A Hummel Report Investigation
Former state representative Lisa Baldelli-Hunt promised big changes at City Hall when she became Woonsocket’s newest mayor 10 months ago. But The Hummel Report discovered those changes included an unadvertised, unbudgeted summer jobs program that happened to employ her 16-year-old son and teammates from his summer baseball league - and a part-time position in the law department for the wife of one of her campaign contributors. This week, Jim Hummel talks with the mayor about both.
Going into the summer of 2014 Woonsocket’s unemployment rate was nearly 10 percent - well above the state average. And it was particularly tough for teenagers to find a job, in a market where they were sometimes competing with unemployed adults.
Tough, that is, unless you were the mayor’s son.
Or one of his friends.
Woonsocket’s new mayor, Lisa Baldelli-Hunt decided to bring back a so-called `summer work’ program for teenagers that had been abolished years ago for lack of money. It turns out: her 16-year old son and teammates from his summer baseball league were the only ones who knew about the part-time jobs.
We found them, city-issued brooms in hand, out sweeping sand off the sidewalks of busy streets throughout Woonsocket in July and August. And we caught up with the mayor one day last month to find out more about the program, which not advertised or included in this year’s budget.
Hummel: ``And so what was the thought bringing it back this year?’’
Baldelli-Hunt: ``Just because of the condition of our city and the quality of life issues, so it was a matter of cleaning up our streets and quality of life.’’
At $10 an hour - the jobs paid a full two dollars above minimum wage. A total of 10 boys - ranging in age from 15 to 18 - were employed by the city. No girls were hired. The mayor’s son Sam was the second-highest earner, taking home $880 over the summer. The top earner received just under $1,000.
Hummel: ``So how many people involved?’’
Baldelli-Hunt: ``I believe there were nine or 10 of them.’’
Hummel: ``And your son was one of them.’’