The Council’s Committee on Finance voted unanimously tonight to continue the ongoing discussion regarding the process involved in hiring of the Community Relations and Diversion Services Administrator (originally posted as a Police Major position) in the police department. The lengthy Committee meeting included testimony from Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré as well as two members of the selection committee—Kira Wills and Wole Akinbi.
The City Council voted unanimously at its October 21st meeting to send the budget ordinances creating the position back to the Finance Committee after new questions about the hiring process surfaced.
Finance Chairwoman Jo-Ann Ryan stated, “Unfortunately, the documents requested by Commissioner Paré in advance of this meeting were not provided to the Committee or to the Internal Auditor. The Commissioner continues to refuse to provide these documents, despite the Internal Auditor’s authority by City Charter to obtain them,” Ryan stated. “What was troubling this evening was that the Committee heard substantially conflicting testimony from members of the selection committee and the Commissioner. Therefore, we voted unanimously to continue the matter until the requested documents are provided to the Committee for review.” (October 22nd letter from Chairwoman Ryan to Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré requesting a series of documents regarding the hiring process is attached).
Regarding tonight’s meeting, Council President John J. Igliozzi stated, “The Council has a duty to address any potential appearance of impropriety in the selection and hiring process for this important new position. I support the Finance Committee’s continued efforts to ensure we uphold fairness, equity and transparency related to the hiring for this position, which the public has clearly and repeatedly prioritized.”
Chairwoman Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5) and the members of the Committee on Finance voted unanimously tonight to approve the recommendation of Ferenc Karoly for the position of Executive Director of the Providence External Review Authority (PERA). The matter will next be voted on by the full City Council for final approval.
“I was impressed by Mr. Karoly’s extensive career in law enforcement and his history of service. He brings decades of experience and integrity to the table as the City Council works to fill this important role. I look forward to seeing what Mr. Karoly can do to promote transparency and accountability within the Providence Police Department,” stated Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan.
Ferenc Karoly is a veteran of the United States Navy and currently works as an attorney. For 15 years, he served the Middletown Police Department, starting as a patrol officer and working up to the rank of Deputy Chief of Police. Mr. Karoly holds a Juris Doctor from Suffolk University and a Criminal Justice Certificate from the Federal Bureau of Investigation Academy.
“Our city is facing a spike in crime and a corresponding staffing shortage within the Police Department. It is crucial that our law enforcement officers are held to the highest standard of service and professionalism. I am confident that Mr. Karoly will lead PERA with a laser focus on justice and public safety in the city of Providence,” added Ryan.
PERA was established in 2002 to create a system for civilian oversight of the Providence Police Department. Members of PERA investigate and conduct hearings regarding allegations of misconduct by Providence Police officers. The Executive Director of PERA serves two-year terms and oversees all PERA staff and investigations.
City of Providence allocates $7 million of Rescue Plan funding for small business microgrants
Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, Providence City Council President John Igliozzi (ward 7), Council Finance Chair Jo-Ann Ryan (ward 5), and the Providence City Council today launched the City of Providence’s online COVID-19 Small Business Grant Application, designed to provide microgrants to businesses throughout the City of Providence and support economic recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 Small Business Grant Program will offer grants of $2,500 to over 2,700 qualified businesses using nearly $7 million of federal American Rescue Plan relief dollars.
“Small businesses are the heart of our city here in Providence,” said Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. “We know that our small businesses have been hit hard by COVID-19, and that is why we have offered creative solutions to support our business community such as waiving outdoor expansion fees, offering zero interest loans through the Providence Business Loan Fund and providing free parking in business corridors. Today, I am excited to announce a new program using the City’s Rescue Plan dollars to help businesses navigate financial hardship brought on by the pandemic.”
To be eligible for the grant program, businesses must meet the following requirements:
• Have been established and recognized by the City of Providence by December 31, 2019
• Be in good standing with the City of Providence
o Businesses must be up to date on City taxes and all Department of Licensing requirements
• Have received a City tangible tax bill in the range of $558.00-$55,800.00
o This is determined by tangible assets valued between $5,000 and $1 million, not including real estate.
• Not receive funds and any other financial benefits from the City of $5,000 or more to be eligible
o This includes, but is not limited to, Tax Stabilization Agreements or Community Development Block Grants.
• Intend to stay in business for the following 12 months
• Have less than 240 employees
The City of Providence allocated a portion of American Rescue Plan funding in July, prioritizing anti violence investments and the creation of a COVID-19 Small Business Grant program. Funding was finalized by a City Council ordinance and signed into law by Mayor Elorza.
“One of the top priorities of this City Council has been helping our city’s small businesses weather the incredibly challenging impacts of COVID-19,” said City Council President John Igliozzi. “That is why we approved the use of American Rescue Plan Act funds to create a $7 million Small Business Grant Program to give direct grants of up to $2,500 to Providence small businesses still struggling from the negative economic effects of this ongoing pandemic. I am very pleased that the program is now ready to accept applications from our small business community. My colleagues and I on the Council will be working hard to ensure that all of our city’s small businesses are aware of the program and can apply for the grant dollars they need to get through this difficult stretch and emerge even stronger on the other side.”
“Neighborhood coffee shops, restaurants, tailors, bodegas, hardware stores, pet groomers, and barber shops are the cornerstones of our neighborhoods, and many are still feeling the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Councilwoman and Finance Committee Chair Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5). “That is why the City Council has made providing assistance to Providence’s small businesses a priority and why we are pleased to be launching the Providence Small Business Covid Recovery Grant Program here today. This $7 million program, funded through American Rescue Plan resources, will provide eligible Providence small businesses with grants of up to $2,500 to help them through this challenging time. This is a smart investment in our small businesses which are so critical to our neighborhoods and Providence’s economy.”
Business owners who do not have access to a computer or the technological ability to apply on their own are encouraged to reach out to the City’s Office of Economic Opportunity Small Business Coordinator Victor Regino who will be hosting office hours to support business owners with applications. Individuals can call 3-1-1 or email VRegino@providenceri.gov.
Grants will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, with a priority review deadline of November 12, 2021. This program will remain open until all funds have been allocated or until July 1, 2022.
I was deeply concerned to learn that a round of bullets just missed a young woman and her sleeping newborn baby in their home on Herschel Street in the early hours of Wednesday morning. I commend the Providence Police Department for their swift work to respond to the scene and investigate this heinous crime.
This life-threatening violence is unacceptable. People deserve to feel safe in their homes, and events like this undermine that sense of safety and security. As Chairwoman of the Council’s Committee on Finance, I secured funding for a new Police Academy to begin immediately after the current academy graduates to return our ranks to a number necessary to support community policing. And I will continue to work to ensure that the Providence Police Department is amply staffed and prepared to address the growing wave of shootings and other crimes throughout the city.
We can only be thankful that this young woman and her newborn baby were not injured on Wednesday morning. We must remain committed to stopping these instances before they happen, through community policing and nonviolence education and diversion programs, and by keeping guns out of the wrong hands.
This evening, the Providence City Council voted unanimously to approve a Providence Home Rule Charter Section 403 resolution to bring charges against City Clerk Shawn Selleck, and to seek his suspension or removal from office. The resolution charges Mr. Selleck with the following:
· Violations of the City Code of Conduct
· Violations of the City Anti-bullying Policy
· Violations of the City Anti-harassment Policy
· Violations of the City Workplace Violence Policy
· Creation of a Toxic Work Environment
· Inappropriate Management
The charges contained in the resolution are based on an independent investigation conducted by respected employment and labor attorney Carly Iafrate, which determined Mr. Selleck violated the City’s Code of Conduct, Anti-Bullying, Anti-Harassment, and Workforce Violence policies through a pattern of bullying, confrontational, and intimidating behavior that created a toxic work environment within the City Clerk’s office.
Pursuant to Section 403, these charges will be presented in writing to the Mayor and Mr. Selleck, and after a 30-day period, the Council will call a public hearing to weigh the charges and vote on the suspension or removal of the City Clerk (two-thirds vote of the Council required).
Tonight, the Providence City Council voted to approve a new position in the police department to help strengthen community relations and public safety in Providence neighborhoods. The budget ordinance which creates the new position also maintains the funding for the position of an additional Police Major which the Council approved in the original FY 2022 budget ordinances adopted in July.
“We are excited to create this new position. The duties and responsibilities will be to coordinate the efforts of the community relations unit and infuse a culture of equity in the department as it shifts back to community policing and diversion services,” stated Council President John J. Igliozzi. “We heard loud and clear from residents and community organizations that the City needs a return to the approach to policing that includes community building and empathy.”
Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), Chair of the Finance Committee stated, “The Chief of Police provided the Finance Committee with a job description for the new role and a clearly defined scope and charge, which is in line with a civilian (non-sworn police officer) position in the department. We strongly urge the Mayor to publicly post this high profile position, in order to attract the best candidates in an open and fair process.”
The Administrator of Community Relations and Diversion Services salary is $99,517- $125,905 plus health care and benefits.
“We chose to set the Administrator of Community Relations and Diversion Services salary at a substantial level because this is an important job that requires someone with broad and varied experience, with a track record of effective community building and understanding of diversion services,” stated Ryan.
Second passage of the ordinance is scheduled for October 21st.