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Providence city clerk ‘shocked’ to be placed on administrative leave

Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Providence City Clerk Shawn Selleck has been placed on paid leave amid a human resources investigation, Target 12 has confirmed.

“I can confirm that Shawn Selleck has been on administrative leave since June 28 and remains on leave pending the results of an internal investigation,” city spokesperson Theresa Agonia said in an email.

She declined to comment on the reason for the action, but Target 12 has learned it was done at the request of City Council leaders. Council President John Igliozzi, who took over the top job in April, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Asked for comment Wednesday, Selleck said he was taken off guard by the action.

“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 in an email. “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.”

“Furthermore, if the City Council felt there were any reason to investigate an appointee, the Providence City Charter specifies a clear process to do so, and I have seen no indication that that process is being followed,” he added.

Selleck, a council appointee who was elected to a four-year term in 2019, runs the clerk’s office and serves as clerk at council meetings, where he is responsible for the agenda items, documents, taking the roll and recording the official votes of the councilmembers.

City Council chief of staff Jim Lombardi declined to comment on the circumstances surrounding the administrative leave.

Prior to his appointment as city clerk, Selleck had worked for the clerk’s office as a consultant and helped build the current Open Meetings Portal, where meeting agendas are uploaded and the public can digitally access documents that are discussed at meetings.

At the time of his appointment, Selleck was praised by then-Council President Sabina Matos for his plans to digitize processes that were previously done on paper.

In Selleck’s absence, the City Council’s celebratory in-person return to its chambers last Thursday night was run by Tina Mastroianni, the first deputy clerk.

In a speech on the council floor, Mayor Jorge Elorza made it a point to thank Selleck by name for leading the clerk’s office during the pandemic as all public bodies switched to remote meetings.

While Selleck’s most visible role is on the dais at council meetings, he is also the keeper of official city documents and the city seal, according to the Providence Home Rule Charter. He oversees the city archives, as well.

The clerk is one of several appointed positions that require a vote of the City Council. Others include the city treasurer and city solicitor.

The charter says removal of such officials requires a public hearing and a two-thirds vote of the council.

No such hearing has been scheduled with regards to Selleck.

City councilors have not been notified of Selleck’s leave, Councilwoman Helen Anthony said Wednesday.

“That’s disappointing,” Anthony told Target 12. “We would never have been able to get through COVID without him.”

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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