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Providence City Council prepares for city clerk removal proceedings

Providence

Selleck, center, returned to his duties clerking the City Council meetings in August. (file photo)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Providence City Council is gearing up for the city’s first-ever removal proceeding of an official, announcing Monday the hiring of an attorney to prosecute City Clerk Shawn Selleck, who is accused of bullying and harassing his subordinates.

The public hearing on Selleck’s potential removal is currently expected to take place Nov. 16 and 17, according to Chris Hunter, an outside spokesperson for the council.

The city solicitor has hired attorney Lauren Iannelli to prosecute the case on behalf of the City Council at a rate of $200 per hour, according to a copy of the agreement between Iannelli and the city. She will also represent the council in any appeals and “follow-up litigation,” the letter states.

The non-criminal proceeding is essentially the city’s version of an impeachment trial, which will include witnesses for the prosecution and defense, with the 15 city councilors serving as the equivalent of a jury.

The Providence City Charter requires a two-thirds majority vote to remove the clerk. Selleck was first appointed to a four-year term by a vote of the City Council in 2019.

The council took a unanimous voice vote last month to bring the administrative charges against Selleck under the City Charter, following the release of a report by attorney Carly Iafrate which determined Selleck violated the city’s anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies and created a hostile work environment.

The Iafrate report — which was obtained by Target 12 but not released publicly — contains accusations from Selleck’s three deputy clerks, among others, accusing Selleck of micromanaging, being argumentative, and berating his staff to the point of causing them emotional distress.

Tina Mastroianni, the first deputy clerk, said Selleck’s behavior caused her to “become both physically and mentally ill.” Another deputy clerk, Angela Harris, claimed Selleck physically held a door shut while trying to discuss her job duties at the end of the work day.

Iafrate was hired by council leadership after the city’s human resources department found that Selleck’s behavior didn’t reach the threshold of harassment and reinstated him to his job.

Selleck was not interviewed for the Iafrate report because he was not permitted to bring his attorney to the interview, but he has denied allegations of harassment and accused council leadership of seeking to oust him in favor of Mastroianni.

Ahead of the removal proceedings this month, Selleck’s attorney sent a letter to the city solicitor’s office and City Council on Oct. 21 asking for a series of witnesses to be subpoenaed for his defense, including Lt. Governor Sabina Matos — the former council president — and multiple former council staffers including Billy Kepner, Erlin Rogel and Katia Lugo.

Kepner — who was a top staffer for the City Council and is now Matos’ communications director in the lieutenant governor’s office — said neither he nor Matos has received a subpoena. He declined to comment on the ongoing matter.

Selleck also asked for current top council staffers Jim Lombardi and Yvonne Graf to be subpoenaed to testify, among other staffers, along with five members of Selleck’s office. (Two were interviewed in the Iafrate report and defended him.)

The City Charter says officials who are facing removal “shall have the right to be heard, to be represented by counsel, and to request the city council to compel the attendance of witnesses and production of evidence, including relevant records of the city.”

Council spokespeople did not immediately say when subpoenas for witnesses will be issued.

Selleck also asked that Councilman Michael Correia, who is a complaining witness in the Iafrate report, “be disqualified and recuse” himself from voting on his ultimate removal.

Reached by phone, Correia said he would follow the city solicitor’s advice on whether or not to recuse.

“This is the first I’m hearing of it,” he added.

Correia said he has not yet been asked to testify in the removal proceedings.

Selleck said he has not been notified that the hearing on his removal is taking place in roughly two weeks.

“To date, I have not received notice of a hearing as required by the city charter,” Selleck said in a statement. “My attorney has also not received a response to a letter, now almost two weeks old, that lays out how to make sure that this hearing is conducted fairly and with due process. I look forward to participating in a fair, open and public process.”

Steph Machado (smachado@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter covering Providence, politics and more for 12 News. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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