NORTH PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Col. Steven G. O’Donnell, the Commissioner of Rhode Island’s Department of Public Safety — the top cop in the state — has told the North Providence Town Council there’s no evidence for an outside assessment of the North Providence Police Department, and no evidence of wrongdoing.
After an August 10 letter from the North Providence Town Council President, Dino Autiello, which asked for the Colonel’s take on an assessment, Col. O’Donnell wrote back on August 15, saying in part, “We have no individual knowledge of any allegations of criminal wrongdoing, or for that matter, any behavior [where] we could formulate a professional opinion that would lead us to conclude that the State Police should conduct an outside assessment.”
Autiello’s request came in the wake of a similar one. On July 26, city councilwoman and mayoral candidate Kristen Catanzaro urged the state police to investigate the department after Mayor Charles Lombardi reportedly ordered some information that concerned the department’s acting police chief — Christopher Pelagio — to be deleted from an internal investigative report. Lombardi denied the claims, saying the problems are internal and related to personnel and union issues.
Col. O’Donnell’s letter agreed: “I have spoken to the Chief of Police, who advised he believes the issues that have been discussed publicly are internal affairs issues…
“Although the information… was brought to us by a member of the Town Council, who is also a candidate for Mayor, [it] is void of any tangible information that we could properly vet to make a determination if an assessment is needed,” O’Donnell said.
“At this point we should wait,” considering the town is facing a primary election September 13, O’Donnell concluded.
Eyewitness News spoke with both Catanzaro and Lombardi on Monday about the state police decision.
“He actually made the right decision to say, ‘I don’t have any evidence to come in there’ because we didn’t give it to him,” Catanzaro said.
Catanzaro, a Democrat, said the council should have provided the State Police with more information. She said the acting police chief and Lombardi are calling the department problems “internal affairs issues” to keep the State Police in the dark.
“Basically what they said to the Colonel is, ‘we don’t want you to investigate us.’ Well, do you think they’d want to be investigated when they’re the problem,” Catanzaro asked.
Lombardi said Catanzaro met with O’Donnell and everything she told him “didn’t stick.”
“She met with the Colonel for an hour and a half, so I’m sure she mentioned to the Colonel all these issues that she’s throwing at the wall, but they didn’t stick,” he said.
Lombardi accused Catanzaro of committing a political attack.
“This has nothing to do with why I’m running for mayor,” Catanzaro said.
Councilwoman Catanzaro said she won’t be letting the issue go. She said if she’s mayor, she will call for an investigation.