NBC 10 I-Team: Cranston deputy fire chief pleads not guilty to assault

Paul Valletta, appears in Kent County District Court on misdemeanor charges of simple assault and disorderly conduct, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017. (WJAR)

Cranston’s deputy fire chief, who is also the department’s union president, faced a Kent County judge Tuesday on charges that he punched and assaulted a fellow firefighter while on duty.

Paul Valletta, 59, of Warwick, was arrested by Rhode Island State Police on Sept. 10 following a heated incident at the Scituate Avenue firehouse the day before.

Valletta pleaded not guilty and was ordered to stay away from Lt. Scott Bergantino, who made the accusations.

Outside of court, Valletta was asked if he wanted to say anything to the taxpayers of Cranston.

“I'm looking forward to the truth coming out, and then I'll be back to work doing what I love doing,” he said, but didn’t elaborate when asked about what truth he was referring to.

Bergantino, 52, told police he and Valletta had a verbal argument about overtime on Saturday Sept. 9 around 2 p.m. The argument, said Bergantino, quickly became physical.

He claimed Valletta pushed him up against a chalkboard, punched him in the head twice, and threw him over a recliner.

Bergantino provided authorities with a recording of the incident. Police wrote in their report that Bergantino could be heard shouting an expletive about Valletta’s mother before the altercation.

The NBC 10 I-Team discovered Valletta was allowed to finish a lengthy overtime shift after the incident. City records show he worked a 24-hour OT shift that day, with 18 of the hours worked after the incident occurred.

The deputy chief earned $1,570 for the day, according to pay records.

When reached by phone last week, Fire Chief William McKenna wouldn’t comment, while Mayor Allan Fung’s office also declined comment pending an internal investigation. Both men are on paid administrative leave.

Valletta will be back in court Oct. 26.

It isn’t the first brush with the law for the veteran fireman.

In 2004, he was charged with disturbing a public assembly after an argument with then-mayor Steve Laffey at a city council meeting. Those charges were eventually dropped.

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