NBC 10 I-Team: Union boss worked 18 hours of OT after allegedly punching co-worker

Lt. Scott Bergantino (L) told RI State Police that Deputy Fire Chief Paul Valletta Jr. (R) assaulted him by pushing him up against a chalkboard, punching him  twice and throwing him.

Payroll records obtained by the NBC 10 I-Team reveal Cranston’s deputy fire chief/union president earned a significant amount of overtime pay in the hours immediately after allegedly punching a fire lieutenant. He wasn’t placed on leave for another two days, according to records.

Responding to an I-Team records request, the city’s fire department confirmed Deputy Chief Paul Valletta (who is also fire union president and statehouse lobbyist) worked a 24-hour overtime shift on Saturday, September 9. Around 2 p.m. that afternoon, six hours into the 24 -hour stretch, Lt. Scott Bergantino told Rhode Island State Police Valletta assaulted him by pushing him up against a chalkboard, punching him in the head twice and throwing him over a recliner onto the floor.

State police have since charged Valletta with assault.

Bergantino told police that while other firefighters were participating in the “Fill the Boot” campaign raising money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, he and Valletta got into a heated argument, coincidentally about overtime. After being separated by other firemen, Bergantino said Valletta told him, “Don’t’ worry, I’ll run into you again,” according to a police affidavit.

Bergantino told police he called Fire Chief William McKenna immediately after the incident and then drove himself to Fatima Hospital for a welt on his right shoulder, neck and back pain. Bergantino told the I-Team he also had a concussion.

State Police detectives listened to a recording of the incident, supplied by Bergantino, and wrote they could hear Bergantino say to Valletta “Go f*** your mother.” A fire private told police he heard the mother insult and witnessed the deputy chief punch Bergantino in the area of the head “multiple times.” Detectives said they could hear an unidentified firefighter say, “Chief stop, stop. Chief, come on, stop.” Valletta could then be heard yelling back, “Don’t you ever say that about my mother…call me every name in the book, don’t be saying anything about my mother.”

The question for Cranston’s Fire Chief: why would Valletta be allowed not only to finish his overtime shift that day after an alleged assault, but also continue to work another overtime shift, stretching another 18 hours after the firehouse incident? In total, deputy chief Valletta earned $1,570 for the 24 hour Saturday shift, $1,177 after the punches began to fly.

When reached for comment, Fire Chief William McKenna said, "Let me clear it with personnel and see what they want to do.” When did Mayor Allan Fung know about the incident? His spokesman, Mark Schieldrop, said the mayor was notified of the incident the day after, on Sept. 10. "Because the matter is an ongoing investigation, any comment would be premature at this time,” added Schieldrop.

Both Valletta and Bergantino were placed on paid administrative leave on Sept. 11.

Valletta is set to be arraigned before Judge Mary McCaffrey on Sept. 26. NBC 10’s attempts to reach him have been unsuccessful.

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