NORTH PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Lieutenant Diana Perez, who has been with the North Providence Police Department for more than 12 years, is now filing a complaint against the police chief and the town for “discrimination and retaliation based on her gender.”
Lt. Perez filed a petition with the Rhode Island Human Rights Commission on July 8. On Tuesday, Eyewitness News obtained the eight-page complaint from Perez’s attorney. The documents contain accusations of a hostile work environment, discrimination, abuse and harassment.
The petition alleges both Police Chief Christopher Pelagio and Capt. Charles Davey made inappropriate comments about Perez’s physical appearance.
Eyewitness News also obtained a complaint sent to North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi in April that details several alleged inappropriate incidents – including one instance where Chief Pelagio told Perez, “I like big butts and I cannot lie.”
As Public Safety Director, Mayor Lombardi was also named as a defendant.
“We had hired an attorney, and outside third party attorney, to investigate this situation,” he said. “That’s where we’re at this point in time.”
Eyewitness News spoke with Chief Pelagio over the phone. He said the allegations are all a ploy by the police union to get him fired. He said he’s confident the independent investigation will clear him of any wrongdoing.
Police union president Dennis Stone sent Eyewitness News a statement, saying in part:
“I have an obligation to protect her [Perez] … It has nothing to do with the union or anyone trying to remove the police chief.”
Mayor Lombardi said he is skeptical the allegations are true. He said he approached Perez about the situation – she did not contact him first.
“We have a contentious police union that continually tries to throw a mess at the wall and hopes that something will stick,” Lombardi said. “Their goal is to remove the police chief. I will tell you this: if there’s any wrongdoing that’s uncovered, I will deal with it harshly. But I can’t allow the union to run the police department.”
The police union went before the North Providence Town Council at a meeting Tuesday night. On the agenda, it said there would be a discussion and possible vote concerning “serious issues” members of the union are facing.
According to Eyewitness News crews present at the meeting, the town council rejected the union’s request to have the Rhode Island State Police investigation the town’s police department.