In response to blackmail allegations that his Republican opponent has directed against him and others, Johnston Mayor Joseph M. Polisena, the Democratic incumbent, has decided to incorporate the controversy into his campaign messaging: “I’m running on my record of accomplishment, while Peter Filippi is running on his criminal record.” But at the same time, Polisena does acknowledge that his Republican challenger has raised legitimate questions about public employee benefits that need to be addressed in short order.
Filippi has presented the Ocean State Current with several of the mailings to his home. These include documentation and photos from his arrest record. He does not deny being involved with altercations with the police and various bar bouncers over the past several years. But Filippi disputes specific details included in police reports.
As the Current has previously reported, Filippi has written a series of opinion pieces on the JohnstonPatch.com that are highly critical of the pension, overtime, vacation, and salary package that public employees receive, especially the police and firefighters. “That’s why these mailings are coming to my home, because I’m calling attention to all of these taxpayer funded benefits that are bankrupting Johnston and other parts of Rhode Island,” Filippi said. “I’m working to bring light and to bring scrutiny to the hidden costs that taxpayers don’t know about.”
For his part, Mayor Polisena said he is open to reforms that alleviate taxpayer burdens, but also preserve retirement plans for public employees. “We have to strike a balance,” he said. “Rhode Island is a unionized state, and that’s the reality. I agree with Peter [Filippi] in some areas, but you can’t just uproot everything. That’s not realistic. He’s attacked just about everyone, so it’s not surprising that he has come in for criticism.”
Blackmail Letters Addressed to Filippi’s wife
One of the letters Filippi provided to the Current addressed to his wife reads in part as follows:
As your husband continues with his political career these copies of his criminal past and other great photos will be in every home and be dropped off in many local shopping places. The town must know about your husband’s perverted past as he runs for office … I thought your husband was a Christian, why does he gravitate towards strip clubs and it sounds like perverted behavior to me … And we wonder if the nursing homes and assorted living facilities that your dearest husband sings/performs in will continue to accept him.
Filippi does volunteer work in some of the Johnston nursing homes. He suspects Mayor Polisena and some top union leaders are behind the mailings.
The mayor adamantly denies the allegations. “I have absolutely nothing to do with these mailings,” Polisena said. “Peter Filippi is an incumbent’s dream. Why would I want him out of the race? He is going to the press in an effort to resurrect his failing campaign.”
By calling attention to public employee perks and benefits that have thus far escaped taxpayer scrutiny, Filippi is convinced that he has dealt a serious to blow to entrenched union interests the incumbent politicians they have helped to elect. “There is a blackmail campaign because entrenched interests do not want taxpayers to know how much there are putting up to support lavish benefits,” he said. “My wife continues to receive mailings. The lesson here is that anyone who raises questions about the public sector can expect to come in for this kind of treatment.”
Filippi has persistently challenged the salary and benefit structure that supports government employees. With regard to the firefighters, for example, he wrote: “Johnston firefighters make approximately $100,000 when you include benefits, and 95 percent of the time, they’re responding to fender-benders and transporting people to hospitals. If our rescuers are idle and someone is in dire need in the next community, how could we in good conscience not respond? The unions have bankrupted Providence and soon we may be at the mercy of other communities as ourselves; all because of unionized labor costs in which we need leadership that has the courage to examine the alternatives.”
Filippi favors making “all shifts” for firefighters part-time shifts and privatizing certain rescue operations. He also supports “right-to-work” legislation that would allow workers to choose whether or not they would like to join a union.
The latest letter addressed to his wife reads as follows: “This is our way of paying him back for all the insults to town workers, police, firefighters and teachers. Now it is your turn to let the Johnston residents know what a sexual deviant your hubby is, and his love for the titty bars. Your hubby is a phony, fraud,hypocrite, deviant, sexual pervert and drunk … this is payback with interest.”
Filippi Offers His Version of Events
In an email message to the Current Filippi discussed his various altercations and run-ins with the police.
About 14 years ago I received a bad check in which the police sat on it for over 2 months in which they finally told me the felon had moved and there was nothing they could do. However about a month later a lawyer told me that the police should have gone to the bank to request a forwarding address. When I told the detectives I was going to make note of it in my election literature I got my money 3 days later. Also, one election eve about 16 years ago a cop kept poking his finger in my chest complaining that I wanted to take his job away and that I should be ashamed and more appreciative; that next day I had bruises.
As for Mario’s, it was about 11 years ago on a Saturday night about 8:00 pm. My old buddy wanted to stop there for a drink on the way going home. I didn’t really want to but I remembered an ex councilman who was seen in there in which he said he wanted to see what the place was like, so I figured no harm would be done. We walked in and sat down and the stripper immediately came over and was very aggressive. I frantically looked in my wallet for a dollar to get rid of her as I felt incredibly embarrassed. My smallest bill was a $20. I then put my wallet away and immediately asked my buddy for a dollar. As he was going into his pocket 3 bouncers came over and told us to leave in which I had no idea why they were telling us that. I asked what we had done wrong and he just repeated himself in which I asked again at which point we were grabbed, shoved to the back door where I was thrown down a flight of cement steps as my buddy was slammed down on the top landing in which a few days later he received surgery.
As we walked around to our cars I kept asking what happened as I was still in shock. My buddy told me because I put my wallet back the stripper took it as an insult and signaled the bouncers to remove us. At our cars we were looking at our injuries as I was begging him to go to the station with me. We talked about how my wife would blame him and how it would look for me because of my politics which I didn’t care. Within about 10 minutes 3 cops arrived. As I was telling them what happened one of them said, “I know you.” “I read your stuff” and “I know how you feel about my men,” at which point I asked for his name, in which he took his wallet out and put his badge in my face and said, “Remember that number because you discuss me,” and we were arrested. They refused to let me call my wife and when the rescue came I was only handed a gauze pad and ice pad when I was in dire need of medical attention; my face was broken badly with blood everywhere, which can clearly be seen in the pictures.
Also, over the course of that night over the intercom they continuously asked me if I wanted change for a dollar. My buddy is diabetic and needed something to eat because he was getting the shakes and all they did was asked him if he wanted a banana. The following day when my wife came to get me after crying all night thinking I was dead we went to the emergency room in which the doctor had to take an x-ray of my face to see if there were any broken bones. In the police report the stripper stated that the big bald headed guy flicked his fingers at her breast; which he did not. However, in court the stripper said that I was the one who flicked my fingers at her and that when the bouncers told me to leave I jumped from my seat and threw punchers at them. However, when the bouncer took the stand he said when he asked me to leave “I left the building in a gentlemanly fashion.” At the very moment that judge put his hand over his heart and said he didn’t feel well and stopped the trial. A week later the case was dismissed and the town solicitor hoped there would be no hard feelings; what an ugly state and town we live in indeed.
Of the following two issues related to Rhode Island’s public schools, which one is a greater concern?