In the Hot Seat
The alarm is sounded on Pawtucket Fire Marshall Steven Parent
Captain Steven Parent is a 25-year veteran of the Pawtucket Fire Department and for the past two years has served as the city’s fire marshal. He makes $64,000 a year.
Sixteen months ago, Parent added his girlfriend’s daughter to his family medical plan, joining his ex-wife and two daughters on the City’s Blue Cross plan.
We asked the captain about it as he arrived for work earlier this month. His response? There’s a simple explanation.
“Because we were planning on getting married and unfortunately we had some family issues, a serious accident in the family,” Parent said. “It kind of pushed it all back. So, that’s basically what it came down to.”
A year-and-a-half later, Parent still hasn’t gotten married, although we spotted his City-issued car regularly at his girlfriend’s house in Smithfield. The girlfriend’s daughter was on the family plan for nearly a year, costing the City thousands of dollars in claims. When The Pawtucket Times interviewed him, after our story ran, he referred to her as his “fiancée.”
Parent told us he got approval from the personnel office at the time – that he questioned whether he could actually put her on his plan before the marriage, and that the City agreed to it.
But Mayor Donald Grebien says there are inconsistencies in Parent’s account and has asked the police department to look into it. The mayor says a detective has been assigned to investigate.
“Clearly, he never should have been put on the Blue Cross, no matter what the circumstances,” Grebien says. “For someone to get on Blue Cross, they have to provide a marriage certificate… We’ve gone back to the former employee who put him on, had the discussion with her. There are dual conflicting stories out there.”
“What the former employee said, is that she remembers it happened but they were under the presumption that this was his daughter from a previous marriage,” he states.
Grebien says the former human resources director may not have been getting the straight story from Parent when he approached her, which is why the mayor has called in the police.
The City of Pawtucket is self-insured, meaning it pays directly for all claims made on its policies. Grebien says the girlfriend’s daughter cost the City just shy of $3,000 for the 10 months she was on the family plan. That includes $2,775.58 for claims to Blue Cross, $115.29 in pharmacy claims and a $72.27 administrative fee the City paid to Blue Cross.
Last month – eight days after we interviewed him – Captain Parent wrote a check to reimburse the City for the girl’s medical expenses.
Hummel: “So, are you saying that instead of anticipating, saying `I’m going to get married – it’s going to be a couple of months down the line,’ he should have waited until it actually happened?”
Grebien: “Absolutely, and the employee shouldn’t have put him in whatsoever. The former employee is saying that… her recollection is that [Parent] came in and she was under the impression this was his daughter from a previous marriage, because at that time his ex-wife was still being covered.
If you went in there even with the story of having the intent of being married in August and you said, okay, ‘Filing deadline, open enrollment, is July, it’s a month’s time,’ you still have to know in your mind as an individual – if something changes, and you didn’t get married in August, the bulb’s got to go off.”
So where does it go from here?
“If we can prove there was intent, clearly we’re going to go after whatever recourse there is,” Grebien said. “My opinion, it’s above the $500 rule so it could be as aggressive as a felony.”
But we won’t know that until the police investigation is complete. And in the meantime, Captain Parent remains on the job.
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