A Hummel Report InvestigationWe have new details this week on Hummel Report investigations over the past several months. There have been major developments in North Kingstown's wind turbine project, Governor Chafee's sales tax proposal and a former Massachusetts state senate candidate who continues to dig himself a deeper hole with Rhode Island regulatory board. Jim Hummel has the latest information.
We are back this week with our quarterly update - and new details on investigations from the past couple of months.
It is an issue that had consumed North Kingstown since last fall: a proposal to put a 427-foot wind turbine on this farm adjacent to Route 2 that would be as tall as the old Industrial National Bank Building in Providence.
The Town Council - and the Planning Board - got a collective earful from residents who said the project was inappropriate for the community. Since then the Town Council cried uncle - agreeing to put a moratorium on any new projects. And the developer plans to scale down the size of the turbine. The Planning Board meets again early next month to discuss the revised project.
Meanwhile, National Grid now says it has been overpaying the town of Portsmouth for power it generates from this 336-foot turbine next to the high school under the state's net metering law and is proposing a significant reduction in the rate it gives the town. It all stems from a complaint lodged earlier this year by Newport resident Ben Riggs.
The General Assembly is considering changes to the so-called net-metering law, while the PUC is expected to hold hearings on the Portsmouth issue later this spring.
Last fall we told you about a North Providence Town Councilwoman who worked for the School Department and had sons on both the town's fire and police departments. We raised the issue of potential conflict of interest. Now she finds herself the target of an Ethics Complaint.
Alice Brady told us in mid-October that she received an advisory opinion from the Ethics Commission saying that nothing prevents her from holding office as an employee of the School Department - with relatives also employed by the town.
But the commission cautioned that Brady needs to be careful when voting on specifics. Last week, the head of the town's Republican Committee, who is also on the town's Personnel Board, said she crossed that line when she discussed and voted on the salary of the fire chief. He filed a formal complaint last week.
The saga of a Michael Coogan continues. He was the candidate who ran for state senate in Fall River last summer. We found he was working as an unregistered contractor in Rhode Island. Now he's facing stiff fines and a criminal charge - because he's been blowing off the authorities.
Coogan - who is also president of the Fall River firefighters' union - did shoddy work at the Barrington home of John Angelo, who later found out that not only was he unregistered in Rhode Island - as required by state law - but had charged him for building permits he never pulled.
Coogan has not shown up to any of the contractor's board hearings on a complaint filed by Angelo. As a result, the board ordered him to pay more than $18,000 to Angelo for inferior work and fined him $20,000 - payable immediately.
If he doesn't pay, Coogan will face a criminal misdemeanor charge from the Attorney General's office for failure to comply. If he continues to ignore it, a warrant will go out for his arrest.
We sat down with Lincoln Chafee just days before he took over as Governor. In a wide-ranging interview he talked about his controversial sales tax plan. Now we find out it's different from the idea we heard on the campaign trail.
Chafee proposed lowering the current sales tax of 7 percent to 6 percent, but broadening it to many times currently not taxed, and adding others at 1 percent. But the governor is stepping back and encouraging the legislature to debate and decide what ultimately makes the cut.
That discussion is like to dominate much of the debate at the General Assembly this spring.
Finally, the town of Rehoboth received the lion's share our attention the past several months - much as Central Falls did a year ago. As we peeled back the onion on Police Chief Stephen Enos, we found issues that have been festering there for a long time.
The Board of Selectmen finally signed a contract last week with a private investigator to review Enos's conduct following a drinking incident at an East Providence restaurant in November. The board decided to initiate the investigation on Feb. 3rd, but has dragged its feet getting a contract signed.
That means the probe won't be done until after next month's elections for open selectmen seats, which could also determine the chief's future. His contract is up in the fall.
That's a look back at what we've been doing the last couple of months. But we have several new investigations in the pipeline and we'll bring one of them to you next week.
I'm Jim Hummel, for The Hummel Report.