December 20, 2007

Whoda Thunk? A Double-dipping Union Hack

Marc Comtois


Providence Fire Union president Paul Doughty has not come to work for much of the last three years, staffing what Chief George Farrell said appeared to be a no-show position in the department’s training division instead of working a fire truck.

At the same time, Doughty was making extra cash working overtime shifts to fill the vacancy created when he left his job on a special hazards truck, according to a Journal analysis of department records; Farrell said that amounted to double-billing the city.

Perhaps the most illustrative aspect of the whole story is the "that's the way it's always been done" attitude of both Doughty and past union president Stephen Day. Guess what guys, business as usual ain't gonna cut it this time.
Doughty asserts that he has done nothing wrong: he acknowledges that he did not come to work for almost three years, but said he had been authorized to work full-time on union business by Farrell’s predecessor as chief, David Costa. He said that previous union presidents — including Farrell — have been allowed to do union business full-time. The union contract allows the president to take time off for union business, but it does not specify how much.

Doughty said that he was not double-billing by working overtime shifts. Once he was assigned to the Division of Training, he said, it was irrelevant where he served previously.

“I know it doesn’t sound good, but no matter where I go, because of the way minimum manning is structured, either they’re paying me or they’re paying someone else,” he said. “But at the end of the day, it’s not my spot … for 17 years it’s been my spot, but for those three years or whatever, it wasn’t my spot.”

All agree that Doughty’s predecessor as union president, David Peters, worked on a truck at least 20 hours weekly. Peters served the union between Farrell and Doughty, from 2002 to 2004.

But Stephen T. Day, fire union president from 1988 to 1996, said that he was allowed to work on union business full-time, and that he, too, worked overtime shifts on his former truck.

Day said that past practice proves that Doughty’s actions are proper.

“This is a smokescreen issue, this is retaliation for Paul Doughty speaking up to defend his members,” Day said.

To Farrell, that’s ridiculous. He said that had The Journal not started asking questions, he would have handled this internally — to have it come out in public just makes his department look bad.

You got that right, Chief. And it confirms all of the worst suspicions the public has.

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"Doughty asserts that he has done nothing wrong: he acknowledges that he did not come to work for almost three years, but said he had been authorized to work full-time on union business by Farrell’s predecessor as chief, David Costa"

The conduct of union business on the taxpayer dime is in itself problematic. But Mr. Doughty took it one step further, taking on a third job while he was supposed to be doing union business. So it appears that Mr. Doughty was triple-dipping; getting paid for three jobs but only doing one. And sometimes doing it at overtime pay.

Whether or not the State Police determine there was criminal activity in this particular situation, overtime needs to be eliminated from all public contracts. Period. One of the reasons this state is in such financial trouble is excessive unnecessary overtime. Whether it's contracts structured to facilitate it or, as Marc says, an attitude that overtime is as much a right as "the Blue Cross", it's wrong and, more pragmatically, we cannot afford it.

Posted by: Monique at December 20, 2007 11:23 AM

How much was this guy making exactly?

Fireman salary $55,000
Union President $30,000
Overtime shifts $??

Gawd,is this town screwed or what!?!

Nothing to see here taxpayer, business as usual. Move along, move along.

Posted by: Red at December 20, 2007 11:28 AM

1. He needs to be put on leave immediately.

2. After the investigation he needs to be fired.

3. Then he needs to be indicted.

Posted by: Greg at December 20, 2007 11:48 AM

I'm just imagining The Sopranos theme music in the background while I'm reading this. ;)

Posted by: Will at December 20, 2007 12:05 PM

Everyone who's surprised please raise your hand................anybody..........?

Posted by: Siva at December 20, 2007 12:26 PM

Everybody who's surprised that RIFuture has taken a pass on this and the Lincoln DPW head's misappropriation of taxpayer resources please raise your hand...

Posted by: Greg at December 20, 2007 12:27 PM

RI Future isn't interested in good government, it's interested in big government. The folks over at RI Future think Government can cure all human ills. They think government can provide cheap healthcare, provide for people who don't want to work/want to have children they can't support. They even think the government can plan the weather for the next 100 years (global warming).

The folks at RI Future don't care about people in the private sector unions. They only care about public sector unions. If they did care about private sector jobs, they wouldn't advocate for the constant increases in taxes which criple our businesses.

RI Future, like the leftist movement, is a joke based on protectionism and isolationsism.

Posted by: Theracapulas at December 20, 2007 1:00 PM

This isn't idelogical; it's just embarassing. I'm all for moving this refugee from "Brotherhood" off the public payroll.

Posted by: rhody at December 20, 2007 1:10 PM

Speaking of overtime ...

While I can't speak to the specifics of the Providence Firefighters contract, in many places public sector union contracts call for overtime for any time over 8 hours in one day!

(Could it be 7 hours in one day in some RI contracts, since they only work a 35 hour week?)

Yet another way taxpayers get scr**wed by public sector unionization and its bought and paid for politicians.

Posted by: Tom W at December 20, 2007 2:17 PM

Hmmmm. Now let me get this straight. The guy gets paid to do union business on our dime. More like it - we pay these guys to figure out ways to f#$& us. Once again, here we are given a sterling example of just why public employee unions are a cancer to a governments' well being. Public employee unions should be illegal.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at December 20, 2007 3:02 PM

"Now let me get this straight. The guy gets paid to do union business on our dime."

Yes! and these guys prepare all week for your local City Council and School Committee meetings while the rest of us stiffs are working a real job.

Those of us who work, pay taxes, obey the law and aren't out to take advantage of the system need to find some time to combat this outrageous status f'ing quo!

We really need to start showing these punks and their counterparts in the legislature that we are mad as hell and if they don't start to give it up, we're going to take it away!

Posted by: George at December 20, 2007 3:15 PM

>>We really need to start showing these punks and their counterparts in the legislature that we are mad as hell and if they don't start to give it up, we're going to take it away!


Be prepared for the lot of them to give you the Pat Crowley universal symbol. They own the Democrat Party, and so long as Rhode Islanders keep voting Democrat nothing will change.

After all, "we" promoted to the U.S. Senate a guy who voted to give state pensions to teacher union officials who didn't even work for the state.

Kind of like what we're hearing this week over the snow debacle, he claimed he didn't know what was in the bill - in other words "I'm incompetent so elect me to the U.S. Senate."

More likely he was a good soldier following the leadership's direction on which bills to vote yea or nay - in other words, he was a good soldier for the corrupt regime.

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at December 20, 2007 4:41 PM

So why is this only OK for union presidents who don't rock the boat?

All you conspiracy theorists REALLY believe that Cicilline didn't feed this straight to the Journal, who are trying to anoint him Governor?

He broke no laws, and he can't even be brought up on department charges because it's been past practice- a key labor law term.

The State Police laughed this out of their office. It's only an issue because the mayor is desperate for leverage against a union that his yes-man Farrell can't dictate to.

Posted by: EMT at December 20, 2007 11:21 PM

So hypothetically speaking, could Doughty have also run for the General Assembly?

It's too bad. Unions usually give their people time off if they are legislator.

Just think, he could have taken leave from the fire department to work on union issues and then taken leave from the union to work on legislative issues. If had played his cards right, he could have collected yet another taxpayer funded paycheck without ever having to worry about working a day job!

Poor guy missed the boat on that one.

Posted by: Anthony at December 21, 2007 1:32 AM

and so long as Rhode Islanders keep voting Democrat nothing will change.
Posted by Ragin' Rhode Islander at December 20, 2007 4:41 PM
Wrong. Even with the Democrat stranglehold, they have reached the end of their rope and they know it.
The piper is now demanding payment. $600 million within the next 6 months with more to come every year for the forseable future-thanks to "progressive math" that says you can increase spending at 2 1/2 times revenues without your whole system collapsing.
The piper, by the way, is no longer accepting tobacco bonds as payment.
The seeds have been sown.
Harvest Day is here.
10 days and counting.

Posted by: Mike at December 21, 2007 9:24 AM

I don't think anyone is denying that this story has Cicilline's fingerprints all over it. But the problem is that Cicilline is right.

Past practice or not, the average guy on the street finds something wrong with a union leader collecting overtime created by a vacancy by that same union leader. With today's budget problems, this is the exactly the type of thing that infuriates people.

Did Cicilline know it was past practice? Probably. Did Doughty do anything illegal? Probably not.

But at a time when voters will be watching their taxes go up and services cut, you can bet there will be great interest in stalking down every no-show worker, false worker's comp. claim, and misuse of government funds.

And the newspapers and radio stations are going to keep stories like this in the news, because people will buy papers and listen to talk radio when these topics are discussed.

Posted by: Anthony at December 21, 2007 10:27 AM


George Farrell did this on Cicilline's watch and was appointed Fire Chief. Paul Doughty does it, and his pay stubs get shipped to the State Police.

It's just wrong. If the Chief is so worried about the overtime, he can start by giving all of his back.

Posted by: EMT at December 21, 2007 11:27 AM

So wait. Paul's whole argument is "Everybody else was doing it."?!

Why is it that every time you boil down a union argument for anything it sounds eerily similar to the weak reasons kids try to use to get their parents to let them do stupid things?

Posted by: Greg at December 21, 2007 12:24 PM

I'd agree with having Farrell give back his overtime pay and having it awarded as bonuses to firefighters and paramedics who performed bravely in the line of duty or put in a fund for the families of firefighters/paramedics killed in the line of duty.

Posted by: Anthony at December 21, 2007 4:17 PM
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