The Long, Strange Saga of Lillian Rivera

Commenters on this blog have been wanting to know more about the pay-out to Lillian Rivera, a police officer on leave from the Cranston police department. Today, David Scharfenberg delivered a detailed account of her disability and injury claims against the city of Cranston. From the Projo:

CRANSTON  A disputed sexual-harassment charge is driving a mounting controversy over a police sergeant who has been out of work with pay for three years, a Providence Journal investigation has revealed.

Legal documents and interviews with current and former city officials point to a long-running feud over alleged verbal harassment, sexually explicit e-mails and Police Department politics.

And with election season approaching, partisans are trading charges about Mayor Michael T. Napolitano’s decision to settle with Lillian Rivera, the sergeant at the center of the furor, in June 2007.

The administration has declined to release the settlement, which is public record under state law. [full text]

I have to give credit to Geoff Schoos, who predicted to me in a conversation last week that this was the result of a larger problem within the police department. And it was Jesse here on Kmareka who seemed to know that the Laffey administration also had to handle this mess, though it doesn’t sound like his predictions about the former Mayor’s direct involvement are panning out. The hard-ball directions were apparently delivered by Grimes.

It’s disappointing (though not unexpected — it happens everywhere, in human services, too) to see how much sexual harassment is still a problem. If the Mayor’s settlement and publicizing of this case helps to bring about better understanding of what harassment is and why we need to stop it, then this may be a just cause indeed. But we need to know more. Silence should not be part of this settlement, not if it’s really about change. I hope we will learn more about this story. I hope Mayor Napolitano and Lillian Rivera (and maybe even Chalek and Brown) will help us all have a teachable moment over this.

11 thoughts on “The Long, Strange Saga of Lillian Rivera

  1. Kiersten:

    Grimes wouldn’t do anything without Laffey’s approval. Looks more like Grimes is providing cover for the former Mayor. I appreciate the nod, though.

  2. We keep settling issues and we’ll have everyone coming to Cranston to share in the bonanza. Eureka, I’ve struck gold!!!!!!!!

  3. GCF:

    As NASCAR drivers would say, you need to whoa-up. (Though I do get the humor.)

    I think most, if not all, of these settlements are actually valid. A tax dispute with ProvWater, a police car-crash, the concrete plant, and now a years-old disability claim.

    And while we may quibble with them, I think, overall, the settlements are not frivolous.

  4. Can someone explain something?

    Assuming that the e-mails exist, and that they do seriously implicate Brown, shouldn’t there be some recourse taken against him? For example, either curtailing or stopping his pension?

    Otherwise, he did something wrong and walked away scot-free. Excuse me for saying so, but that’s just wrong. He did something wrong, he should suffer some consequence.

    And the Chief is also guily in this scenario. As the Man In Charge, he is responsible for seeing that his employees obey the law. If he was cc’d on these e-mails and did nothing to stop them, then he’s guilty, too.

    Also, the idea that an independent investigatin cleared Brown is ludicrous. He could not prove a negative. There is nothing he can say or do that proves he did nothing.

    Rather, in a situation like this, it’s a question of her evidence. If she’s got them, any investigation that doesn’t consider them is a joke. And it sounds like the independent investigator didn’t consider them. So Laffey is on the hook here, too.

    So, am I wrong here? Shouldn’t Brown–and perhaps Chalek–suffer some sort of consequence? Too many men still think that “they’re just joking,” that it’s “all in good fun,” but it’s not. Until there are clear repercussions for these actions, they won’t stop. And should they be entitled to their full pension if they perpetrated illegal and immoral acts in the course of their jobs?

    This is why things in this state don’t get better. The big shots get away with whatever they want to.

    Am I wrong? If so, please tell me, and explain why.

  5. Here’s where I’m having a hard time with. I’m playing devil’s advocate here with something similar.

    My department of 10 people, only 6 of us were on a joke list with eachother. A new addition to the group joined in the e-mails and sent what I would consider off color jokes (one was about 3 women in a bar … date raped; the other was a graphic vulgar picture). I was all of a sudden not liking the turn of humor, so I e-mailed everyone and asked to be taken off their lists. They removed me. Jokes are subjective and unfortunately some people have a more perverse humor.

    In the article on Rivera’s it stated there was another woman and a few other males. I did not read she responded back. My interpretation was that she was offended, she complained and brought it to the frontline of superiors and was given a written and verbal apology. The Station, like most companies should have a sexual harrassment preventative training. While the inference was that she was with the Big Boys and should handle it and toughen up is not something I buy into. However, it didn’t feel the outrage with the e-mails and what bothered me most was that she was then hurt on the job years later and claimed PTDD when it was time to return. Couldn’t she have put in for a tranfer?

    I was in a corporate setting and was daily anguished with some Pervse idiot that once Management was informed, they told him he had to go to a class (although he never went). They offered to move me, but I decided on leaving the company. Jokes and humor are tough these days as everyone has different levels of humor.

    While I do see the appropriation of Dry Cleaning (although I don’t find it ethical) I don’t understand the way the Mayor handled this. He states that the Council doesn’t make the settlement, however, they do need to be notified of the $25,000 along with the other payments so they can figure the budget.

    I do not feel like we know enough about the situation – unfortunately this may be a very sensitive situation for this woman….or she may be trying to pull the wool over our eyes and she will be further hurt either way – – when it should be focused more on those that allowed this. Laffey or Napolitano.

    I hope we find out the outcome,

  6. As far as this Rivera case, I think a captain who was a supervisor should have more scruples than that. As a woman, I am absolutely appalled that this happened and was, from all accounts, swept under the rug. Sounds like the girl just wanted to do her job and the”good old boys’ think they’re above the law. To me, it is plain harassment and abuse of power. As for the Laffey administration, I think Grimes stopping the investigation is CRIMINAL. The redacted paperwork, I feel, shows an attempt to stonewall. David Exter was right….the corruption was with the former administration. A year and a half later, Laffey’s problems keep surfacing. I would hope that this gets turned over to the Attorney General and that the players( Chalek, Grimes, Laffey, Brown etc.)
    are questioned about this. I guess Laffey keeps his title as the “King of Law Suits”

  7. Or maybe she’s looking for something for nothing, at our expense. She’s not working but gets paid to have her uniform cleaned?

  8. GCF:

    That’s part of the police contract. There’s no language, to my knowledge, to give the department leeway to stop payment of the uniform subsidy. So it’s not her “looking for something for nothing,” it’s the city meeting its contract obligations.

  9. Attorney General should investigate, there are too many questions. If there was an investigation that Grimes stopped well than that was wrong.

    As always, if there was a coverup, a crime – then there should be an investigation and accountablity needs to had.

  10. Suzanne,

    And the IRS. If it’s a stipend rather than an actual reimbursement for expense, it should be taxable. Or am I missing something? Either way, would it be wrong for me to ask my employer for mileage reimbursement if I drove to the store for milk.

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