The spirits of the fine police officers who took promotional exams in good faith and were robbed of rightful advancement might as well have hovered over a recent Providence Retirement Board hearing on the contested pension of former police chief Urbano Prignano Jr. These men and women are the silent victims of the bygone cheating scandal to which Prignano has acknowledged being a participant.
The retired chief’s eligibility for his nearly $65,000 annual Providence pension was cast in doubt when Prignano testified during the 2002 Plunder Dome trial that he had given some police officers test materials before the exams.
The Providence Journal quoted Police Chief Dean Esserman as asking the Retirement Board to “do justice” by revoking Prignano’s pension. The story did not mention, however, whether the pensions of other officers associated with the cheating scandal will also be reviewed. (Esserman declined to comment for this article, and Karen Southern, spokeswoman for Mayor David N. Cicilline, referred inquiries to the city’s legal department, which did not respond.)
City Treasurer Stephen Napolitano confirms, though, that former Sergeant Tonya King Harris, who was fired after the cheating scandal, continues to receive a monthly check from Providence. (In April, the ProJo reported that Harris, who denies cheating, won reinstatement and back pay in return for her agreement to retire with her pension intact. This was due, ironically, to how Prignano refused to be cross-examined by her lawyer regarding his admission that he helped her cheat.)
The pensions of former captain John Ryan, who served as Prignano’s right-hand man, and former major Martin Hames are scheduled to be reviewed later this year. For now, Ryan consults nationally on police ethics while continuing to receive his Providence pension. Nick Cardarelli continues to receive a pension. Rhonda Kessler, originally suspended for related wrongdoing, and Lewis Perrotti, who received advance test material, were demoted, but remain on the on-duty Providence police payroll.
Reasonable people might agree that a police chief who shows favoritism by fostering dishonesty and deception does not deserve a pension. He fails miserably as a leader and as a role model, and he destroys police morale, as well as public confidence in law and order. Prignano says he is “not proud” of what he did; neither is anyone else. His behavior does not merit an annual $65,000 reward.
But those who cheated should be subject to the same ethical scrutiny as those who provided the means to cheat. These pensions represent hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time when the Providence schools go under-funded.
Police officers put their lives on the line to serve the public, a point made clear by the outrageous assault this week on state Trooper Brendan Doyle. It is these public-minded men and women who merit the pensions and other benefits provided by taxpayers. Those who violate the public trust don’t come close to deserving the same consideration.
: This Just In
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