The Hummel Report

Investigative Reports That Get Results

A Rhode Island 501c3 Non-Profit

Sink Your Teeth Into This

Last summer a Central Falls City Council candidate - and political rival of the mayor - was campaigning door-to-door when an unlicensed pit bull darted out from the back yard of a house in his district and bit him twice. This week Jim Hummel tries to find out how the pit bull (the breed is banned by ordinance in the city) suddenly received a license from City Hall, who may have been behind it and why the police won't get involved.


Hummel: ``The investigative trail takes us back to Central Falls this week, where state police continue to pore through records at City Hall. Our story focuses on the mayor, a political rival and...a pit bull.''

Meet Linda, a 7-year-old, 55-pound Pit Bull that lives at 9 Fales Street.

Meet Gene Racquier, a retired ACI guard who last year ran for the Ward 1 City Council seat, now held by Eunice De La Hoz, a close ally of Mayor Charles Moreau.

Last August, while going door-to-door, Gene met Linda - and it wasn't a pleasant first counter.

Racquier: ``I rang the bell at 9 Fales Street, a pit bull came greeting me from around the back yard. I tried to fight it off. he ripped my shoe off, ripped my sock. You can hear the jaw snapping shut when he misses. I'm telling you it's quite an experience.''

As he was driving away, Racquier felt a burning sensation in his knee and realized he'd been bitten twice. He went to a local clinic to get it treated and receive antibiotics.

Then he went to the police station to file a complaint. Pit bulls, as it turns out, were banned from the city in 2008 and the dog at 9 Fales Street was not licensed. The dog was quarantined for 10 days at the Pawtucket Animal Shelter, because Central Falls doesn't have a shelter of its own.

Meanwhile, the police met with Racquier and the dog's owner at the station. The officer told her she had to get rid of the dog. And 10 days later the owner showed up in Pawtucket, where she was told the same thing.

Racquier: ```She says, `Oh no. The mayor of central falls gave me...she didn't say a councilman she didn't say a clerk. She said the mayor of Central Falls gave me a license for the dog.''

And there it was, a valid license issued by the city clerk's office, despite the pit bull ordinance.

Linda went back home and Racquier went to City Hall for answers.

And so did the Hummel Report.

First to the owner's house, where we  got no answer.

Then to City Hall, where clerk Marie Twohey and solicitor Jack Gannon did not return our repeated phone calls over the past two months. So we filed a public records request, which they are required to answer by law.

Gannon told us - in writing - that an assistant city clerk issued the license and he provided us a copy, along with the dog's rabies certificate. But when we asked who authorized the license, given the city's ban on pit bulls, Gannon responded: ``Unsure of what public record you are requesting.''

When we asked who was responsible for enforcing the pit bull ordinance,  he again responded: ``Unsure of what public record you are requesting.''

Racquier: `` I went to the Central Falls Police Department afterward to file a complaint. There was nothing done. A law was broken and the policeman that took the complaint was sympathetic saying: `Yeah, you're right. There's a law that's been broken.' It got sent to the city solicitor.

Hummel: ``And what happened from there?''

Racquier: ``Well, who hires the city solicitor?''

Racquier - a former board member at the Wyatt Detention Center who has had a falling out with Mayor Moreau - says the message is clear: Anybody who challenges the mayor, or one of his allies, better watch out.

Racquier: ``He can do anything he wants. And he does.''

Hummel:  ``Why do you think he gave her that license?''

Racquier: ``Because of me. If someone else had gotten me another mayor that's going to give a license to a pit bull that bit a senior citizen of Central Falls.  Attacked and bit a senior citizen and he gave them a license. You show me another mayor that would do that.''

We spoke to Police Chief Joseph Moran, asking him why the police aren't investigating. He  said it  was quote: ``a legal matter.''

Racquier: ``Every day that goes by that pit bull is still there and a law's being broken every day. No one cares. City police, the solicitor, the AG, nobody cares.''

Hummel: ``So Racquier has given up trying to get answers from his local government. This week he filed a complaint with the Rhode Island State Police.

In Central Falls, Jim Hummel, for the Hummel Report.