SMITHFIELD — Roger Wood, who is seeking a seat on the town council, has quit his part-time job with the Smithfield Parks and Recreation Department.
Wood had worked for Parks and Rec as needed, supervising facilities for events such as basketball games. But Smithfield’s employee handbook states that an employee can’t “be a candidate for nomination or election to office under the Town Charter.”
Wood said he resigned the last week of August after reading that passage in the handbook. “It didn’t designate whether it was full-time or part-time,” he said. “I didn’t want any conflict or anything, so I went ahead and resigned.”
A Parks and Rec employee for almost 30 years, Wood said he had been thinking about stepping down for a while. “First job I ever got way back in the day, and I’ve kept it since,” he said.
Wood said he needed to devote more time to his campaign, so “what better time to resign than now?”
Wood did not work many hours for Parks and Rec. In 2012, the town paid him about $3,500, said Tim Kerigan, the town’s human-resources director.
Wood said he will continue to volunteer as a coach. His full-time job is as a delivery supervisor for Coca-Cola.
Tim Johnson, director of Parks and Recreation, said he wasn’t sure whether Wood had a conflict of interest by running for office while also working for the town part-time. Johnson said his own interpretation was that Wood would have to quit only if he won. But Johnson said he wasn’t sure, so he deferred to the town manager.
Town Manager Paul Sabiston said the policy is gray because the handbook doesn’t define employee; it makes no distinction between full-time and part-time.
“As it typically is with the handbooks and everything ... it’s not black and white,” Sabiston said. “But then again, you got to realize this just doesn’t happen that often. It’s not like a recurring thing where we have to get a lot of clarity. I think the right thing for him to do was to resign and not contend it.”
Going forward, Sabiston said, it would be fair to apply the rule to candidates who work for the town in any capacity.
Councilman Perry Harris has been outspoken about keeping the town council separate from town employment. He doesn’t think a council member or even the spouse of a council member should be able to work for the town.
“We don’t need people on the council that have a special interest for any department,” Harris said. “We need to treat them all the same.”
Harris said he feared council members with ties to town hall would have pet projects or pet departments.