PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A top appointee of Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello got $50,000 in free tuition from his fomer job at Rhode Island College, even though he was on unpaid leave from the position for years working in the General Assembly, WPRI-TV reported.

Frank Montanaro Jr. left his RIC job in 2014, when Mattiello appointed him head of the Joint Committee on Legislative Services. But since leaving, he received 12 semesters of free tuition for his son and another person, according to the report (http://bit.ly/2sI1xhK) .

WPRI reported that Montanaro was able to keep rights to his old job under a special leave status typically granted for six months, but which was extended to three years. A spokeswoman for Rhode Island College told the station the third year of leave was granted as a result of a negotiated settlement with Montanaro’s union. His leave ended on May 31, and Montanaro said he would pay his son’s tuition bill going forward.

Montanaro described the free tuition as part of his benefit package, and Mattiello did not know about the arrangement.

“He doesn’t know because it was between me, the employee, and the college,” he said.

Montanaro is a former state representative who represented the Cranston district now represented by Mattiello.

Mattiello’s spokesman issued a statement on Wednesday, but did not say whether he agreed the free tuition was appropriate.

“He believes the administration should comprehensively review the tuition waiver policy and consider limiting who is eligible for it,” the spokesman said.

Brandon Bell, head of the state’s Republican Party, on Thursday called for Montanaro to be fired.

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