EAST PROVIDENCE – A Rhode Island State Police investigation has found no sufficient facts or probable cause to back up allegations that two members of the City Council unlawfully influenced City Manager Peter Graczykowski to place Police Chief Joseph Tavares on paid administrative leave in return for a new employment contract for Graczkowski.
“Over the past several weeks, several individuals were interviewed pertaining to the allegations and those interviews failed to reveal sufficient facts to meet the probable cause standard required to bring forth a criminal charge,” State Police Deputy Supt. Michael J. Winquist said Monday.
Among the individuals investigators wanted to interview, only City Council members Thomas A. Rose Jr. and Christine A. Rossi — the two councilors linked to the allegations — exercised their right to counsel and “did not fully cooperate with the investigation,” Winquist said.
Rose could not be reached for comment on Thursday, but Rossi spoke publicly, saying the investigation “didn’t report anything because there was nothing to report.”
“I did nothing wrong and this was nothing but smoke and mirrors,” she said.
Rossi disagrees with the state police’s assertion that she was not “fully cooperative” during the investigation.
“I met with them for over 40 minutes,” said Rossi, adding the only thing she didn’t agree to do was give a taped statement without her legal counsel present.
“I’m a hairdresser and even I know that’s not a good idea,” she said.
State police released their findings following a three-month investigation called for by the state-appointed Budget Commission, which had requested state police intervention into alleged improprieties and irregularities in the police department unrelated to the police chief’s job performance.
Tavares, the city’s chief of police for the past three-and-half years, was placed on leave on April 15 while an internal investigation was conducted by Human Resources Director Kathleen Waterbury. The findings of the investigation were later turned over to the Budget Commission, which reinstated Tavares in May after its review of the findings found no wrongdoing on the chief’s part.
At the same time, the commission assigned a State Police investigator to determine if any criminal statutes had been violated when the chief was placed on leave, specifically whether any member of the City Council interfered with or influenced Graczykowski in the Tavares matter.
The city charter expressly prohibits members of the City Council from interfering with the city manager regarding appointments and removals of employees serving the city in an administrative capacity.
As part of the investigation, the Budget Commission had also requested that State Police investigate allegations of an improperly administered promotional exam, as well as other internal matters.
“These issues were determined to be administrative in nature and referred back to Chief Tavares for review by his professional standards unit,” Winquist said.
Tavares’ attorney, Thomas J. McAndrew, said in May that on the day the chief was placed on leave, Graczkowski tried to get Tavares to sign a separation agreement intended to force him to involuntarily resign.
Tavares was named chief in 2009, succeeding former Police Chief Hubert Paquette. Before coming to East Providence, Tavares was chief of police in Warwick.
McAndrew has said that it is his belief that the entire incident involving the chief was fueled by “malcontents” within the Police Department and “political shenanigans” by some current and former members of the City Council who want Tavares gone.
“There were a number of disgruntled police officers who applied for and were not selected for the chief’s position, much to their dismay,” he said. “However, they have continued their unrelenting assault against this man of honesty and integrity over the past three years to the point where they have now involved current and former members of the City Council who have fought vigorously to have him fired.”
McAndrew said when Tavares was placed on leave there was no mention of an internal probe or investigation.
“There was no mention of any charges at the time he was placed on leave, but there was a separation agreement that was intended to force him to involuntarily resign as chief of police,” McAndrew said. “The alleged investigation, taken in context of what happened to the chief on April 15, falls far short of the city manager’s representations and far short of due process.”
McAndrew called the entire episode “a frontal attack” on the chief, saying the decision to place Tavares on leave came within days after the Budget Commission relinquished control back to the city
“My belief is that some members of the City Council put pressure on Mr. Graczykowski and that there may have been the perception that he wouldn’t have his contract renewed if he didn’t take action against the chief,” McAndrew said.
Graczykowski issued a public statement yesterday on the investigation, saying he wasn’t surprised by its conclusions.
“As expected, both the city officials and hard working officers of the East Providence Police Department have been cleared of any wrongdoing in this matter,” he said.
(Follow Joseph Fitzgerald on Twitter @jofitz7)