A Hummel Report InvestigationLast week Mayor David Cicilline insisted that police security details for mayors in cities the size of Providence is standard practice. And, he said, that's why a detail of four full-time veteran officers transports him, at a cost last year to taxpayers of half a million dollars. So this week we visit five similar cities in New England to see how the mayors there get around. And we ask how Cicilline's detail compares to that of Governor Carcieri. The answers may surprise you.
You never see Providence Mayor David Cicilline in public without a police officer at, or near his side. It's a detail that last year cost taxpayers half a million dollars to cover the salary, overtime and benefits of four veteran full-time officers.
In an interview for last week's Hummel Report, the mayor himself repeatedly portrayed the detail as standard operating procedure for any city similar in size to Providence. His office said our story was skewed because we didn't look beyond Rhode Island.
Ciciiline: ``I don't know that there's another city our size where the mayor doesn't have a security detail. I think that's standard.
``This idea or practice of having a security officer for the mayor of a city this size is a standard practice.
`` Jim, I would say there is no question it is standard practice for mayors of major cities, and certainly capitol cities to have security details.
So we decided to take a ride and see what other New England cities do, many of which are facing the same budget pressure as Providence.
First stop Worcester - the second-largest city in Massachusetts.
Hummel: `` Worcester's mayor is a ceremonial position, so no driver there. And the city manager - who runs the day-to-day operation of the city, drives himself if he needs to get somewhere.''
From Worcester we head an hour west to Springfield, the third-largest city in the Bay State and the unofficial capitol of western Massachusetts.
Hummel: ``Mayor Domenic Sarno, who was first elected three years ago, also drives himself. He once left his house in the middle of the night and unescorted, arrived at the scene of a gang-murder. He then proceeded to walk the neighborhood, imploring residents to help lead the police to those responsible.''
Half an hour to the south is Connecticut's Capitol city of Hartford, where Eddie Perez has been the mayor for nearly a decade.
Hummel: ``No police detail here, either. Perez for the most part has someone on his staff drive him to events, but periodically will just take the keys and go.''
Next stop, 45 minutes to the south. New Haven, home to Yale University, but also some pretty tough neighborhoods.
Hummel: ``: John DeStefano, has been mayor since 1993. The city charter allows him to have a full-time police detail, but he doesn't use it, instead only occasionally taking an officer to an event.''
And finally, Bridgeport - Connecticut's largest city located just 60 miles north of New York City, also has its share of rough sections.
Hummel: ``Bill Finch, a veteran state senator, was elected mayor in 2007. He, too, either drives himself or has someone from his office transport him. His office tells us he does occasionally calls for a police officer if he has multiple events and needs to get in and out of a destination quickly.''
Back in Rhode Island we found Attorney General Patrick Lynch also has no security detail, despite being the public face of prosecution in the state.
And we also took a look at Governor Carcieri's daytime security detail: He has a team of two troopers on the rotation. The cost for their salary and benefits, last year: $320,000 - that's $180,000 less than Mayor Cicilline spent.
If you add in the governor's overnight security detail at his home - something Cicilline doesn't have, the total comes to $443,000 - still more than $50,000 less than the mayor.
``I think that's certainly in excess of what would be a reasonable expense for security, just for security for the mayor's office.''
Joseph DeLuca has been a city councilman for 20 years. He said he had no idea taxpayers are spending half a million dollars a year on the mayor's police detail. DeLuca had an ordinance passed six years ago specifically prohibiting use of a city vehicle outside Providence unless it's work related to the city.
He says Cicilline's use of the mayor's Chevy Tahoe and a sworn officer to take him to campaign events now that he is running for Congress, is a problem.
Hummel: ``Certainly if he's campaigning in Bristol - that's not any work related to providence. Do you have an issue with that?
DeLuca: ``I do. If he was in another part of the state with the city vehicle not representing providence but another business, it would be a violation of the ordinance because that's not what it's intended to do. The message is quite simple and quite clear to stop using the city vehicle unless you're conducting city business.
In Providence, Jim Hummel, for The Hummel Report.