A Hummel Report InvestigationThis week we have new information on five of our investigations. From the elimination of a controversial state fee to an ill-timed construction project; another episode of As the Town of Rehoboth Turns - and a good example of what-goes-around-comes-around. Jim Hummel has the details.
This week we have new details for you on several of our investigations. First up - the so-called boiler tax that had hundreds businesses in Rhode Island upset. It's a message the Chafee administration heard loud and clear.
``He walked in the door, said he was here to inspect the hot water tank, came around the counter, went in, inspected the hot water tank, left his name and number - and if we had any questions, if I had any questions, and then left.''
Tim Pray tells a story that has been repeated by hundreds of businesses across Rhode Island.
A state inspector spends a couple of minutes looking at his printing business's water heater, then slaps him with a $120 `inspection' fee.
Pray calls it a tax.
Since our story ran the state has overhauled its regulations and will soon eliminate the water heater inspections for most businesses, deeming them unnecessary - something the businesses had been saying all along.
Labor and Training Director Charlie Fogarty tells the Hummel Report boilers in large public gathering places like churches, schools and daycare centers will still be inspected, but not the smaller businesses like Tim Pray's.
Rehoboth continues to be wealth of new information - from the now -ex police chief to a polarizing political figure who finds himself deposed as the chairman of a key committee.
This is the last week Stephen Enos gets a paycheck from the taxpayers. The embattled chief has been on paid suspension since May and this month marks the end of his three-year contract, which the selectmen voted not to renew after months of embarrassing revelations by The Hummel Report. We learned that Enos, a former East Providence police lieutenant, applied to that city council for a private investigator's license. But the EP council last week withdrew it, after Enos did not show up for a hearing.
Morra: ``I don't know what you're talking about.''
Meanwhile, we've also learned that former selectmen Christopher Morra has been booted as chairman of the town's finance committee after selectmen discovered his businesses National Security had been paid by the town since 2003 for part of his work at the Police Station. Morra told us in March he had donated his company's resources. We also found National Security billed the town for work it did on a telephone line one day in March. When we asked him about it, Morra told us he had no idea what we were talking about.
In June we told you about an ill-timed construction project in downtown Newport - kicking off right as the tourist season was getting into full swing. It turns out the business owners concerns about economic catastrophe were well-founded.
The works continues this week on Washington Square, where the owner of Yesterday's Restaurant says he lost 35 to 40 percent of the business he would normally get during the busy summer season. Construction is expected to continue until early November when the crowds will have disappeared from downtown.
Despite assurances from the city, there has been no lighting and several times pedestrians have fallen after dark. No one disputes the finished product, but merchants are still shaking their heads over City Hall's tin ear over the timing.
In April of 2010 we told you about a sweet deal the police chief in Central Falls got from Mayor Charles Moreau. Well last week, that deal turned sour.
Joe Moran raised a few eyebrows when he ``retired'' after 25 years on the job - then reported the next day for work....in his same position as chief. He started collecting his $50,000 pension, coupled with a new $70,000 contract from the mayor.
But there is a new sheriff in Central Falls these days - state receiver Robert Flanders, who first cut some of Moran's perks, then eliminated the chief's position last week, putting him on the unemployment line. Moran, along with other retirees also saw his pension cut nearly in half.
You may remember the story we did about the widow of a Providence firefighter and her struggles to have her husband's career memorialized by the department. Well in June, she could finally say: mission accomplished.
Michael Day's wife of 23 years, Cindy, designed a simple pin she envisioned her husband's colleagues wearing at dress occasions. But the administration stalled - and later said it lost the pins. Cindy Day had to go to court to get them back, but in June at a promotion ceremony finally got to hand them out - five years after Michael Day died in the line of duty.
We have several major investigations in the pipeline, so stay tuned in the coming weeks and join us back here next week for a brand new Hummel Report.