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Following Globe investigation, Bristol town leader loses job, faces backlash

David E. Barboza waved to paradegoers during the 234th Fourth of July Celebration Parade in Bristol, R.I., last month.
David E. Barboza waved to paradegoers during the 234th Fourth of July Celebration Parade in Bristol, R.I., last month.Nic Antaya for The Boston Globe

BRISTOL, R.I. — A prominent local official accused of soliciting one boy and sexually abusing two others decades ago has lost his longtime job at a Catholic church, while the diocese has acknowledged that it had received complaints in the past about his conduct.

After a Globe story detailed the accusations against Bristol resident David E. Barboza, the Diocese of Providence said Barboza gave his “immediate resignation” Wednesday from St. Mary’s Church, where he was director of the cemetery and had worked as an administrative assistant.

The diocese also disclosed on Thursday that it had received complaints about Barboza while he worked at St. Mary’s, although the accusations involved conduct that allegedly happened decades before his employment.

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“The diocesan Office of Compliance investigated the claims, interviewed witnesses, and communicated with law enforcement. Mr. Barboza denied all allegations,” the diocese said in a statement. “The investigation results were presented to the pastor who maintains the day-to-day authority for parish administration.”

The diocese did not elaborate on the timeframe or the details of the allegations.

Barboza, 64, who’d also been chief marshal of the Fourth of July parade five years ago and served on multiple boards and commissions in Bristol, was suddenly shunned by furious residents following the publication of the story.

His biography was removed from the Fourth of July Committee website. The Bristol town administrator said he is looking at what to do about Barboza’s life membership status with the volunteer fire department. And the Rotary Club said it, too, is trying to assess Barboza’s membership, even as Barboza attended Wednesday’s club meeting, according to its president.

The Bristol Town Democratic Committee, which Barboza was first elected to in 1982 and served on until several years ago, condemned the alleged abuse and offered its support to victims.

“It is the responsibility of every adult to participate in ensuring a safe community for our children and to take action in support of this goal regardless of who the alleged abuser is or what position they hold,” said chairman Erich Haslehurst. “When several accusers speak up and speak out, it must be taken seriously. We stand with these victims who have had their innocence taken away and their lives so significantly impacted by the alleged abuser.”

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Barboza is fighting a civil lawsuit from a local man, who says Barboza repeatedly sexually assaulted him when he was a child in the 1970s. Robert Powers, 54, said Barboza was a Bristol police officer when the abuse took place, starting when Powers was about 9 or 10 years old.

Barboza’s lawyer, Fausto Anguilla, declined to comment on the pending litigation Thursday.

Powers’s lawyer, Andrew Tine, said he intends to seek a formal deposition of Barboza in late September as part of that civil lawsuit.

Powers was the third person to make allegations against Barboza. Another Bristol man told the Globe that Barboza had molested him multiple times at a fire station in the 1970s, starting when he was 6. That man, now 54, also said that over the years, he told multiple authorities of the abuse. Nothing came of his complaints, he said.

The only time Barboza was arrested was in 1982, when Bristol police charged him with soliciting a 14-year-old boy. The charge was dismissed without prejudice but never refiled.

Steve Annarummo, one of the officers who initially handled the case at the time, spoke to the Globe on Thursday and said he never doubted the boy’s accusations against Barboza and was dismayed when the case was dropped. He doesn’t doubt Powers, either.

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Bristol is a small town, and Annarummo said he’s known Powers and his family for decades. “When I think of what was going on, I wish he’d said something to me back then,” Annarummo said. “Robert Powers is a very credible person. He’s a very decent person. He would not make this up.”

On Thursday, Powers said that in the day since the publication of the Globe story, he’d received huge support from his town.

“People are saying if it wasn’t for you, this never would have come to the light of day,” Powers said. “They say I’ve done more for this community in the last 24 hours than [Barboza] has done for his entire career.”


Amanda Milkovits can be reached at amanda.milkovits@globe.com