RI fire chief allowed to keep raise if he becomes an EMT, town council decides

Town leaders decided not to reverse the chief's raise so long as he passes his EMT certification test next month


Marcia Pobzeznik
Newport Daily News, R.I.

TIVERTON, R.I. — An attempt to take away a raise that was given to Fire Chief Joseph Mollo in December following his six month evaluation failed to win a majority of votes of the Town Council, but his getting his emergency medical technician certification is required for him to keep it.

An amendment by council member Donna Cook Monday to keep Mollo's pay at $83,851 instead of the $80,000 he started the job at seven months ago, was supported by John Edwards V, Stephen Clarke and Nancy Driggs, with a caveat that Mollo pass the certification test next month to keep it.

Tiverton Fire Chief Joseph Mollo will be allowed to keep his pay raise if he passes his EMT certification exam next month. (Photo/Marcia Pobzeznik, Newport Daily News)
Tiverton Fire Chief Joseph Mollo will be allowed to keep his pay raise if he passes his EMT certification exam next month. (Photo/Marcia Pobzeznik, Newport Daily News)

Three other council members, President Patricia Hilton, Vice President Denise deMedeiros and Joseph Perry voted against. Hilton said "a contract is a contract" and the one Mollo signed last June called for a salary of $80,000 with a raise at the end of the first year, after an evaluation.

Mollo had agreed to amend his contract to have the salary increase take effect after he earns EMT certification, but four council members said they did not want to take money away from him after having voted last month to approve the raise.

Mollo, who had been retired for 12 years before he returned to fire service with this position, surveyed the salaries of fire chiefs in communities similar to Tiverton and found his pay was substantially lower. When his evaluation was completed at the end of six months, he asked for an increase and it was supported by Town Administrator Jan Reitsma.

Perry had supported that increase but then asked that the contract be amended because Mollo didn't meet a requirement of the town charter for EMT certification.

"I have a lot of issues with giving out a pay raise and then taking it away," Edwards said. "I have a problem with taking money out of somebody's pocket."

"I do too," Driggs said.

"I don't feel right taking away his pay raise," Cook said. The raise was given because of his performance, noting it was "outstanding."

She said if he doesn't pass the test then the raise will be taken away.

Clarke asked if the council was "putting ourselves in jeopardy by going against the charter."

But Town Solicitor Michael Marcello said the charter language states the fire chief "shall," be a certified EMT, which he said is "a goal but not mandatory."

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©2020 Newport Daily News, R.I.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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