The Cost of Security
Providence Mayor David Cicilline doesn't go anywhere in public without a Providence Police officer by his side and behind the wheel of an SUV with City license plate No. 1. But how much is it costing taxpayers to have a team of officers assigned to the mayor dawn-to-dusk, weekends and holidays? This week Jim Hummel sits down with Cicilline for his take on the police detail, the cost and how it might be affected by his recently-launched campaign for Congress.
He is often on the go from pre-dawn to well after dusk - sometimes seven days a week. No overtime pay for Mayor David Cicilline: the long hours simply go with the job.
But The Hummel Report has learned there is a hefty price tag for getting the mayor from here to there every day. Cicilline says it's the cost of security as well as transportation. Whatever the mix, it means a contingent of four full-time police officers over the course of any given week.
At a total cost to taxpayers... of nearly half a million dollars a year.
Hummel: ``Do you think that four people assigned to you full time is a good use of city resources? ''
Cicilline: ``I think the determination by the chief of the department that assigns a security detail to the mayor of the city has been standard practice. I think it's appropriate. Do I think we'll have to look at whether we can continue to afford that? Yes.''
The team includes Rhonda Araujo, a 22-year veteran who over the past two years averaged $80,000 in base pay and overtime each year.
Darren Hull, who joined the department in 1988. He averaged $78,000 a year the last two years on the mayor's detail.
Earl Lopez, who's been on the force 24 years, averaged nearly $77,000 in 2008 and 2009.
And Allen Spiver - also a 24-year veteran, averaged $87,000 a year each of the past two years in salary and overtime.
Despite having four full-time patrolmen assigned to the mayor, the officers earned $12,000 to nearly $16,000 each in overtime last year. In 2008, Officer Spiver pulled in $23,000.
Add in longevity, medical benefits and pension costs and the total price tag for the city's taxpayers last year was $500,000.
Hummel: ``Is it a matter of transportation or security in your mind?''
Cicilline: ``I think if you ask the chief of the department or public safety officials I think they would say security.''
Hummel: ``I'm asking you.''
Cicilline: ``The police officers are security, there's no question about it.''
Hummel: ``Are you concerned about your safety going around the city?''
Cicilline: ``The police officer's responsibility is to keep me safe. I respect the role that they play.''
But there is a question of where Cicilline's personal time begins and ends, and his time as mayor - with officers on the clock - kicks in. This is Cicilline after a pre-dawn workout at Gold's Gym in Pawtucket - where he often begins his day, hopping into a waiting city car. That means the work day for his driver begins at 5:30 as well.
Hummel: `They earn a significant amount of overtime, you know that.''
Hummel: ``So they're taking you to the gym in the morning.''
Cicilline: ``They take me from the moment I leave my home in the morning, to the time I return...''
Hummel: ``Is that somewhere maybe you could cut down? You know what maybe I'll drive myself two miles to the gym, or if I have a social event at night.''
Cicilline: ``Yeah, again I think the determination about whether that day could be broken up. If I drive in the morning, they pick me up an hour later - I don't know whether that. would change the shift that they work.''
The Hummel Report has also observed Cicilline out to dinner and nightclubs after work hours, sometimes with civilian guests in the city vehicle, a Chevy Tahoe that taxpayers purchased for $43,000.
Avedisian: ``I have to believe that there's a better thing for a police officer to do than to drive me around and wait for me in meetings all day.''
Scott Avedisian, mayor of Rhode Island's second largest city, Warwick, drives himself in a Ford Taurus he inherited from a retiring police major. At one time, the mayor of Warwick - like Providence - had a police driver assigned to him.
Hummel: ``And that took up a policeman fulltime pretty much.''
Avedisian: Right. And to me that's just a waste of resources. A lot of days. I might not leave this building, so why have somebody just sitting here? I can certainly get myself to City Hall in the morning.''
In the state's third-largest city, Cranston Mayor Allen Fung, with a deepening budget crisis, now uses his own car - a 2005 Acura. Fung did transfer the city license plate and has a city gas card, but paid for the transfer himself.
We wanted to know how Cicilline's recently-launched campaign for Congress will now affect his use of city resources.
Hummel: ``Where does the candidate and the use of city resources begin and end?''
Cicilline: ``Well, no city resources are used for the campaign, obviously. So I will continue to do my job and work every day until my last day in office.''
Hummel: ``But if you're going to an event in the First District...''
Cicilline: ``If I'm going to an event outside the city of Providence, the campaign will reimburse the city. There's a federal reimbursement rate, which of course we will do - we will monitor that and that will be reimbursed to the city.''
But even if Cicilline does reimburse the city - it appears he will be violating an ordinance prohibiting personal use of a vehicle outside of Providence, unless it's for travel to a work-related event.
It's an ordinance the city council passed the year after he became mayor.
In Providence, Jim Hummel, for The Hummel Report.