A Hummel Report Investigation
Mark Pfeiffer was enjoying his retirement from 21 years on the Superior Court bench when he got a call last month: Would he take on the job of getting Central Falls back on solid financial footing, as a state-appointed receiver? Pfeiffer agreed to the task and two weeks ago hit the ground running - changing the locks at City Hall and relieving Mayor Charles Moreau of his day-to-day duties. This week, Jim Hummel sits down for a wide-ranging interview with the retired judge about what he hopes to accomplish in the coming weeks and months.
Click HERE to watch extended footage of Jim's interview with Mr. Pfeiffer.
Hummel: ``Central Falls City Hall is a much different place these days without Mayor Moreau here day to day. This week we sit down with the state receiver trying to right the city's financial ship, for his first one-on-one interview.''
Pfeiffer: ``I was surprised when the call came in and they wanted me to do this and I thought: this is a good fit and I'm certainly willing to take it on.''
Retired Superior Court Judge Mark Pfeiffer - now faced with the challenge of getting the bankrupt city of Central Falls back on solid financial ground, as the first state receiver appointed under a law passed in the last session of the General Assembly.
Pfeiffer has signed on to be here for six months.
Pfeiffer: ``The first and foremost priority here is to get a 2011 budget together. We're already a month into the fiscal year - a budget was never adopted by the city. So that's our first task. I'm pleased to report that within approximately two more weeks we'll have that budget.''
Hummel: ``Is it inevitable there is going to be a tax increase?''
Hummel: ``Do you have - and I don't means to pin you down on specific figures right now - is it going to be pretty significant? Or is that still in the working stage?''
Pfeiffer: ``It's in the working stage, but there will be a tax increase and it will be significant.''
Under the statute the receiver - appointed by the state Department of Revenue - has final say on the budget, no city council approval needed. Pfeiffer, though, says he's met with each member of the council and wants to use them as a liaison to a community that may be a little wary of an outsider coming in and taking control at City Hall.
Pfeiffer: ``It's been important for me to reach out to the council to involve them - because they're sort of the people on the ground here. They're the elected officials at least for the wards throughout the city and I want them to know what we're doing so when the community knows at large, the response to it and perhaps explain why this is happening.''
Hummel: ``But let's be clear, when there are disagreements, you hold the final say.''
Some have questioned the constitutionality of having a state-appointed receiver come into a local community and move a mayor aside, in this case Charles Moreau, whose 2nd-floor office is now locked and empty.
Hummel: ``We have a duly elected mayor, all of a sudden he's been put off to the side, could this happen somewhere else, is this constitutional , the ACLU gets involved. I'm sure you've heard all of that. So give me - as the receiver - but also with your judicial eye, and I'm not expecting you to form a legal opinion, but I'm sure you read that legislation before you came in here to see what the parameters were. Can you explain to people out there who say why should this guy be able to come in here and bump off our mayor to the side and start running things day to day and how that holds up constitutionally?''
Pfeiffer: ``I can assure you that when this was pulled together as a proposed law in the last session of the General Assembly that it was certainly vetted by the administration, I'm sure also the Senate and the House to make sure it would conform to any constitutional requirements that may exist.''
Pfeiffer says he is not allowed under the law to break any existing contracts, but adds that he will be meeting in the coming weeks with representatives of the various bargaining units to talk about the city's financial position going forward.
And while he went out of his way to not comment directly about Mayor Moreau and the criminal investigation into his administration, he says the mayor's budgeting the past few years has left a lot to be desired.
Pfeiffer: ``The budgeting that had taken place here, we found in many instances was something that was not really thought through - was simply put together to fulfill the requirement. Obviously if the budget had been a good budget for the last fiscal year, we wouldn't be looking at the deficit that we're going to have when we close out 2010.''
Hummel: ``Did that include unrealistic revenue projections at Wyatt?''
Pfeiffer: ``That would be part of it, to be perfectly candid, yes.''
And for the record, we wanted to clear up a misconception about the mayor's car - the one Moreau was driving when we had our first encounter with him back in December.
Hummel: ``We pulled into the parking lot this morning and initially thought: ` Wow the mayor's car is there,' it's been returned, wait a minute, that' s a blue Durango, but the license plate is different - a little confusion there. Whose car is that?''
Pfeiffer: ``That is my car, I am not driving the mayor's old car.''
Hummel: ``Is there a little confusion for you too?''
Pfeiffer: ``There was, because the car was returned to the police department which is where it was assigned from and there was some confusion because the next day I parked in what is a very small city parking lot about an hour or two into the day somebody said, ` What is the mayor's car doing back here?' But it's my car, Jim.''
Hummel: ``There's no truth to the rumor that you were chosen specifically because you drive a blue Durango.''
Pfeiffer: ``I believe there is no truth to that rumor.''
Hummel: ``I want to put that rumor to rest - right now.''
In Central Falls, Jim Hummel, for the Hummel Report.