‘There was no wink and a nod’: Paré defends hiring of civilian to high-ranking police position


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Tensions ran high during Tuesday night’s Providence Finance Committee as councilors grilled the Providence Public Safety Commissioner on the hiring process for a high-ranking position within the city’s police department.

Back in September, Mayor Jorge Elorza tapped Michael Stephens, the city’s recreation director, to join the Providence Police Department as its first-ever community relations and diversion services major.

Elorza immediately received flak for selecting Stephens, a civilian with no experience in law enforcement, to a role he’s not qualified for.

In response to Elorza’s unexpected appointment, the Providence City Council blocked Stephen from stepping into the role for the time being so an investigation into the hiring process could be conducted.

Councilman Nicholas Narducci chastised Paré for the city’s decision to hire Stephens, calling it a “slap in the face” to the qualified police officers who applied.

“[They] came up through the ranks and got denied a major position so a civilian could walk into a major position,” Narducci said. “I don’t know how you did that. Somebody should be put in jail for doing what you did.”

Paré formed an eight-person hiring committee for the new role, which was first created back in January and initially included Stephens.

But Stephens withdrew himself from the hiring prior to applying for the position.

Initially, Paré told 12 News Stephens left the hiring committee before it ever met, but Kira Wills told councilors otherwise.

Wills not only confirmed Stephens attended the first meeting, she said he said he “thought the police were doing a great job” and that “they didn’t need any more positions.”

The next thing they knew, Wills said Stephens excused himself from the hiring committee and threw his own hat into the ring.

When it came down to narrowing down a list of candidates, Wills said the hiring committee was asked to send their recommendations for who should be interviewed and via email and “reply all.”

She claims only three committee members adhered to the “reply all” request, and the next email was a list of candidates to be interviewed. Wills said only two of the three members’ selections were on that list.

Wills said she sent an email to Elorza’s office questioning the transparency of the process and the lack of adherence to the “reply all” request, but never received a response.

When the hiring committee ranked the candidates, Wills said the person in the top spot was chosen unanimously. But a week later, she said Paré requested committee members consider a fourth candidate, which turned out to be Stephens.

Wills said she “found it strange” that Paré was advocating for Stephens to get the job.

Paré said he was insulted by the accusations and has adamantly denied any wrongdoing.

“There was no wink and a nod,” Paré said. “It was a process that was fair and anyone that had an interest could apply. They did, and there were 43 [applicants].”

“I understand the internal politics that, there are a few you heard from that had a candidate that was not selected and they’re disappointed,” he continued. “I understand that, but to accuse everyone of inappropriate process and an unfair advantage? That I take offense to.”

The Providence Finance Committee unanimously voted to continue the matter until Paré provides the city’s internal auditor with the documents requested back in September, including all email correspondence between hiring committee members.

“The council has a duty to address any potential appearance of impropriety in the selection and hiring process for this important new position,” Providence City Council President John Igliozzi said. “I support the Finance Committee’s continued efforts to ensure we uphold fairness, equity and transparency related to the hiring for this position, which the public has clearly and repeatedly prioritized.”

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