Cranston Councilors Press for Release of State Police Report Over Fung's Opposition

Jul 27, 2015

Fung made an unexpected appearance before the City Council Monday night.
Credit Ian Donnis / RIPR

Cranston Mayor Allan Fung is opposing the immediate release of a State Police review that found "deep problems" within the Cranston Police Department, including complaints about political interference by Fung and his staff.

During a surprise appearance Monday night before the City Council, Fung defended his decision not to release the report he requested in January 2014, although he also avoided direct responses to the criticism in a letter summarizing the findings by State Police Colonel Steven G. O'Donnell.

Fung sought the State Police review after the wards of two city councilors who had voted against a police contract were hit with an unusually large number of parking tickets.

Fung said the Cranston PD is on the mend under the leadership of Police Chief Michael Winquist, formerly the second-ranking officer at the state police, and that some of the issues cited in the report predated his taking office in 2010. Fung acknowledged making some unspecified mistakes, but said he showed political courage by asking State Police to do the report after two councilors' wards were swamped with parking tickets.

"I know that there are some who want me to release the report right away, but the law may not permit me to do so," Fung said. "This report contains confidential personnel matters, and parts of the report may not be appropriate for me to release."

Fung said Cranston hasn't fundamentally revamped its public-safety structure since Cranston was an agricultural community, and that the city should consider creating a post of police commissioner, with the notion of that person being insulated from political influence.

But most of the members of the Democratically-controlled City Council said the seriousness of the State Police findings involving the Republican mayor makes necessary the immediate release of the report.

Steven Stycos, one of the councilors whose wards were hit in the ticket blitz, said Fung has to end a practice of what Stycos called damage control since the ticket scandal emerged. “The report needs to be made public," Styocs said, "and then the mayor needs to come before the council and answer questions from the council and the public about the report.”

Members of the Republican minority on the council argued that releasing parts of the report could subject the city to legal liability. Fung is asking Attorney General Peter Kilmartin to offer a legal opinion about "which contents may be appropriate for public disclosure."

Fung and the council are due to discuss the report during a closed executive session Wednesday evening.

Colonel O'Donnell's four-page letter summarizing the report includes this information:

-- "The assessment identified numerous managerial issues, both within the police department and the City's administration;"

-- "There was a consistent theme that pointed to a lack of leadership and mistrust within the highest levels of the department. Complaints were also received about political interference and influence from you and your staff, as well as the extraordinary relationship between the IBPO [International Brotherhood of Police Officers], Local 301 President Stephen Antonucci, the [then] Chief of Police Marco Palombo Jr., and you."

-- The attorney general and US attorney's office concluded there was insufficient evidence from the information presented for an arrest or indictment, although "in some stances there was sufficient evidence to move forward with internal departmental charges." At times during the review, relations grew strained between the city administration and the State Police officers pursuing the oversight.

The critics calling for the immediate release of the report included past and present political rivals: Cranston's Democratic City Chairman, Michael J. Sepe, who is staging a 2016 run for mayor, and Richard  Tomlins, who ran as an independent against Fung in 2010.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this police report cost the taxpayers of ... over half a million dollars," Sepe said, referring to the cost estimate provdided by State Police. "I believe we have a right to know everything that's in that police report."

Fung has served as mayor since winning office in 2009. He fought an unsuccessful race for governor last year.

This post has been updated.