One Sweet Deal
We are back in Central Falls this week, where the heat is on City Hall. How and why did a close friend of the mayor’s get the inside track on boarding up foreclosed houses, making hundreds of thousands of dollars before the work even went out to bid? Jim Hummel learns the contractor – who is also a campaign contributor to the mayor - had the full force of City hall behind him…and now has the state police asking questions.
Follow these links to read the letter mentioned in the story
Page 1 - Page 2 - Page 3
(PDF documents - click HERE for a free PDF reader)
Click HERE to watch the original report.
Our Jan. 14th Hummel Report has resulted in a state police investigation into Central Falls City Hall. Detectives are looking at the relationship between the city's Mayor Charles Moreau and his longtime friend and campaign contributor, Mike Bouthillette.
Click HERE to watch the original report, click HERE for Part 2, and click HERE for an Update Report.
Hummel: ``This week we are back in Central Falls, taking a closer look at the contractor – and longtime friend of the mayor – who got the inside track on boarding up foreclosed homes….and made hundreds of thousands of dollars - with the full weight of City Hall behind him.’’
Last year this house on Pacific Street went into foreclosure and was quickly boarded up by Certified Disaster Restoration Corporation, one of several companies owned by Mike Bouthillette, a close friend and campaign contributor to Mayor Charles Moreau.
When a potential buyer for the house emerged a few months later, they found there was a lien for more than $14,000 slapped on the property by the city – for the board up costs. Unless that lien was paid off, the buyer could not close on the deal.
A couple of blocks away, the same story was playing out on Fales Street, where this house (which has since been rehabbed) had a lien for $14,194. That included $12,600 for the actual boarding up, $300 that went to the city clerk to record the lien and a nearly $1,300 administrative fee. That was after one company had already done the work, and Bouthillette showed up – doing the work for a second time and securing a lien for the cost.
These – and more than 200 other houses – were boarded up by Bouthillette’s company, under the mayor’s ``emergency powers’’ – which meant Bouthillette was the only game in town. The Hummel Report has also learned it meant Bouthillette’s company had the building official and in some cases the police department, behind him when he went to board up a house – sometimes charging more than 10 times what other companies we spoke with would charge for the same job.
Bouthillette had the full backing of Mayor Charles Moreau – who we reported got a price break from Bouthillette on a furnace replacement at his house last March. Bouthillette is also a regular contributor to the mayor’s campaign.
``I don’t think there’s any common sense in what Mr. Moreau’s intentions are. Why he would even venture into something like this is beyond me.’’
Bob Ferri is the chairman of the city’s Purchasing Board – which got an unscheduled and unannounced visit from the mayor after one of its meeting last spring – months after Bouthillette had already boarded up hundreds of homes. Ferri recalls what the mayor told the board.
``We have some houses that we got vandalism, we got pipes being stolen – potential fires, etc. etc. they need boarding up.’ Yeah, yeah, what do you want form us? `First of all I have the emergency powers to do this anyway. you can check with legal but I can do this.’’
Ferri couldn’t figure out why Moreau was even there.
Bouthillette’s company eventually bid on an official contract, AFTER he had already boarded up the lion’s share of foreclosed properties in the city, many at more than $10,000 each. The winning bid: $3,639 per house.
Several real estate agents tell The Hummel Report there was grumbling among the banks about the liens and what they believed were excessive boarding up charges, but few took any action. However, we’ve obtained a letter from a lawyer representing the successful bidder on the Pacific Street house.
In it, he reads the city the riot act, demanding a full accounting from the Division of Code Enforcement as to why Bouthillette was given the contract, why the charges were so high, and why the building official put a city lien on the property.
Hummel: `` Of course this leaves a lot of questions. And although Mr. Bouthillette and Mayor Moreau have declined to talk with us, they’ll soon be talking with the state police, who have launched a full investigation into this matter. In Central Falls, Jim Hummel, for the Hummel Report.