Attention To Detail(s)
The president of the Scituate Town Council is facing an investigation by the Rhode Island Ethics Commission over allegations that he put pressure on the police chief to assign him lucrative detail work - despite warnings from the commission not to. Jim Hummel takes a closer look.
At an average of $50 a hour, police details are a pretty good gig for active and retire officers here in Scituate - and communities across Rhode Island.
That’s why James Brady - a retired officer in Johnson and Scituate - asked the Rhode Island Ethics Commission if he could keep working details after he was elected president of the Scituate Town Council in 2018.
After all Brady, made $28,000 in 2017 and $20,000 in 2018 working details - on top of his two pensions. The Ethics Commission said he could continue - if he didn’t do anything that directly in his capacity as an elected official would impact him financially.
Marcello: “I was very pleased that he did (go to the Ethics commission), it was actually refreshing to see that a person who was recently elected was thinking about ethical considerations, and he formally requested an Ethics opinion as to what he could and could not do.”
Attorney Michael Marcello is a former Town Council member and state representative. In June, he filed a complaint with the ethics commission against Brady, a Republican, on behalf of the Scituate Democratic Town Committee. The complaint says Brady violated the commission’s advisory opinion by injecting himself in the detail assignment process.
The commission voted unanimously last month to launch a full investigation.
In a series of emails with the complaint dating to last summer, Brady wanted to know why out-of- two police officers were getting details ahead of him, when active and retired Scituate police officers are supposed to get called first.
Marcello: “The council president was concerned as to why he wasn’t being selected for details. In other words, he wasn’t getting as many details as he thought he should have been getting. And that sets off a whole chain of events between him and the chief of police, who technically is responsible for overseeing the detail program within the police department.
The chief at the time, Donald Deleare, fielded a series of emails from Brady, who pressed him repeatedly over several days about the issue. Delaere, who retired June 30, declined our request for an on-camera interview.
But in a lengthy phone interview Delaere said the police detail issue capped a six-month barrage of emails, texts and phone calls from Brady trying to micromanage the department, despite a clause a non-interference clause in the chief’s contract.
Brady, who declined to comment on the ethics commission investigation, denied to us that he was a micromanager.
Marcello: “So the council president ordered the chief of the police to do an investigation as to what was going on with the detail, and why he wasn’t selected, and I want answers immediately. And apparently when he didn’t get those immediate answer that ratcheted it up a little more.“
So much so, the emails show, Brady asked for cell phone records of every police officer on the department to get this information right away.
Marcello: “In my opinion, he’s way over his skis on this one. He’s completely violating the Ethics opinion that he got and he’s deep into trying to find out why he personally is not getting details within the department.”
It culminated one weekend when Chief Delaere sent an email to the town solicitor telling him Brady was making his life miserable and affecting his situation at home.
Instead of investigating Brady, the council vice president Abbie Groves put the chief out on administrative leave. Delaere told us it gave the public the impression he was either in trouble, or mentally or physically compromised.
Marcello: “In the same email where the chief indicated he was being harassed by the council president he also indicates that he believes that the council president had violated the ethics opinion that he had been given. I don’t think there is any coincidence that that email went out July 19th, and the next day they had this emergency meeting to put him out on “emergency leave.” So to me, this had nothing to do with his physical or mental health, it had everything to do with being a whistleblower and finally calling the council president to the carpet and saying hey, get off my back.”
Finnegan: “I wanted to know exactly what was going on.”
Town resident Richard Finnegan, a familiar face at council meetings, put in a series of open records requests that produced the emails that are now part of the official ethics commission investigation.
Finnegan: “Those emails kept going back and forth and when the chief was trying to get answers for President Brady he wanted answers quicker and he kept forcing his emails to the chief to get those answers, and those answers didn’t come quick enough for Mr. Brady because he wanted those details.”
Marcello said he believes another reason Brady was making Delaere’s job so difficult is that because he was appointed by the previous council of the so-called Independent Men, who were swept out of office with a total Republican takeover in the 2018 elections.
Marcello: “The new Republican council who replaced The Independent Men seemed to be hell-bent on erasing any vestiges of any of their appointees and obviously the police chief is one of the top on their list.”
Hummel: “So in your opinion, do you think that was part of the driving factor, that ‘hey he’s not our guy?’”
Marcello: “Absolutely: which is concerning in itself. The police chief shouldn’t be anybody’s guy. The police chief should be serving the public and making sure that law is enforced fairly and uniformly.”
Adding to the intrigue: Delaere, who retired on June 30, is now running for town council as an independent in the November election. So he will either help defeat Brady - or become his colleague on the council.
The Ethics Commission says its investigation will take a couple of months to complete.
In Scituate, Jim Hummel for The Hummel Report.