Providence council votes on outside pension audit

Providence’s city council has voted to approve funding to hire an outside auditor to review the city’s disability pension system, a proposal its sponsor says will bolster the credibility of a city-run pension review.

Councilman David Salvatore, who proposed the third-party audit, says it will work in tandem with an internal review of the city’s $27 million disability pension system launched by Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare.

Hiring a disinterested party to look into the disability pension system will reduce the likelihood that personal connections might affect the investigation, Salvatore said.

“In this compact environment, I thought it was critical to have an independent review,” he said in a phone interview.

A television report showing a retired firefighter on a disability pension for a shoulder injury lifting heavy weights at a gym has prompted renewed focus on oversight in the system that assigns and maintains disability pensions for public employees like the firefighter.

Salvatore says the external audit is meant to supplement Pare’s probe, not supplant it. That’s a perspective Pare agrees with.

“The City Council’s review will not interfere with my investigation, and I expect it will reinforce what my investigation uncovers,” Pare said in a statement Tuesday.

Rhode Island General Treasurer Gina Raimondo ordered an independent review of the state’s disability pension program last month.

The council voted Monday evening to authorize the city to spend up to $25,000 on an external auditor. That’s a cost to cash-strapped Providence, Salvatore says, that will be offset by the savings taxpayers will see if the disability pension system is cleaned up. The city will be looking at Rhode Island and out-of-state audit firms, Salvatore said.

Monday’s vote was unanimous with one councilman absent, said Jake Bissaillon, chief of staff for the council.

Councilman David Salvatore, who proposed the third-party audit, says it will work in tandem with an internal review of the city’s $27 million disability pension system launched by Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare.

      Hiring a disinterested party to look into the disability pension system will reduce the likelihood that personal connections might affect the investigation, Salvatore said.
      “In this compact environment, I thought it was critical to have an independent review,” he said in a phone interview.
      A WPRI-TV report showing a retired firefighter on a disability pension for a shoulder injury lifting heavy weights at a gym has prompted renewed focus on oversight in the system that assigns and maintains disability pensions for public employees like the firefighter.
      Salvatore says the external audit is meant to supplement Pare’s probe, not supplant it. That’s a perspective Pare agrees with.
      “The City Council’s review will not interfere with my investigation, and I expect it will reinforce what my investigation uncovers,” Pare said in a statement Tuesday.
      Rhode Island General Treasurer Gina Raimondo ordered an independent review of the state’s disability pension program last month.
      The council voted Monday evening to authorize the city to spend up to $25,000 on an external auditor. That’s a cost to cash-strapped Providence, Salvatore says, that will be offset by the savings taxpayers will see if the disability pension system is cleaned up. The city will be looking at Rhode Island and out-of-state audit firms, Salvatore said.
      Monday’s vote was unanimous with one councilman absent, said Jake Bissaillon, chief of staff for the council.

Article source: http://www2.turnto10.com/news/2011/jun/21/providence-council-votes-outside-pension-audit-ar-555011/

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