Providence city clerk reinstated following HR probe; files suit

Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence City Clerk Shawn Selleck has been reinstated to his job following a human resources investigation that was launched in June, city officials said Tuesday.

“The Human Resources department concluded their investigation,” city spokesperson Theresa Agonia said in an email. “I can confirm his administrative leave has been rescinded and he has been reinstated as City Clerk. As this is a personnel matter, I do not have further details.”

Selleck had been placed on paid leave on June 28 pending the results of an internal investigation. Agonia declined to disclose the reason for the action at the time.

But while the HR investigation is complete, the Providence City Council is continuing to look into the matter with an outside lawyer, Target 12 has learned.

Attorney Carly Iafrate has been hired by the council at a rate of $225 per hour to “independently review a personnel situation,” according to a request made to the Board of Contract and Supply. The up-to-$15,000 contract with Iafrate was approved by the board Monday without any discussion.

Asked for comment Tuesday, Selleck said called the council investigation “politically motivated,” and said he has not been allowed to resume his usual duties. He said he filed a lawsuit over the matter late Tuesday.

“Yesterday, I received a letter stating that an internal investigation was completed with no wrongdoing found and that I was being reinstated as City Clerk,” Selleck said in an email. “However, at a meeting this morning it was evident that there is no intention of allowing me to resume my duties as prescribed in the City Charter.”

Selleck said he is not permitted to access the clerk’s office or communicate with his staff, and was told that First Deputy Clerk Tina Mastroianni would continue leading the work that Selleck typically does.

A copy of the suit provided by Selleck accuses Council President John Igliozzi and chief of staff Jim Lombardi of seeking to remove Selleck in favor of Mastroianni.

“Council President Igliozzi would like to preside over the council election of a city clerk of his choosing,” the lawsuit claims.

“I believe any additional investigation is intended to prolong my absence and is politically motivated,” Selleck said. “We will be filing suit as I hope to resume my duties to continue serving the residents of the city of Providence as the City Clerk.”

Igliozzi declined to comment on the litigation Tuesday.

Selleck was initially appointed to a four-year term by a vote of the City Council under former Council President Sabina Matos in 2019. He said in July he was surprised when he was placed on leave and ordered not to enter City Hall.

“I was shocked to learn that I had been placed on administrative leave with no advance notice, no warning, and no formal explanation provided,” Selleck said at the time. “I have been prohibited from entering City Hall or communicating with the City Council members who appointed me. I am not aware of anything I’ve done that would justify any disciplinary action, let alone provoke such an extreme response.”

In a subsequent letter to the city, Selleck’s attorney Peter Skwirz contended that human resources does not have the authority to take action against the city clerk, an independent position defined in the Providence Home Rule Charter.

Swirz cited a portion of the charter that says only the City Council can “bring charges” against the clerk, and potentially remove him or her following a public hearing and vote.

The clerk’s duties include running City Council meetings, serving as the keeper of official city documents and the city seal, and overseeing the city archives.

When Selleck was reinstated Tuesday, his lawsuit claims he met with chief of staff Lombardi, who told him Mastroianni would continue performing his primary duties, and he would be assigned to work on “innovations in the legislative branch.”

Mastroianni is the named defendant in the suit, which Selleck said is because he is asking a judge to reinstate him to duties she is currently performing. She declined to comment Tuesday.

Lombardi, the council chief of staff, did not immediately comment.

Steph Machado (smachado@wpri.com) covers Providence, politics and more for WPRI 12. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook

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