Vallee will go to one position, but base pay will remain the same

Vallee will go to one position, but base pay will remain the same

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Following the revelation last week that Maria Vallee took home $181,000 in pay for working two positions last year, Mayor Charles Lombardi says he plans to keep Vallee’s base pay of $133,304 the same, but cut her down to one official position.

Lombardi, following a report by WPRI on Vallee’s pay level, said Vallee is worth every penny the town pays her, as evidenced by another clean audit report last week and reserve accounts that are now topping $15 million after another $1.3 million surplus. The town has never been in this kind of financial position, he said, and Vallee is the reason auditors found no deficiencies on the town side.

“I think this speaks volumes to Mrs. Vallee’s professional handling of our financial affairs, which is helping in my goal of financial stability and another year without a tax increase,” he said.

In addition to cutting out the title of controller and keeping Vallee just as finance director, Lombardi said he will also move Vallee out of the union and away from the extra benefits that brings.

“Are we all perfect? No,” he said of his reaction to the WPRI report and the fact that paying Vallee salaries for two positions was a violation of the charter. “But if there are any deficiencies here, I will address them.”

He added, “I hang my hat on the bottom line,” and that is the fact that Vallee’s work is consistently great for North Providence and its taxpayers. He said he makes no apologies for managing the town in the best way he knows how.

“In this new budget, it will be $133,000 for a finance director only,” he said. “This woman will be finance director as long as I’m mayor.”

The Breeze asked why Lombardi didn’t remove Vallee from the union controller position sooner. “That’s a good question,” he said, but it will be fixed now.

The charter allows someone working two positions to only be paid for the higher of the two. Vallee receives $78,393 as the controller and another $54,911 as finance director.

Council President Dino Autiello agreed this week that the $133,000 base salary for Vallee as finance director is fair, saying he looked around last week at comparable communities and found salaries between $120,000 and $130,000. Going forward, he said, Vallee must hold one position and not two, and he said he was clear with Lombardi about that.

With longevity pay factored in, Vallee earned $144,000 in base pay last year.

Autiello said he wasn’t clear on the breakdown for the $33,825 payout Vallee received after a settlement on six years of contractual raises with the town. The town’s charter was created in the 1970s under Mayor Sal Mancini and is very “mayor-heavy,” Autiello said, with the council given no opportunity to be in on union negotiations or to even see a breakdown of certain expenditures.

“We don’t get payroll records when we do budget hearings,” he said. During last year’s budget discussions, he said, the “convoluted” topic of Vallee serving in both positions came up and some council members came away believing she would be paid two full salaries while others thought something else. He said he believed she would be paid out-of-rank union pay in addition to her finance director’s salary, not a full extra salary.

On the $33,850 in one-time retroactive pay that other members of the union received after a settlement, Lombardi said many other employees also received large totals because of their longevity. The payouts, he said, were made based on six years of having no contract in place with the Local 1033 Laborers union.

He said the issue at the center of that standoff was whether the union would allow him to promote people based on their performance and not just based on seniority, and he ended up winning that fight.

“I needed the opportunity to put the best possible team together,” Lombardi said.

Of the 58 employees who benefited from that $758,467 settlement two years ago, 14 of them received $15,000 apiece or more under contractual terms. Those employees are: Ron Starnino, at $15,080; Julie Zanni, at $15,158; Troy Campopiano, at $15,398; Larry Labbadia, at $15,487, Richard Pezzillo, at $15,524; Chris Lesik, at $15,669; Al Costa, at $16,322; Romeo D’Andrea, at $16,471; James Grimes, at $16,561; Mike Carnevale, at $17,950; Rich Arcaro, at $19,732; Mike Mooney, at $20,013; Bernie Salvatore, at $26,737; and Vallee, at $33,825.

Of the six years factored in the settlement, Vallee was only finance director for the last two of them, noted Lombardi.


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He said he’s tried to be consistent in his push to combine two positions into one to save money.

Lombardi said having Vallee fill both roles at $133,000, after years without a finance director after the departure of former Finance Director Justin Cambio, saves the town tens of thousands of dollars in not having to hire a $120,000 finance director plus $70,000 controller with an accompanying $22,000 town health care package, and Vallee is also easily the best person for the job of overseeing North Providence’s $110 million budget.

“I cherish her knowledge, and I take full credit for her and responsibility for her,” he said of the 22-year employee. “She’s going to be here as long as I’m here.”

Vallee was here before his tenure, said Lombardi, when the town was running a $10 million deficit and was borrowing $10.5 million to pay its bills. It has gone from junk bond status to A1-rated with the agencies, with a $15 million surplus and that same amount of cash on hand.

The town was without a finance director three years ago, he said, and Vallee kept taking on more of the duties of the position. Vallee served as acting finance director in North Providence from 2007 to 2011, but resigned as the Rhode Island Ethics Commission investigated her for obtaining a federal loan she wasn’t entitled to through the town. She was forced to pay back the $48,000 loan plus $78,000 in damages under an agreement signed in the summer of 2013, and was also fined $8,000 by the Ethics Commission.

According to WPRI, Lombardi said she also received $32,000 in out-of-rank pay back in 2017 because she was serving finance director then, but the audit for that year lists John McNamee as acting finance director. The Breeze reported in May of 2018 that McNamee was stepping down.

Vallee earned just over $100,000 combined in both 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 before her salary ballooned by 45 percent with the combining of the two positions.

Comments

Mrs Vallee should have known, as the Director, that collecting 2 salaries was against the town Charter. I am not surprised at this 'mistake', as Mrs. Vallee has a long history of making 'mistakes', such as insurance fraud and disregard for acceptable lending practices. Look at her Story from 10 years ago, folks! Shame on you Mr. Lombardi for supporting a person like this.

I wonder if this would be allowed to happen in the dreaded private sector......hmmm.. methinks not.

It took a visit from Tim White to correct what should have been done years ago....

As a seasoned senior employee, and having been the controller and Finance Director on and off for several years, it is her responsibility to know what’s in the charter. Therefore, she violated the charter knowing that taking two checks was illegal.
Once again , she is in a position of trustworthiness and has proven she can’t be trusted. She was demoted out of the position of finance director before what would make one think she wouldn’t do something wrong again.
Only in North Providence!

In addition to the trust comments above:
Thank you taxpayers for being willing to pay some of the highest town taxes in RI with RI the 8th highest taxed state in the USA.
Don't ask why we are still being over taxed with a $1.3 million surplus and $15 million reserve. The car tax based on 100% valuation is the highest in the state at $35/K.
no magic in management, just over taxed year after year.