PAWTUCKET — Pawtucket Police Officer Kenneth Provost, a 30-year-veteran who has been accused of stealing gasoline from the city, has retired.
Provost was charged with misdemeanor larceny last month for allegedly stealing more than $700 worth of gasoline from municipal gas pumps. He pleaded not guilty and is due back in Sixth District Court in Providence today for a hearing.
Tony Pires, director of administration for Mayor Donald Grebien, confirmed that Provost had submitted his retirement papers, and said his retirement was effective as of Sunday. Previous to this action, the longtime officer had been out on paid administrative leave, pending the outcome of his court case.
Pires said that any further action regarding Provost or his pension would have to depend on the final outcome of his legal case. Another key consideration would be the legalities involved in Provost’s case as it pertains to the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights, Pires said.
“The city, like any other corporation, has certain civil options available beyond the criminal process. We will be exploring all options, with pensions, etc. He added that, according to city ordinance, the mayor would not have the authority to take action regarding a pension; it would instead be up to the City Council, through an established process.
Pires added that he did not want to comment on any further specifics involving Provost’s case at this point. “The city’s position is that there is a process that would have to be followed. Right now, we don’t know the disposition of his case. We want to preserve all rights that the citizens have, and we don’t want to interfere with anyone’s due process,” he said.
Mayor Donald Grebien said of the Provost matter, “As mayor, this is one of those issues you wish you never have to deal with. It’s very disappointing.” He noted Provost’s long career on the city’s police force and categorized him as “a good officer” who had apparently made some bad decisions.
Grebien also said the city would be waiting to see the outcome of Provost’s criminal case before any decisions are made to pursue a civil action against him. He said he knows that the matter is one of protecting the taxpayers, and said he would not shy away from any such action. “A lot of the decisions I have had to make have been uncomfortable,” he said.
Grebien added that the matter also served to identify weaknesses in the city’s gasoline filling system for municipal employees, and said a new system with tighter controls is going to be purchased and installed.
Provost was first targeted by an investigation by NBC 10’s I-Team after someone reportedly noted suspicious behavior at the city gas pumps. Pawtucket Police detectives were called in to investigate, and subsequently asked the R.I. State Police to take over. The State Police brought the charges against Provost.
Another matter involving Provost was also brought to light during the course of the gasoline theft investigation. The officer was a licensed car dealer in Massachusetts and had bought and sold vehicles for the city, to be used by the Police Department, for about a decade prior to his arrest. Questions have been raised if this practice was ethical, since the vehicles were purchased outside of the normal bid process.
However, both Pires and Grebien said that because the vehicles were unmarked ones intended for use by undercover police officers, the purchases could be made outside of the usual guidelines and also under a cloak of confidentiality. The mayor said, for example, that if the purchase went through the usual purchasing channels, someone could potentially watch what types of vehicles the city was buying and it could compromise the safety of the undercover officers using them.
Grebien said he didn’t think any “favoritism” had been showed by the city in letting Provost buy the vehicles at car auctions and such, and said the purchasing department was just following a policy that the previous administration had implemented. Still, the mayor said that with the recent attention brought to the issue, his administration will be looking to see what other communities do in regard to procuring unmarked police vehicles and will discuss whether changes need to be made.
The City Council is also expected to discuss the matter involving the vehicles that have been purchased through Provost at tonight’s council meeting. At the last meeting, Council President David Moran had asked for details about these vehicle buys from current purchasing director David Clemente.
In regard to Provost’s recent retirement, Moran also cited the unresolved legal case. However, he said he fully expects the council to explore all avenues if there is valid legal recourse to have the pension withdrawn.
“Everything will be out in the open. This will not get swept under the rug,” he promised.