Town loses $290K judgment to former DPW director Kaczorowski

Town loses $290K judgment to former DPW director Kaczorowski

NORTH SMITHFIELD - An ill-advised $60,000 budget-cutting move in 2005 is back to bite taxpayers in 2014 for nearly five times the amount, $290,000.

That's the amount the town will pay former Department of Public Works Director Philip Kaczorowski over the next three years under a settlement agreement over his 2005 dismissal.

Kaczorowski was let go as part of a cost-cutting measure during the 2005 budget cycle under a fiscal plan devised by Councilor Edward Yazbak.

Objecting then to the potential tax increases in a budget presented by then Town Administrator Robert Lowe, Yazbak had created and presented his own fiscal plan. Under pressure from the Town Council, Lowe ultimately recommended the adjusted budget, which saw cuts to DPW, including Kaczorowski's $60,000-a-year position.

On June 27, 2005, Lowe forwarded Kaczorowski a letter advising him that, due to budgetary constraints, his services would no longer be needed.

At the time, Kaczorowski was more than 40 years old and had served as DPW head for more than 16 years, being reappointed for two year terms from 1989 through 2005 at the beginning of each election cycle.

The new budget saw DPW reorganized, and Kaczorowski's supervisory duties were assigned to the head of the Parks and Recreation Department, Raymond Pendergast.

Kaczorowski filed a complaint in November of 2006 alleging that his termination violated the town charter and code of ordinances, violated the Rhode Island Civil Rights Act of 1990, and constituted intentional infliction of emotional distress. In April 2012, he amended the complaint to further allege that his termination violated both the U.S. and Rhode Island constitutions.

The town, represented by Attorney Marc DeSisto moved for summary judgement on the six counts, which included age discrimination and due process and equal protection claims.

Kaczorowski was represented by Attorney Lori Caron Silveria, who said that the charter language established that his employment term ran concurrently with the Town Council, pointing to Article X, Section 1.

"Kaczorowski alleges that defendants violated the charter when they essentially eliminated the charter-based requirement that there be a full-time DPW director," explained a ruling, delivered last October by U.S. District Court Judge John McConnell.

The judgement dismissed five of the counts in the suit, but found that town officials had violated the charter.

"This case presents the question of whether a town council can eliminate a charter- mandated department director position," the ruling states. "The answer to that question in this case is that it cannot."

"Defendants' actions in eliminating the DPW Director position violate this clear and unambiguous charter provision," it continued.

A consent judgement states that Kaczorowski must receive an immediate payment of $100,000, followed by a payment of $95,000 by July 15, and a final $95,000 payment at the start of FY2016.

The town was additionally ordered to pay $10,643 into Employees Retirement System of Rhode Island for the plaintiff's retirement account.

According to town Finance Director Brenda MacDonald, the town's insurer, Rhode Island Interlocal Trust, is reimbursing the town for $10,634, and it is forwarding an additional $5,000 towards the judgment of $100,000.

The agreement was approved by Councilors Thomas McGee, Kimberly Alves and John Flaherty, the only board members in attendance at a special meeting on Dec. 19.

Comments

Mr. Yazbak does nothing but create controversy with whomever is running the town. Instead of trying to work together to solve problems, he creates obstacles and further exacerbates whatever issue he decides to latch onto. This huge financial judgement against the town is entirely his fault and from this point forward NOBODY should ever listen to what he has to say - EVER!