A Hummel Report Investigation
We have some new developments on the two major stories we broke since the beginning of the year: The ongoing corruption investigation at Central Falls City Hall, and Providence Mayor David Cicilline's use of a police security detail for his congressional campaign. Jim Hummel has an update on those two series of stories, and the fallout from a few others.
I'm Jim Hummel. This week have new developments on our investigations. The past three months have been dominated by two series of stories we've done: one in Providence - the other in Central Falls.
Hummel: ``You had had a furnace installed at your house last spring? Did you get a new furnace?''
Hummel: ``Do you remember how much you paid for it? Moreau: No I don’t. Four grand?''
That sound bite caught the attention of the Rhode Island State Police - especially after we revealed that Central Falls Mayor Charles Moreau actually paid $6,000 - he says in cash - for a furnace at his house that cost nearly $900 more and was initially paid for by a campaign contributor who also was doing business with the city.
Now a team of four detectives from the Financial Crimes Unit is poring through records at City Hall, looking at board-up contracts and the furnace deal with the mayor. And while the potential corruption at City Hall has dropped out of the daily headlines, we have also learned the state police investigation has expanded to the Central Falls Housing Authority and the troubled Wyatt Detention Center.
Meanwhile Moreau - who was rarely his office in the weeks right after our story ran - is facing a full investigation by the Rhode Island Ethics Commission based on our initial investigation .
* In February we reported that Providence Mayor David Cicilline spent half a million dollars last year to have four full-time police officers drive and provide security for him - something he's had since he became mayor seven years ago. While there may be a question of whether he actually needs that level of security, one Tiverton resident questioned the propriety of using city resources on Cicilline's newly-launched congressional campaign.
``With the way the state of Rhode Island is right now, economically, I don't want to see any waste. And I'm seeing it.''
Tiverton resident Pierre Morin, after watching Providence Mayor David Cicilline's city vehicle parked outside a local coffee shop with a police officer waiting behind the wheel. Cicilline told us he would reimburse the city for those miles. After all the city is paying half a million dollars for four full-time officers to drive the mayor during any given week, something that we showed is unheard of in five other New England cities the size of Providence.
We've ask the mayor's office to provide proof of that reimbursement for campaign use and will let you know the details once we receive them.
* Our first story of the year caused a firestorm in the city of Warwick and launched a larger discussion about public-sector benefits while communities are struggling to make ends meet. For years, Warwick, like some other communities, has given cash bonuses to some employees just for not calling in sick. The resulting outcry has city mayor making some changes.
Mayor Scott Avedisian told us in January that non-union employees would continue to receive the sick bonus, even though he was not obligated to give it to them, because it had been a past practice of the city. It's a benefit that costs the city hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.
But a few weeks later he changed his mind and issued an executive order that all management employees stop receiving the bonuses. And he also asked the Director of Personnel to explore eliminating it from all future union contracts.
* Finally we reported in January that Barrington had sent a tax bill to a formerly tax-exempt institution - saying that status should be based on not just ownership, but how the property is used. That has caught the attention of Providence, where 40 percent of all property is tax exempt.
The Hummel Report learned that shortly after our report about the abandoned Zion Bible Institute property ran in February, officials from Providence called Barrington to find out more about the situation. But so far nothing has happened. One of the people we interviewed for the story, Tony Demings, says he is approaching both city council members and state representatives to see about legislation that might allow Providence to start charging institutions like Brown University - which owns these two long-vacant houses - property taxes.
So that's brings you up to speed on our first three months of the year. As always, we need your help to root out continued government waste and corruption. If fact each story we highlighted this week came from a tip by viewers or readers of The Hummel Report. Thanks for watching and we'll be back with a brand new investigation next week.