Ragosta: Mollis wrong on discrimination issue in NPFD

Ragosta: Mollis wrong on discrimination issue in NPFD

Mayor asks Campbell to release medical records

NORTH PROVIDENCE - Mayor Charles Lombardi and town labor attorney Vincent Ragosta say former Mayor A. Ralph Mollis was "all wrong" when he claimed that town officials had no choice but to hire former firefighter Stephen Campbell, at right, back in 2003.

Lombardi ratcheted up the war of words over Campbell, saying Mollis is "all wet" for his claim that he and other town officials would have been guilty of age discrimination had they not hired Campbell as a 52-year-old back in 2003.

Ragosta said any comments made by Mollis to that effect "shows a very low-level understanding or ignorance" of labor laws and "doesn't even pass the sniff test."

"Routinely here in Rhode Island, municipalities have established either by ordinance or by practice limits on serving and limits on hiring," said Ragosta. "I think that's really just a pretext for some other agenda that was perhaps afoot when this individual was hired."

Mandatory retirement laws and maximum hiring ages have repeatedly been upheld by the courts, according to Ragosta, meaning Mollis and other town officials at the time could easily have rejected Campbell as a candidate for the North Providence Fire Department.

The ADEA, or Age Discrimination in Employment Act, generally prohibits employers from discriminating against people based on age, said Ragosta, but there are exceptions within the "bona fide occupational qualifications," he said. The bulk of all cases involving the act have centered on jobs in the public safety fields, he said.

Mollis, now serving as secretary of state, did not respond to a request for comment Monday but later issued an email statement.

"I have been consistently clear in my message that yes, there can be an age limit on a process to hire public safety positions," he said. Yet, under the Lombardi administration, for nearly seven years, the town still does not have one in place."

Mollis said he "will not engage in discussing" Campbell's hire "on a weekly basis" with the Lombardi administration.

"(Neither) Charlie Lombardi nor anyone from his administration ever appeared before the State Retirement Board to object or challenge Mr. Campbell's injury claims," he said. "Under my administration, 10 years ago, Mr. Campbell met all necessary criteria to be hired. Charlie Lombardi has been Mayor for almost seven years now, and it's been more than enough time for him to begin taking responsibility for what happens on his watch, rather than always blaming someone else."

Lombardi this week is calling on Campbell to allow town officials to settle once and for all lingering questions about his injury history and controversial disability pension by releasing the retired firefighter's medical records.

If everything with Campbell's medical history is as he claims, Campbell should be more than willing to release all of his medical records, said Lombardi, who doubts that Campbell will agree to release the records for one simple fact: Their contents are not what he claims.

Campbell did not return two phone calls from The Breeze.

Lombardi sent a certified letter to Campbell last Friday regarding "the recent media coverage involving the injuries sustained by you during your tenure as a town of North Providence firefighter."

"There has been ample confusion surrounding the type and frequency of your injuries," wrote Lombardi.

Campbell told The Breeze for a story last week that he was initially injured on the job after a 500-pound decontamination tent fell on him. He was angry that town officials told media outlets that he was injured lifting a "small bag."

Lombardi told Campbell that it is up to him as mayor to decipher the truth for taxpayers, but by labor law he can't do so without the retired firefighter's permission.

"As the mayor, I am obligated to the town's taxpayers and yourself to resolve these discrepancies," he said in his letter. "It's is my belief that the most appropriate manner to address these issues would be through the release of your medical records. Hence we are respectfully requesting you to authorize us to release such records specifically pertaining to dates and nature of your injuries only."

Lombardi said he enclosed a medical release form for Campbell and asked him to sign and return it to the North Providence Personnel Department "as soon as possible."

Should Campbell allow his medical records to be released? Tell us at www.valleybreeze.com .

Tim White, investigative reporter for WPRI, first reported two weeks ago that Campbell would receive a sum of $1.4 million by the time he reaches 80 years old after qualifying for a disability pension.

Campbell was out of work for nearly half of his career on "injured on duty" leave after being hired by Mollis and former Fire Chief Stephen Catanzaro as a 52-year-old rookie.

Campbell denied suggestions that he took advantage of the system or was hired as a political appointee, telling The Breeze for a story last week that he spent four years on a waiting list before finally being hired. All of his injuries were legitimate, said Campbell.

Comments

Disgraceful, this is the kind of fleecing that goes on in the good old boy network.
Sure we should see Campbell's med records, it appears that it will only fortify the wrong doing. Mollis has always had his friends and family first over the taxpayers. The fire dept has a history of retiring with pumped up rank and disabilities. We live in a unionized Democratic RI, been this way for decades and the unionized Democrats just think it is normal that cheating the taxpayers is their right. Time for the voters to realize it's your money they are stealing and you need to vote them OUT.