A Hummel Report Investigation
This week we mark the 3rd anniversary of The Hummel Report with new information on half a dozen of our investigations - including the conclusion to our first big series of stories in early 2010 that is now sending one corrupt politician to federal prison. We'll also tell you about angry taxpayers in one fire district, a lawsuit by the ACLU reacting to one of our stories - and those wind turbines along the Providence waterfront: will they ever start spinning? Jim Hummel has some answers.
We are marking our third anniversary of The Hummel Report with new information on some of our ongoing investigations. We begin with one of our first stories from nearly three years ago that ultimately led to a criminal investigation and charges against a corrupt politician.
Hummel: ``So you wrote him a check?''
Moreau: ``I paid him cash.''
Hummel: ``You paid him cash...''
Hummel: ``Do you usually pay people cash, $4,000?
Moreau: ``Well it's, whatever, the guy did the job, that's what I paid him.''
It took 2 1/2 years - but our interview with Central Falls Mayor Charles Moreau, eventually led to federal corruption charges by the U.S. Attorney last month. In that interview we asked him about a free furnace he had received from a friend and contractor doing board-up business with the city.
It was a much different Moreau - who had publicly taunted law enforcement to bring charges if they had something on him - emerging from federal court last month after agreeing to plead guilty to the charges.
Hummel: ``Mr. Moreau do you owe the people of Central Falls an apology?''
Moreau: ``I do.''
Hummel: ``And will you give it to them?''
And with that he hopped in a waiting car. But Moreau - who had resigned as mayor just hours earlier - will be back next month to find out how long his prison sentence will be.
Back in June we told you about huge spending increases in the Central Coventry Fire District. Well our story soon became the talk of the town and last week angry taxpayers showed up at a meeting to tell officials: get your act together.
Taxpayer: ``So is it a deficit or not a deficit?''
Board Chairman: ``We are on the process of having our finances audited.''
Taxpayers picked up where they left off six months earlier when they gave the district board an earful about budget and tax increases - that we highlighted in our report last spring. We found the district's budget had increase 65 percent over the past five years.
At the annual meeting on Oct. 1st, the board chairman, who would be voted out later in the night, proposed adopting the budget before telling voters how it would impact their tax rate.
Taxpayer: ``You don't know this, you don't know that, you don't know anything. So let's adjourn for 20 days, smarten up and come back.''
So taxpayers refused to pass a budget and within days the board said it has severe cash flow problems, something it didn't talk about at the meeting. On Oct. 15th a Superior Court judge appointed a special master to take financial control of the department.
He tells The Hummel Report that firefighters have volunteered their time, but it's unclear how long that will last, while three other fire districts in town stand ready to help if needed.
Our investigation last spring about sex offenders living near city schools - prompted a crackdown by the Providence Police. And that led to a lawsuit being filed by the ACLU on behalf of the sex offenders.
We found more than a dozen Level 2 and 3 sex offenders living within 300 feet of schools - a violation of a state law passed four years ago. The ACLU filed suit on behalf of three of the offenders who receive special treatment at a facility on Elmwood Avenue that we cited. The police ordered them out within 30 days shortly after our story ran.
Lawyer: ``For them using a vague 300-foot provision of state law to essentially evict them from a place that supports their stability is entirely at odds with the overall goals of sex offender laws and rehabilitation.''
After the suit was filed the city agreed not to evict the three until the case can be heard by a Superior Court judge.
Three brand new wind turbines along the Providence waterfront have been sitting still for most of 2012. Well that's about the change.
The Narragansett Bay Commission, which had hoped to have the turbines running last month, tells the Hummel Report it ran into some equipment issues and is waiting for replacement parts.
Officials hope to begin testing the turbines this month and have them fully operational shortly after that.
In late August told you about a disabled military veteran on Block Island - who wanted to help his fellow veterans on the mainland. Well last week he got his wish.
Avery Kirby designed thistray - which he dubbed Independence - after having a stroke several years ago. The trays steady his walker and allows him to carry an assortment of items. He made 50 of the trays for his fellow veterans at the VA Hospital in Providence - but the VA said the trays didn't meet manufacturer's specs and wouldn't take them. Which meant the trays sat unused in Kirby's workshop on Block Island.
After our story in August, several people contacted us saying they would like one of the trays. Then last month the Veteran's Home in Bristol said it could use them. So Kirby and his son Chris transported them from the island two weeks ago, delivering the trays to the veterans home.
Finally - our ongoing update on train traffic and parking count at the new Wickford Junction commuter rail station. After all - taxpayers are have been picking up the lion's share of the costs up until now.
The $44-million project opened in April, providing commuter rail service to Warwick, Providence and ultimately Boston. D.O.T. Director Michael Lewis told us 1,500 people are projected to use the service daily by the year 2020, and the state built a $25 million, 1,100 car parking garage to accommodate them.
Lewis said it will take time to build ridership.
Meanwhile, the state is paying more than $56,000 a month to have a private company operate the garage, banking on parking revenues to eventually offset those costs.
D.O.T. tells us the average daily ridership for August was 167 people, up from 139 people in June.
The department also tells us 65 to 75 of those riders are paying $4 per day to park their cars in the garage, up about five customers from June.
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