Cranston Action Network (CAN) has serious concerns regarding the nomination of Paul Valletta for Fire Chief of the City of Cranston.

We believe he does not have the right temperament to become Fire Chief.

Paul Valletta currently serves as Cranston’s Assistant Fire Chief and head of the firefighter’s union in Cranston, IAFF 1363. In 2017, as Deputy Fire Chief, he was charged with simple assault and disorderly conduct for assaulting a fellow firefighter. The alleged assault, which took place in a Cranston fire station during working hours, was inflicted upon Scott Bergantino, a firefighter who reported to him. Valletta was later found guilty of disorderly conduct; the assault charges were dismissed.

CAN members listened to the audio recording of the altercation. We heard Mr Valletta use a racial slur when arguing with Mr Bergantino. So did Jim Vincent, President of the NAACP of Providence, and others.

The following are some of the outcomes:

  1. Firefighter Scott Bergantino was taken to the emergency room as a result of injuries received during Mr Valletta’s “disorderly conduct.”
  2. Bergantino is still not back at work, two years later, and either remains out on medical leave or was terminated due to running out of available leave. We are not privy to personnel matters.
  3. The City of Cranston has paid out over $100,000 in some combination of sick and/or other leave paid to Bergantino, all as a direct result of Valletta’s actions.
  4. The City of Cranston has already paid out over $100,000 in legal costs related to a pending lawsuit filed by Mr Bergantino relating to this incident.
  5. The only “disciplinary action” was that Valletta was placed on a brief paid administrative leave.
  6. In 2004, Valletta was charged with disturbing a public assembly after an argument with then-mayor Steve Laffey at a Cranston City Council meeting. He was said to have threatened the mayor. These charges were eventually dropped.
  7. Shortly after the 2017 incident, and in spite of the seriousness of the breach of conduct, Paul Valletta was promoted to Assistant Fire Chief.
  8. Valletta is now, less than two years after being found guilty of disorderly conduct, nominated, and on the verge of becoming Cranston’s Fire Chief.

CAN strongly believes that having a Fire Chief known to have an uncontrolled temper would impede the free flow of information both within the Fire Department and between the Fire Department and other parts of city government.

CAN strongly believes that Paul Valletta’s promotion to Fire Chief would hinder, not help, the diversity in hiring initiative now underway and being promoted by Cranston’s newly formed Diversity Commission, by creating an uncomfortable working environment for people of color.

CAN notes that in a city with close to 30 percent people of color, the city’s workforce, at the last count, has two percent people of color. The Fire Department currently has no minority firefighters.

CAN strongly supports the mission of Cranston’s Diversity Commission, which is to hire and retain people of color in the city.

CAN strongly believes that in order to achieve significant and lasting well-being for racial and ethnic minorities in the city, the city must move beyond “business as usual” hiring practices exemplified by Paul Valletta’s nomination.

This statement is also endorsed by the NAACP Providence Branch.

[From a press release]

On Monday, 7pm, July 22, 2019, the Cranston City Council will be voting on Valetta’s nomination.

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