I-Team: Most city workers on disability never rechecked
An NBC 10 I-Team investigation reveals only a handful of independent medical exams are ordered for Providence city workers collecting tax-free disability checks, even though a city ordinance allows the city to order the exams each year to re-certify those on disability.
A review of city records shows that 134 police officers, 228 firefighters and 86 other city workers are collecting a tax-free disability pension, costing city taxpayers $22,011,406 per year.
The I-Team's investigation reveals that only eight city employees have been ordered to get an independent medical review to re-certify their disability.
According to the ordinance, "Once each year, the director of personnel may require all pensioners to undergo a medical examination," by an independent physician.
Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare said the reason the city doesn't take advantage of the city ordinance is money.
"Each exam costs the city between $500 and $1,500, depending on the injury, so ordering everyone to be examined in cost prohibitive," Pare said.
Pare admits that not ordering a re-certification exam for everyone collecting a disability check leaves open the possibility for abuse.
"Sure, look this has been abused for a number of years," he said.
Pare said the city relies on the public for tips on people who are collecting disability checks who might not be disabled. And he says the city is now conducting an internal review of all 448 employees collecting the disability checks to see if some of those people may not be disabled at all.
"We are going to set up a hotline for the public to call if they see something that they feel should be brought to our attention," Pare said.
One retired police officer collecting a disability check is Nicholas Gianquitti. He's serving life in prison plus 20 years at the Adult Correctional Institutions for murdering his neighbor, James Pagano.
Gianquitti shot and killed Pagano after one of Pagano's children accidently hit Gianquitti's car with a tennis ball.
Gianquitti collects $4,231.80 per month in a tax-free disability check.
In 2011, according to medical records obtained from the city by the I-Team, Gianquitti was re-examined by an independent doctor who found him "permanently disabled."
James Pagano's sister questions why a convicted murderer can still collect a city pension while behind bars.
"He's collecting a tax-free pension with cost of living increases and health insurance and has been for the past 20 years," Lisa Pagano said. "I see it as double dipping. The state is already supporting his room and board and food while he sits incarcerated for murder, so I feel it's absurd."
Pare said the city cannot take away Gianquitti's pension because the "dishonorable service law" only pertains to felonies committed in the line of duty.
"The law prevents us from taking away his pension," he said.