In for a Dollar
Central Falls Mayor Charles Moreau is under fire for selling a piece of city-owned land to a political ally... for a dollar. The mayor convinced the City Council it would be good economic development, saying a local businessman planned to put up a brand new million-dollar building on the site. But we learned the businessman knows nothing about it and the mayor is nowhere to be found. This week, Jim Hummel goes to the City Council - which gave Moreau permission to sell the lot - for answers.
In its heyday the Stanton American Legion Post was one hoppin' place. But those years are long gone, the good times only a memory.
Even though the building has deteriorated, the quarter-acre lot at a busy intersection on Lonsdale Avenue is assessed for nearly $140,000.
So more than a few eyebrows went up when Mayor Charles Moreau appeared before a specially-called city council meeting in December with a plan. Instead of putting the property out to bid, the mayor asked for permission to sell it...for a dollar. To Manuel Faria, who owns the meat market next door.
The same Manuel Faria who, along with other family members, contributed financially to Moreau's campaign, worked to get him re-elected - and has both a daughter and daughter-in-law working at City Hall.
Poulin: ``The mayor runs the city and does, as far as I'm concerned, whatever he pleases to do. If someone gets in his way , he rolls right over them.
Full disclosure: Edna Poulin ran against Moreau for mayor two years ago, and again for council last fall, both times unsuccessfully. But she is also a former town finance director and served as former Governor Almond's Director of Labor in the mid--90s and knows her way around government. Poulin's a regular at city council meetings, including the one where Moreau made the pitch to sell the Stanton Post.
Poulin: ``He's gotten very brazen about what he does and how he does things. He just doesn't follow what would I call good business practices.''
First off, Moreau had the building boarded up by his friend and campaign contributor Mike Bouthillette, declaring another emergency situation, just two weeks before the sale went through - after it had sat vacant for years with no apparent public safety threat.
Bouthillette charged more than $11,000, including $465 to paint the plywood a matching light green, on a building the mayor told the council would be torn down to make way for a ``$1.3 million'' new meat market. Only problem, Moreau hasn't produced the blueprints he said existed and Faria says he knows nothing about the plans.
Poulin: ``If you know the Farias have a daughter and a daughter-in-law working at City Hall if you know they worked his campaign, stood outside for him on Election Day; the son-in-law, Jess or Jay and the two girls and there may have been other people in the family. And you know they gave him money for his campaign and had all the signs up there, you start to wonder: Why is he doing this, for these people?
We went to the market last week to get answers about the plans and learned Manuel Faria is in Florida.
Hummel: ``How are you? We're looking for Mr. Faria, is he around?"
Jay Faria: ``No, he 's not.''
Hummel: ``Are you Mr.Faria, are you one of the Farias?"
Jay Faria: ``Yes, I am".
Hummel: ``Do you know anything about the plans for this building?"
Jay Faria:`` Nothing man."
Hummel: ``No blueprints?"
Jay Faria: ``I know how to cut meat."
Hummel: ``That's about it,huh? Can we get a message to your father to give us a call?"
Jay Faria:`` Sure."
Hummel: ``Great, I'll leave you my card."
We still haven't heard from Faria, or the mayor....
Hummel: ``So in one move, the mayor has been able to take care of his friend Bouthillette, giving him lucrative board up work , and Manny Faria, who gets the property for a buck, plus the board up costs."
Council President William Benson told us he had not seen the blueprints for the proposed building either, but he defended the sale.
Hummel: ``The land is assessed at $139,000, the land alone. The building and the land is assessed at $335,000 and the city sold it for a dollar."
Benson: ``I can't answer that question, it's not up to the council to set prices. We don't sell the property".
Hummel: ``But you gave the mayor the permission. Did you feel you had enough information in order to give that?"
Hummel: ``So you feel you did the best for the taxpayers?"
Benson: ``Well, you could say yes, you could say no to that".
Hummel: ``What do you say?"
Benson: ``I want the building down, I just don't want it sold, I want it down."
Councilwoman Eunice De la Hoz took issue with us when we told her Faria had no plans for a new $1.3 million building.
DelaHoz: ``That's your comment.''
Benson: `` Which Mr.Faria?"
Hummel: Manuel Faria. who apparently is the one who is supposed to be building the building. I know that, because that's what he said."
DelaHoz: ``I haven't seen it.''
Hummel: ``You voted on the mayor's recommendation saying it's a million three building and now, there are no blueprints."
DlaHoz: ``You know what, again we need to investigate further.''
Hummel: ``Well maybe you needed to investigate before you voted on it.
Poulin: ``My feeling is that should have gone out to bid, someone in this city other than them. And other people should have had a right to bid on it. And my feeling is the Farias would have paid good money for that piece of property if they wanted it. And from what I gather, they're just going to use it for a parking lot, that's it."
Hummel: ``What happened to the $1.3 million building?"
Poulin: ``I don't know where that went..."
In Central Falls, Jim Hummel, for The Hummel Report.