CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. (WPRI) — Col. Anthony Roberson started his new job as Central Falls police chief this week, but he hasn’t yet been taken off the payroll at the Providence Police Department.
The city of Providence plans to grant the 19-year veteran of the force a one-year leave of absence, according to a spokesperson, which would allow him to collect his full pension with Providence even though he no longer works for city.
Roberson, who was sworn in on Monday, was selected by newly sworn-in Mayor Maria Rivera. He made a jump from the rank of sergeant in Providence to chief in Central Falls.
“As the new mayor of the city, I can pick my team,” Rivera said in an interview with 12 News.
But despite his new $88,000 a year job in Central Falls, Roberson continues earning a salary in Providence, where he remains an employee of the police department. Roberson is using up his vacation and sick time, Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré confirmed, at a salary of roughly $69,000.
Paré told 12 News that Roberson is slightly more than one year shy of collecting his maximum pension with the city of Providence, which requires 20 years on the force. (Officers are vested in their pensions after 10 years.) He said Monday the city is considering giving him a one-year unpaid leave of absence beginning in March, which would allow him to hit 20 years of service in Providence next year while working for another department.
Police spokesperson Lindsay Lague said Roberson has 30 days of vacation and 210 hours of paid sick time left to use prior to the unpaid leave of absence, which she said would start in March.
The head of the Central Falls Police Union said he is concerned about Roberson’s loyalty to the city if he remains on the payroll for both Providence and Central Falls.
“As long as he is committed and he doesn’t leave then it will never be an issue but its something we will be watching and monitoring,” said Jeff Araujo, vice president of the Central Falls Police Union.
In an interview with 12 News, Roberson defended the request for a leave of absence, arguing it is common practice.
“I’m committed to to the city of Central Falls and I will be here for years to come,” Roberson said.
Paré also said the practice was common, but could not point out any specific recent examples.
Rivera said she was aware of the leave of absence request in Providence, but added that the city of Central Falls was not involved in setting up any agreement.
“If he is allowed to do this legally, there is nothing that I can say,” Rivera said.
Steph Machado contributed to this report.