School Department awards departing Milazzo a huge payout

School Department awards departing Milazzo a huge payout

Mayor says he should have received nothing

NORTH PROVIDENCE - Armand Milazzo's contract with the North Providence School Department has expired, but that didn't keep the School Committee from agreeing to pay him close to six months' worth of extra salary.

Milazzo, the School Department's director of non-instructional operations for the past 14 years, is getting a layoff package thought to be in the range of $38,000, though school officials would not confirm that number this week.

Mayor Charles Lombardi is ripping the payment, saying that Milazzo "deserves nothing" beyond his final paycheck. It's never been a secret that he and others have not been big fans of Milazzo, said Lombardi, and to pay him so much money now is "ridiculous."

"If it were up to me I would have said, 'hey look,' you're done," said the mayor.

School Committee Chairman Anthony Marciano declined to discuss the specifics of the severance package given to Milazzo behind closed doors on June 27, telling The Breeze that the extra payment is a "personnel matter" and he can't comment on it. The Breeze has submitted an open records request for the information.

Marciano deferred comment on the specifics of the payout to legal counsel Andrew Henneous, the attorney he said had a big hand in drafting the terms of the payout to Milazzo. Henneous did not return a phone call.

School Committee member Stephen Palmieri, who was one of the biggest proponents of letting Milazzo go, said the payout "wasn't really a severance," but money Milazzo "had coming to him" in the form of unused sick time and vacation time. The payment wasn't his idea, said Palmieri, but he voted for it in part so the department can finally be rid of the lingering impact of a prior administration's decisions.

Milazzo's job became obsolete when town and school officials merged maintenance departments in March, said Palmieri. There was talk during the June 27 school board meeting about possibly renewing Milazzo's contract for another year, said Palmieri, and he and others who agreed to the payment decided it was the better alternative to keeping Milazzo around for another year.

Palmieri believes that North Providence taxpayers will save "hundreds of thousands of dollars" through the consolidation of town and school maintenance departments, and he couldn't allow Milazzo's continued employment to damage a merger he has been pushing for the past four years.

Palmieri said he didn't look at the situation as the School Committee buying Milazzo off or giving him a "secret deal" to make him go away.

"If you have to break a few eggs to make a cake, that's what you have to do," he said.

Palmieri said he voted for the payment without ever seeing justification on paper for the all of the unused sick and vacation time, or even knowing whether there was documentation backing up the days claimed by Milazzo.

The unused sick and vacation days represented time Milazzo "felt he had accumulated" over the years, said Palmieri, but said he "was never made whole." The last thing the School Department needed was to be taken to court over the matter, said Palmieri.

Milazzo represents the "last of the Mohicans" when it comes to those employees who had old contracts allowing them to build up their vacation days year after year, said Palmieri. The school board members said that he and some of his colleagues have been working to "shore up all those contracts" to make sure it doesn't happen anymore. All employees are now required to use their days or lose them, he said.

"It can't happen anymore," said Palmieri, referring to the unlimited accrual of days. "That can really kill you."

Lombardi commended Palmieri for being one of those who wanted to be rid of Milazzo, and he understands the desire for Milazzo to come off the books, but he said he wants to see a "detailed itemized sheet" on how all those vacation and sick days were accumulated. He has a hard time believing that he deserves to be paid for so many extra days, said Lombardi.

He and others worked long and hard to come up with a merger plan that would maintain services and save big money, said Lombardi, and to cut so dramatically into those savings numbers now is "extremely disappointing."

"We've been killing ourselves to save money, and we are," he said. "I respectfully ask that the School Committee take a hard look at this decision."

Lombardi said he is even more upset about the Milazzo payment because it now appears that the School Department finished the last fiscal year on June 30 with a deficit of $500,000.

Supt. Melinda Smith could not be reached on either the Milazzo situation or the deficit claimed by Lombardi. Other School Committee members called this week did not respond.