print time clocks, and electronic accounting of shifts. Time to step into the 80's.
Friday, February 22
Daydreambeliever
Robert your handcuff comment was anusing. You are going to be very disappointed when not one person will ever be arrested or in handcuffs. You just cant help yourself and remain quiet and let the audits come back. As for time clocks and your other requests the city will need to spend money to purchase and you know they won't so why even mention such stupidity.
Friday, February 22
Thecaptain
Daydreamer, Your cousin JIMMY, has already suggested that the audits are back? Since you are both on the department, why the inconsistency? By the way, I could care less if anyone gets handcuffed, but I can assure you , that due to my surgical dissection of the bullsh*t WFD contract, there will be major changes made before the next contract is passed. Rest assured, MAJOR changes. Get ready for a complete overhaul of the schemes.
Friday, February 22
Jimmy
Captain, I said the unions Audit is back and the cities is not. That’s because the city hasn’t fully paid for it. You should probably ask why they haven’t. The Arbitrator is ruling on the contract. He can’t make MAJOR changes. But we will see won’t we.
Friday, February 22
Daydreambeliever
Robert this where you usually overstep and say stupid things. I don't know who Jimmy is but he sounds like he's still in the job. I am retired. As for threatening major changes in the next contract you sir have no say in any of it. The city and the firefighters Local sit down and negotiate. If an agreement is made them the city council votes either yes or no period. They also can't negotiate. If your insinuating you can influence the arbitrator maybe this needs to be investigated. Why you think you carry that much clout amazes me. I have no idea where Jimmy lives but I do live in Warwick and pay my taxes. I don't feel the need to attend council meetings as I usually watch on live stream. You have every right to attend and speak your mind but so don't i and anyone else be it in person or here commenting. As I stated earlier you have no negotiating power with anyone's contract. You also know you have to give to get and that's how negotiations work. The council can say no and vote it down and it will go to arbitration where the arbitrator will only decide with no input whatsoever from you.
Saturday, February 23
Samantha
Why is the audit taking so long? Seems crazy to me we don’t have any results.
Saturday, February 23
richard corrente
Dear Frugal Fanny, You don't understand. I'll explain. I deeply respect Donna Travis and Camille Vella-Wilkinson. On two separate occasions I disagreed with them on an issue. On every other issue I agreed with everything those 2 hard-working ladies have done. As far as Mayor Solomon, I said and still say he pays far less than he should in real estate taxes. I have also said (many times) that he is doing a much better job than Avedisian ever did. It's called giving credit when credit is due. You don't know how to do anything but name-call. That's unfair and petty, and if you don't like reading my comments; if they have "gotten to the point that they are so sickening", then Frugal Fanny, I have a perfect solution...DON'T! Because I'm NOT going to go away. I'm going to truthfully give credit when credit is due and constructive criticism when that is due, and if you don't like that...GOOD! Happy St. Patrick Frugal Fanny, whoever you are, hiding behind a fake name. Hsappy St. Patrick everyone. Rick Corrente The Taxpayers Mayor
Monday, February 25
Jimmy
Richard, If the mayor is doing such a great job why is he making up this FBI thing? The FBI dont go undercover, they show up with jackets on and kick you out and go through your files. None of that has happened here. Maybe the FBI should question him. Where is the audit that was promised to all of us. Why did they stop paying for it last year. Why isn’t the mayor demanding that the council finish paying for the audit so YKSM can release it? And move on from this self inflicted mess. That’s leadership...
Monday, February 25
Observant1
I wonder if having no Chief will have any affect on ISO ratings and or insurance premiums? Also who will be staying on top of the fact that the departments apperatus is aging ,already being down a couple of trucks with no reserves and having to borrow apparatus from neighboring communities . I’m sure that’ll get old quick
Wednesday, February 27
Cat
The vehicle issue definitely needs to be addressed. Hopefully, there will be mention of it in the budget. We can't keep borrowing other city trucks.
Wednesday, February 27
richard corrente
Dear Jimmy, You ask why Mayor Solomon is "making up this FBI thing". I don't know if he is or isn't. Time will tell. I'm going to wait and comment then. How 'bout you? Happy St. Patricks Jimmy. Happy St. Patricks everyone. Rick Corrente The Taxpayers Mayor
Monday, March 4
Warwickcitizen
I guess the Mayor has made his choice for new fire chief , a retired providence guy with no administrative experience. This should be great for the taxpayers 3
Sunday, March 10