Concerns raised after finance director’s husband lands city job

Concerns raised after finance director’s husband lands city job

WOONSOCKET – The spouse of a high-ranking city official was recently hired for a position at the Woonsocket Police Department after three postings for the job drew 30 applications over a six-month period, The Valley Breeze has learned.

James Chamberland, the husband of city Finance Director Christine Chamberland, began work as a janitor in the Woonsocket Police Department on April 8. According to an advertisement by the city Personnel Department, the job has a weekly salary of $625.80 and requires a high school diploma or GED equivalent. Despite its location in the Police Department, the job is considered a municipal position, not a police hire, and applicants were instructed to submit resumes to the Personnel Department.

In recent weeks, The Breeze has been contacted by several residents who raised concerns about the hire and questioned whether Chamberland’s relationship with a city employee may have played a role in the decision. In 2003, James Chamberland was arrested by the Woonsocket Police Department and charged with the first-degree robbery of Christopher Rodriguez, an employee of a Cumberland Farms convenience store. He pled no contest to the charges and was given a 20-year sentence with 27 months to serve and a 213-month probationary period.

The Breeze attempted to reach Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt and City Solicitor John DeSimone via email to learn what criteria was used to evaluate applicants and whether any other candidates were qualified for the position, but questions on the matter went unanswered. Phone calls and emails to Finance Director Chamberland were not returned.

In response to a public records request, The Breeze learned that Chamberland was one of at least 14 candidates who applied for the position over a six-month period. The position was advertised three times, with a September 4, 2018, application deadline drawing seven applicants, a December 4, 2018, deadline drawing 9 applicants and a February 11, 2019, deadline drawing 14 applicants. A similar job for a janitor/security guard was also advertised in March 2018. It was unclear whether Chamberland applied for the position during all posting periods or only in advance of the final deadline.

Police Chief Thomas Oates referred questions on the matter to the city solicitor, as the hire was made through the city Personnel Department and not by the Police Department. Asked whether he had any concerns over an individual with a criminal record working in close proximity with police, he said he had no concerns over anyone working at the Police Department.

“I have a great support staff who are dedicated and hardworking and I have no issues or concerns with any of them,” he said.

According to the posting, the job includes general cleaning and maintenance of the Police Department under the supervision of the police chief as well as assistance with snow removal and other tasks. The position is overseen by the Local 670 municipal employees’ union.