A Hummel Report Investigation
As we get ready to close the books on 2012, Jim Hummel has half a dozen investigations from this past year that have new and important updates. From a troubled fire district in Coventry and a dysfunctional loan program in Providence, to a setback for the ACLU and a victory for two high school wrestlers even before the season begins.
As we put a wrap on 2012, new information on a series of investigations that continue to make news throughout the year - beginning with a financially-troubled fire district in Coventry.
Taxpayers were lined up out the door in the auditorium at Coventry High School last week, where court-appointed receiver Richard Land painted a grim picture of the district's financial condition. And Land had this bombshell: that several years ago district officials overestimated by $700,000 expected tax revenue - and they repeated the mistake for two more years, largely accounting for a $2 million deficit.
Land also said the district's practice of charging commercial properties at a higher rate than residential property is illegal - meaning homeowners will be facing a significant tax increase when they gather next month to consider a budget. That is, unless they decide to pursue dissolving the five-year-old district altogether.
More than a year ago we first sounded the alarm on a tax-payer funded loan program in Providence with an exorbitant default rate. Well, it's become so bad that the federal agency providing the money has moved in to clean up the mess.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development met last month with city officials to review the loan portfolio and practices of the Providence Economic Development Partnership. By mutual agreement, the city will stop issuing new federally-funded business loans until HUD can straighten out a mess that has been years in the making.
HUD's picking up the $375,000 tab to do the review, meaning federal taxpayers are on the hook for Providence's mistakes.
The three wind turbines along the Providence waterfront sat motionless for the better part of of 2012. But in late October they finally began spinning, and we were there to see it happen.
Many wondered if it would ever happen - but on October 24th it finally did. The first of three turbines started spinning as employees of the Narragansett Bay Commission and the crews that installed the windmills looked on.
Since then, all three have begun generating power that will pay off the $12 million project over the next decade. The electricity will power much of the plant and any excess will be sold back to National Grid.
Our story on sex offenders last spring prompted a flurry of court activity with the ACLU jumping in on behalf of the sex offenders. But the ACLU lost its first round in court.
A Superior Court judge ruled that a state law prohibiting sex offenders from living within 300 feet of a school is constitutional. The ACLU filed suit after a Hummel Report investigation showed more than a dozen offenders violating that law. That prompted the police to begin evicting them - until the ACLU stepped in.
The ACLU says it is likely to appeal the ruling and the police will hold off on eviction proceedings until it is ultimately hashed out in the state Supreme Court.
In February we discovered bureaucratic red tape keeping two boys from wrestling for their high school team. That story broke the logjam just as the season was ending. Now the boys are back on the mat, looking forward to their senior years.
Xavier Lopez and Jonas Xiong missed their entire junior year because the Rhode Island Interscholastic League and the Providence School Department said their move to a charter school barred them from wrestling at Hope High School - even though they had done so the previous two years.
Our story last spring broke the logjam when the league granted them a waiver and the boys were allowed to wrestle at the state tournament. They have been training since then with the Hope squad team and are ready for a full season as seniors this winter. Lopez a co-captain of this year's squad.
We've come full circle in Central Falls, where three years ago A Hummel Report interview got the ball rolling on a federal corruption case into the administration of Mayor Charles Moreau.
Moreau's heading to prison and voters this month elected a new leader.
James Diossa, the 28-year-old city councilman, who was frozen out during the Moreau administration, got his vindication last week, when he won in a landslide over Moreau's former police chief Joe Moran. Diossa took 66 percent of the vote.
He will be taking office a month before Moreau learns how long he'll being going to prison on the federal corruption charges that forced him to resign.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year - we'll see you back here for more groundbreaking investigations in 2013.