Ethan Shorey reports on an investigation that the town of North Providence conducted of a retired firefighter who appears to be very active in his disabled retirement:
A months-long investigation by the North Providence Police Department shows a former firefighter who won a disability pension three years ago doing manual labor “without restrictions,” according to a police report.
The investigation by Special Investigations Unit Det. Robert Difilippo ran from November of last year to March of this year. It shows disabled firefighter Stephen Campbell shoveling snow in a storm, putting up and taking down Christmas decorations, carrying luggage, and dragging trash barrels, among other activities at his 100 Cleveland St. home.
The chronology of Campbell’s career has a very familiar feel to Rhode Islanders, which makes the whole affair seem (sadly) unsurprising. Here are some facts from Shorey’s article put in chronological order:
- Campbell was a one-time volunteer firefighter.
- At age 48, he put himself on the North Providence waiting list for a job.
- Former Mayor Ralph Mollis hired Campbell when the applicant was 52, saying it would be “age discrimination” to pass him over.
- During his first 10 years on the job, Campbell was out of work on injured on duty leave for almost half of his working time.
- After that decade, a lieutenant took the day off, leaving Campbell to fill his role, and midway through the day, Campbell re-injured his hand (“picking up a small bag,” according to the town’s labor attorney), thus boosting his potential pension $4,000 per year.
- The state Retirement Board granted Campbell’s disability pension, providing two-thirds of the higher salary, tax free, along with continued benefits.
Now, maybe Campbell’s recent behavior proves he isn’t sufficiently disabled, under the law, or maybe it doesn’t. Rhode Islanders are also used to discovering that state law is written in a way that legitimizes behavior that seems like it ought to be illegal, especially when it comes to labor unions and government employees. Whatever the technicalities, though, his story is an unequivocal example of why it’s very difficult not to feel taken advantage of in the Ocean State.