A Family Affair
The North Providence Town Council is back to full strength, after a special election replacing three councilmen who resigned in the wake of federal corruption charges. But one of the council members elected to an at-large seat not only works for the School Department, but has two sons employed by the town. This week Jim Hummel asks her about a potential conflict of interest.
Click HERE to see the Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion
The North Providence Town Council is back to full strength, after a special election to replace three councilmen who resigned over the summer - following their indictment on federal corruption charges. The new members include Dino Autiello and Kristen Catanzaro.
The third is Alice Brady, who has lived in town for more than three decades and has worked for the North Providence School Department since 1995. This year she is assigned to the Birchwood Middle School as a guidance counselor.
Brady also has a son who works for the North Providence Police Department and another son who is a member of the North Providence Fire Department.
And *that* raises *this* question:
Hummel: ``You work for the School Department and you have sons on the police and fire department. Does that set up any potential conflict for you on voting?''
Brady: ``That was a concern I had as well, so the first initiative I took upon myself to gain information on my status, and on my relationships with my children working for the municipal government in town was to go before the Ethics Commission and they ruled on my case on June 22.''
The advisory opinion says that nothing in the Ethics Code or state law prohibits someone who works for the town - or has relatives who work for the town - from holding elective office. But, it cautions, Brady needs to be careful when discussing or voting on any specifics that would affect her or her family.
In Brady's case that means three-quarters of the entire town budget.
The Police Department makes accounts for 10 percent.
The Fire Department, 13 percent.
And the School Department, her employer, 52 percent.
For a total of 75 percent of the budget.
Last year, the three Bradys combined earned nearly a quarter of a million dollars from taxpayers.
Alice Brady made $85,000.
Officer John Brady made just shy of $73,000.
And Firefighter Ted Brady pulled in more than $67,000.
For a total of $225,000.
Alice Brady has already won three special elections over the past several months to succeed one of the indicted councilmen. But she has to win again Nov. 2nd to gain a full, four-year term.
Hummel: ``Fire. Police. School. Is that fair to your constituents to say: `Look, I'm hamstrung in all three areas from talking specifics.' When you're up there - isn't the inclination...I mean, you're on the council...to want to discuss that and to make policy. Isn't that part of being a councilwoman?''
Brady: ``The inclination is to do what's best for my constituents. I'm responsible to answer to them and only the taxpayers - I'm not responsible to support any one particular department. Including the School Department in which I'm employed in.''
At last week's council meeting Mayor Charles Lombardi appeared personally to talk about a contract modification he had negotiated with the town's police union that he says will save the town nearly a million dollars. And, Lombardi was asking for the council's approval of the agreement.
We talked with Brady before the meeting started.
Hummel: ``Now there's also an item tonight about the Police Department. Are you going to be able to talk about that one?''
Brady: ``As long as it doesn't affect my son and it may impact the Police Department.''
Hummel: ``But it would affect your son, would it not?''
Brady: ``Would it not affect my son?''
Hummel: ``Right, just as an example. The item that's on the agenda tonight, wouldn't that affect your son because it's a contract situation?''
Brady: ``As far as the contract situation my intention is to - out of an abundance of caution - to discuss that with counsel.''
And out of an abundance of caution Brady ultimately decided to recuse and remove herself - leaving the stage when the police item came up - becoming a spectator from the front row while the rest of the council peppered the mayor with questions.
Brady wound up having to repeat the same scenario a short time later when a matter involving the Fire Department came up - before returning to take her seat with her fellow council members for the remainder of the meeting.
Hummel: ``I just wonder if that's frustrating for you, not to be able to vote - those three departments together account for 75 percent of the town budget and in effect you're on the sidelines when it comes to the details of each one of those. And I'm just saying how does that allow you to fully be up there representing your district if you're shackled, in effect, and not able to talk specifics? You don't see that as a problem?''
Brady: ``Well, I would say when it comes to the larger budget I'm not precluded from voting on the budget as a whole. I'm certainly welcome to go back to the Ethics Commission for any specifics regarding their ruling for more definition.''
In North Providence, Jim Hummel, for The Hummel Report.