A Conflicted Story
Ten months ago Central Falls Mayor Charles Moreau needed the furnace in his house replaced. The bill – for $6,875 - didn’t go to the mayor, but to a longtime friend and campaign contributor, who at the time was doing tens of thousands of dollars of work for the city – work given to him by the mayor. This week we go straight to the mayor for an explanation.
Click HERE to see the supporting documents shown in the video.
This week’s story focuses on a furnace, a contractor, thousands of dollars in cash and the mayor of Central Falls.
One day last March Mayor Charles Moreau woke up to a cold house here on Jenkes Avenue. Turns out, he needed some major work on his heating system.
By the end of the day he had a brand new furnace installed by Gem Plumbing of Lincoln.
The bill, however, didn’t go to Moreau and his wife Kristen – but Mike Bouthillette, a longtime friend of the mayor who is also a regular campaign contributor. Bouthillette owns half a dozen businesses - headquartered just off Route 146 in Providence.
At the time the furnace was being replaced, Bouthillette was making tens of thousands of dollars boarding up foreclosed houses like this one in Central Falls. One of his companies was given the work by Moreau under the mayor’s ``emergency powers.’’ Months later, Bouthillette was awarded a contract to do the foreclosure work by the city’s Purchasing Board.
We wanted to know why Bouthillette was billed for the work at Moreau’s house. So we decided to pay the mayor a visit at City Hall one day last month.
But when he saw us approach, he suddenly got on his cell phone……
…and made a hasty departure.
He eventually agreed to talk with us in his office a few days later.
Hummel: You had had a furnace installed at your house last spring? Did you get a new furnace?
Moreau: Yeah. Hummel: Do you remember how much you paid for it? Moreau: No I don’t. Four grand?
Hummel: Do you remember paying for it? Moreau: Yeah. Hummel: The tip we got was that you didn’t pay for it.
Moreau: No, I paid for it.
Moreau said that Bouthillette was the general contractor for the job – even though Gem did all of the work.
Moreau: Yeah, well he put it in. He subbed out to GEM Plumbing and it’s paid for Hummel: So you wrote him a check…Moreau: Paid him cash.
Hummel: Paid him cash.
Moreau: Um hmmm.
Hummel: Do you usually pay people in cash, $4,000? Moreau: Well……. the guy did the job that’s what I paid him.
Hummel: He’s getting a city contract from you. And in effect he paid for a furnace that went into your house.
Moreau: He didn’t pay for a furnace that went into my house. The fact of the matter is he’s done work on many properties that I have, a property in Lincoln, I just had a water pipe break there that he’s done. Same thing
Hummel: Do you have any documentation to show that you paid him?
The day after our interview Moreau produced the bill for the job, which cost $6,875. Three days after that he gave us a document that said he paid cash in full to Bouthillette’s company. But it wasn’t $4,000, as he had told us in the interview, or even the full amount for the job. Bouthillette’s invoice says Moreau paid him $6,000 – nearly $900 less than Bouthillette paid Gem for the job.
Hummel: So there’s no quid pro quo in terms of him picking up the expense? Moreau: No, no, no. He didn’t pick up the expense, he gets paid for the work he does for me. Just like he did on the board up, I mean not the board up, the water break at my house in Lincoln.
Hummel: Wouldn’t it make sense, though, if you had that relationship with him…why would you pay him in cash?
Moreau: I mean…he’s a friend, that’s what it is.
Hummel: You wouldn’t write him a check or have some type of documentation. To keep guys like me from me coming in and asking questions like this.
Moreau: I have documentation to show I paid for the boiler that went in my house. It’s not an issue.
Hummel: Why deal in cash? Moreau: When I can I do. All contractors ask, not ask , but if you get a break on it, on a contract, whether it pay you cash to save a couple of hundred bucks, or whatever would be.
The fact is Moreau got a, $875– or 13 percent - price break on the job and Bouthillette did not pay Gem until July - four months after the job was done and Moreau had paid him. Moreau, through a spokeswoman, this week reiterated his belief this week there was no conflict of interest.
In Central Fall, Jim Hummel, for The Hummel Report.