A Hummel Report Investigation
This week we take a look back at a very busy year for the Hummel Report. Jim Hummel has new information on a handful of investigations - from a cracked bridge in Warren to defective engines on high-priced search and rescue boats. Plus, a controversial figure in Fall River continues to make news - and what would 2011 be without an update from Rehoboth?
This week - as we wrap up another year - The Hummel Report brings you new information on some of our investigations from 2011 - and in one case a story we brought you two years ago.
In December of 2009 we told you about cracks in the brand new $15 million, taxpayer-funded, Warren Bridge - finished months behind schedule and millions over budget. We pressed the Department of Transportation's chief engineer Frank Corrao, who insisted the cracks were not structural.
And he vowed the contractor, Aetna Bridge, would make good on the project.
Corrao: ``When he leaves that project, it will be a sound, aesthetically pleasing project that will service the state of Rhode Island for many years to come.’’
The contractor put unsightly sealant on both sides, and Corrao said it would fade with time.
But this is what it still looks like two years later - the sealant has faded and the cracks have reappeared. The department said replacing the sidewalks was not an option.
A statement issued to The Hummel Report contradicted what Corrao promised us in 2009. ``The sealant, while not aesthetically pleasing, is an acceptable and practical solution to the surface cracking on the sidewalks. It will reduce the potential for premature deterioration of the sidewalks.''
Reduce, but not eliminate.
In July we told you about recurring engine problems in four high-tech boats used for emergency response in the communities surrounding the Port of Providence. Now we find there is good news and bad news
The good news is the boats, which cost close to $600,000 each, will each be getting new engines, after the original manufacturer - Mercury-Cummins - balked at replacing defective engines, despite numerous breakdowns while still under warranty. The Cranston fire boat, which has been out of commission for more than a year, is first in line for a retrofit.
The bad news: taxpayers will shell out another $800,000 to fix the problem. Fire officials in the four Rhode Island communities have secured federal port security funds to pay for the project.
Fall River's Michael Coogan continues to make headlines. Coogan - a candidate for state Senate in 2010 - was working as an unlicensed contractor in Rhode Island. But because he has not responded to a civil judgment against him, Coogan now faces criminal charges from Rhode Island Attorney General's office.
But that's only part of the story with Coogan, who doubled as the president of Fall River firefighters union and was a strong supporter of Mayor William Flanagan, who was re-elected in November.
Flanagan in November appointed Coogan, a lieutenant, as interim chief after forcing out veteran Chief Paul Ford - causing an uproar within the department. Flanagan has since suspended Coogan after questions arose about union work he did on city time - something sources say Flanagan knew about already.
Coogan's criminal case in Rhode Island comes up in January.
In September we told you about a Warwick man and native of the Soviet Union charged by the feds with identity theft. This week, after his conviction on those charges, he was scheduled for sentencing.
Evgueni Tetioukhine came to the United States in 1991 as a college student on a visa from the Soviet. He was befriended by a man who gave him a social security number that later turned out to be his biological son's. Twenty years later that would come back to haunt him as he was charged by the federal government with identity theft, even though he had been working and paying taxes in Rhode Island, living in Warwick with his wife and young son.
He has been at the Wyatt Detention facility since his arrest on Nov. 10th 2010. After a two-day trial in September, a jury found him guilty, his explanation of what happened notwithstanding. On Wednesday Chief Judge Mary Lisi, who heard the case, said Tetuoukin's claim he was naive didn't hold up - and that he had been living a lie. And she sentenced him to four years in prison.
A year ago at this time Rehoboth Police Chief Stephen Enos thought he might have dodged the fallout from a Christmas party where he mixed Vicodin and alcohol, and wound up lying on nearby sidewalk crying. Turns out: the fallout was just beginning.
It would play out over months and ultimately result in an overhaul by the voters of the Board of Selectmen, then that new board placing Enos on administrative leave in May and not renewing his contract. Enos unsuccessfully sought a private investigator's license from the city council in East Providence, where he had been a policeman for two decades.
A selection committee for a new chief will begin meeting next month, with an eye toward having a chief on board sometime in the spring.
So what can we expect in 2012? Well, a lot of that depends on you. Many of our stories come from your tips and story suggestions and that will continue in the new year. One thing you can expect: investigations you won't see anywhere else. So join us back here next week for a brand new Hummel Report investigation.