WARWICK R.I. (WPRI) - A Department of Public Works employee who was fired after being arrested on charges he stole from the city, has won the fight to get his job back and will receive approximately nine months in back pay.
Kenneth Naylor, 48, of West Warwick – a 13-year employee of the Warwick DPW – was terminated in October after his arrest on a larceny charge a month earlier.
The head of the union that represents Naylor said an arbitrator ruled the city should not have fired Naylor because officials had already come to an agreement with the city to suspend him for 20 days without pay. The ruling came down on Aug. 7.
J. Michael Downey, President of Council 94, said he was not involved in fighting the case on behalf of Naylor, but said Warwick committed "double jeopardy" by punishing him twice for the same mistake.
"In my experience a settlement agreement between the parties is usually in full force and effect," Downey said. "Apparently the arbitrator felt the same."
Downey said he doesn't know how much money Naylor will be paid following the arbitrator's decision but it will cover from the time he was terminated in October 2011 to today, minus the 20-day suspension.
According to a statement from Mayor Scott Avedisian, the city is still calculating how much money they will have to repay Naylor. Records show he made $48,215 in 2011.
"While I am tremendously disappointed with this decision, we will be making a number of changes to the City's personnel policies and procedures to ensure consistent and appropriate disciplinary actions in the future," Avedisian said in the statement.
Avedisian said the personnel department originally made a "disciplinary decision" regarding Naylor in the days following his arrest.
"Once I became aware of the circumstances involving the incident, I disagreed with the decision," Avedisian said in the statement. "The City then terminated Mr. Naylor following our internal review of allegations that were relative to his taking city-owned property."
Naylor appealed the action through his union and the case was brought to arbitration.
According to a police report from September 2011, Naylor was stopped by police leaving the DPW in his personal truck. The report states they discovered tools, fuel and steel fire hydrant parts.
Naylor told police it was "normal procedure" for him to borrow items after checking with the supervisor, according to the report, but said in this particular incident he did not get authorization. He claimed he was going to use the hydrant parts to shore up a sagging deck.
Police said they set up surveillance on the DPW yard acting on a tip. Police spotted Naylor pulling onto the property around 8 p.m. then leaving a short time later. They followed Naylor in his pickup truck and pulled him over, seizing the equipment.
The head of a taxpayer watchdog group called the ruling "outrageous and a slap in the face to taxpayers."
"This illustrates why taxpayers should not favor arbitration systems for resolving union disputes," said Donna Perry, executive director for the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition. "This ruling seems to be telling the taxpayers of Warwick that no municipal worker will ever lose their job, pay and benefits, even if they violate city policy to the point of arrest for larceny."
In the wake of the arrest Avedisian said they put a stop to allowing employees to borrow city equipment.
The criminal case against Naylor is still pending. In March he pleaded not guilty to a charge of larceny over $1,500.
A call to Naylor's attorney has not been returned.
According to the Rhode Island Judiciary Naylor has pleaded no contest to shoplifting and trespassing charges dating back to 1989.
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