Following Mayor Allan Fung’s announcement of the hiring of an independent investigator to review the Cranston Police Department’s own probe into allegations of misconduct, City Council members who allege their wards were targeted with tickets as political retaliation say they support state police involvement in the matter.
“I don’t know anything about this investigator … I think it’s needed to have somebody from the outside,” said Ward 1 Councilman Steven Stycos. “I would think the state police would be a better choice.”
“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Council Majority Leader and Ward 3 representative Paul Archetto of the mayor’s decision, although he too said he would recommend a state police review. “I have my reservations that the Cranston police [department] can police itself.”
On Dec. 23, Fung announced the hiring of Louis F. Stephens Sr., president of Sterling & Stephens Investigations and Consulting of Mountainside, N.J. Fung said the outside consultant “will not supplant the Internal Affairs investigation, but rather will assess the investigative process to confirm that all facts and circumstances are examined thoroughly and professionally.”
At issue are parking tickets issued over the two-day period of Nov. 15 and Nov. 16, which followed a Nov. 14 vote of the council’s Finance Committee against a new three-year contract agreement with International Brotherhood of Police Officers Local 301. Archetto and Stycos joined Council President John Lanni and At-Large Councilwoman Sarah Kales Lee in the 4-3 vote not to recommend the pact, which was negotiated by Fung and the union.
At the council’s Dec. 16 meeting, Stycos and Archetto made public their belief that their wards, which include Edgewood, Pawtuxet Village and Auburn, and Arlington, Stadium and Forest Hills, respectively, had been targeted with tickets in retaliation for their votes.
They shared similar stories of their experiences on the morning of Nov. 15, and Stycos provided a packet of information – based on information he sought from the mayor’s office – that appears to support the claim that mass, targeting ticketing took place, with the vast majority of those issued being for parking violations.
The councilmen called for the tickets in question to be dismissed or repaid, and for Fung’s administration to report to the council on the matter in January.
“My administration takes any allegations of police misconduct seriously,” said Fung. “I have been working since last week to identify and secure an independent overseer who will review the investigation and the findings of our own internal affairs division. Due to the political nature of these allegations, an outside review is essential to maintain the reputation of our Police Department and faith of our citizens in its integrity and professionalism. Once the internal investigation has been completed and the independent review completed, we will address any evidence of wrongdoing. If these allegations are found to have merit, the citizens of Cranston can expect swift and decisive action from this office.
“Throughout my time as a citizen, councilman, and mayor of the city of Cranston, I have held the Cranston Police Department in high regard,” the mayor continued. “I am extremely grateful for the dedication and hard work of the men and women who serve our city; however, I will not permit the actions of a few, under any circumstances, to tarnish the reputation of the entire department.”
Fung said the appropriate authorities were informed immediately once officials became aware of the matter. In a statement, he assured residents that “I do not condone any type of intimidating behavior by any city employee.”
The mayor’s Dec. 23 statement states that the investigator’s purpose “will be to review the IA report to ensure that it is complete, thorough and that it’s findings are supported by facts and that the facts in turn support its conclusions.”
“Mr. Stephens was chosen because of his extensive experience in law enforcement as well as the absence of any business or personal relationships in the City of Cranston,” the statement reads. “Mr. Stephens, a former Supervisory Special Agent in the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is a highly trained professional with decades of experience as an investigator. He was an FBI Police Instructor, specialized in intelligence and counterintelligence investigations and has also conducted inquiries, in an ‘outside’ investigative/consulting capacity for local government and law firms.”
Both Archetto and Stycos said they have heard from constituents following the Dec. 16 council meeting. They said they continue to ask that the tickets be dismissed or repaid, and have urged those who received tickets to fight them in court.
Archetto said he has received numerous phone calls and emails “all telling me that I did the right thing.” He said constituents have generally offered “very positive feedback.”
Stycos said he has also heard from several people who were ticketed, and from others who were “outraged” over the alleged actions of police.