EAST PROVIDENCE — As The East Providence Post and eastbayri.com were first to report the previous afternoon, the Budget Commission did the expected and voted to reinstate Joseph Tavares to his position as Chief of the East Providence Police Department.
The Commission did so at its meeting Thursday, May 23, in Room 306 of City Hall. Chief Tavares will regain his position as of 7 a.m. Friday morning, May 24.
The Commission voted 3-0 to reinstate Chief Tavares, who had been placed on administrative leave by City Manager Peter Graczykowski back on April 15. Three days later State Director of Finance Rosemary Booth Gallogly, at the behest of Commission member and City Council President James Briden, reinstated the Budget Commission for the purpose of personnel matters.
Thursday, Mr. Briden and Mr. Graczykowski, also a Commission member, opted to abstain from the vote to reinstate the chief. Commission Chairman Diane Brennan, long-time member Stephen Bannon and new member Christy Healey all voted in favor of restoring Chief Tavares to his former position.
Mrs. Healey, who replaced former Commission chair and member Michael O’Keefe on the state oversight board, spoke on behalf of the Commission. She read mostly from a prepared statement which was part of the packet of information provided to the public at Thursday’s meeting.
In part Mrs. Healey read, “those facts and circumstances did not warrant Chief Tavares being placed on administrative leave, nor did those facts and circumstances warrant any disciplinary action against Chief Tavares pursuant to the provisions of the City of East Providence Code of Ordinances.”
Mrs. Healey said the Commission came to its decision after conducting its own investigation into the chief and the complaints brought against him by members of his department. She added the Commission had met with Chief Tavares and his legal counsel. Mrs. Healey said the Commission also decided to reinstate the chief for fear of possible legal action on his part.
Chief Tavares will officially regain his position Friday. Deputy Chief Christopher Parella, who has served as acting chief since April 15, will resume his duties as second in command of the department.
Of note as well, a member of the Rhode Island State Police will be assigned to the East Providence Police Department to “investigate any alleged improprieties and/or irregularities.”
The State Police officer sent to the city will come at no charge to East Providence, the Commission told those in the audience after being questioned by East Providence Police Union head, Detective Corporal Kevin Feeney.
Late in the proceedings Thursday, Cpl. Feeney questioned the Commission about the role the State Police emissary would have. Mr. Bannon, a former high-ranking member of the State Police, said “through our (the Commission’s) investigation we felt there were items that needed to be investigated further.”
Cpl. Feeney asked Mr. Bannon who made the allegations and if they could be considered “criminal” in nature. Mr. Bannon would not say who made the charges, but did say “yes” they could be seen as criminal acts.
“I’m not going to go into any more details,” Mr. Bannon added. “It’s been made clear the (State Police officer) will be here to investigate the alleged accusations, not to get involved with the management of the department.”
During an interview with The Post a few minutes after the meeting adjourned, Mr. Bannon once again refused to acknowledge on whose behalf, the chief or the EPPD rank and file, the State Police would be investigating. He did, however, narrow his remarks a bit, saying there was “one particular issue that we believe needed further investigation.”
Mr. Bannon said the duration of the investigation would be determined by the State Police. Also, a start date for the State Police officer still needed to be “worked out.”
Also in a post-meeting interview, Mr. Graczykowski expressed his dismay with the Commission’s decision to reinstate the chief. He said the investigation conducted by himself, City Human Resources Director Kathleen Waterbury and legal counsel Michael Ursillo was thorough and complete.
“I’m disappointed by the Budget Commission’s action. I strongly believe there was justification for the action we had taken based on our interview with the police chief and the multiple outstanding issues within the police department,” Mr. Graczykowski said.