PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The city's law department has urged the City Council to reject accidental disability pension waiver requests from five former city employees, including a councilman's mother, according to a memo obtained by WPRI.com.
The council is set to consider the requests, all of which have been pending for at least eight months, at a meeting Wednesday evening.
City law requires applicants to file for tax-free accidental disability pensions with the Providence Retirement Board within 18 months of the accident, but allows for waivers to be granted by the council in the event of "unique or special circumstances," according to the law department. The waiver only guarantees that the application will be considered by the board.
In the memo, Senior Assistant City Solicitor Kenneth Chiavarini described the facts behind each application and explained why each request should be denied.
In the case of Ana Acosta, a former teacher's assistant and the mother of Councilman Davian Sanchez, all retirement contributions were withdrawn before she reached the minimum age of retirement, which makes her ineligible for benefits, the memo said. In another example, Kemly Cortes, a former bus monitor who has been receiving workers' compensation for an injury since 2007, had already been denied an accidental disability pension and then withdrew her request for an ordinary disability benefit.
A spokeswoman for Mayor Angel Taveras said the administration agrees with the law department.
Sanchez said he did not wish to discuss his mother's request, but questioned why it has taken so long for his colleagues to consider all of the waiver applications. One request, submitted by Barbara Cook, a former teacher's assistant, was first introduced to the council on Feb. 3, 2011.
"Why is this coming up a year-and-a-half or two years later is what I'm asking" Councilman Sanchez told WPRI.com. "You should ask [Councilman] John Igliozzi about that."
Igliozzi is the chairman of the City Council Finance Committee, but the committee hasn't officially met since last summer when he and Council President Michael Solomon had a falling out, which led the council to create a special Ways and Means Committee. The new committee now handles all matters formerly heard before the Finance Committee.
For the accidental disability waiver requests, Igliozzi convinced seven colleagues to sign a discharge petition, which allows a matter to be heard before the entire council without being voted on in committee.
"My position is everyone has a right to due process," Igliozzi told WPRI.com. "And I think the city solicitor is denying them their right to due process."
Igliozzi said he does not believe every applicant should be granted a disability pension, but said he failed to understand why the law department decided to offer an opinion just before the matter is discussed by Council when it didn't raise questions about the waiver requests when they were first introduced.
"I don't know if this is based in political skullduggery or what, but I believe the blanket denial of these requests is constitutionally suspect," Igliozzi said.
The council meeting begins at 7 p.m.