All in the Family
Woonsocket’s mayor already faces an investigation by the state Ethics Commission for giving her son an unadvertised, unbudgeted city job over the summer. Now Jim Hummel has learned the city hired Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt’s nephew the same week in September The Hummel Report interviewed the mayor about her son.
Click HERE to watch our original report that resulted in a Rhode Island Ethics Commission investigation.
Last week a crew from Woonsocket’s Highway Department was helping put the finishing touches on the city's new Veterans Park - in preparation for this week’s official dedication.
And right in the middle of it: one of the Public Works Department’s newest employees. Tyler Driscoll has been on the job for eight weeks. The 23-year-old, who lives in Cumberland, is the nephew of Woonsocket Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt.
Baldelli-Hunt already is facing an investigation by the Rhode Island Ethics Commission for hiring her son and teammates from his summer baseball league for unadvertised, unbudgeted jobs during July and August. In an interview with The Hummel Report in September the mayor said she saw nothing wrong with the hire, later calling it a misstep - and late last month terming it a `mistake’ that was part of her learning curve in the mayor’s office.
Driscoll began his job with the city the day before we interviewed the mayor about her son’s employment. Driscoll is classified as a laborer. It is a temporary position with full-time hours and he makes $570 a week. We saw him doing an overtime shift during Columbus Day weekend at the city’s annual Autumn fest celebration.
So we tried to ask the mayor about it after a news conference Oct. 28th, announcing several economic initiatives in the city. We waited until the news conference had concluded and Baldelli-Hunt had done interviews with two television stations about new businesses coming to the city.
Hummel: ``We have a little unfinished business from the interview that you and I did a couple of months ago.’’
Baldelli-Hunt: ``Today is about economic development. If we want to talk about something other than economic development then I’d like you to call my secretary.
Hummel: ``Well I have a feeling you’re not going to want to talk to me if I do that.’’
Baldelli-Hunt: ``No, no, you made mention that I have no problem talking to you, as was evident when I talked to you but let’s not rain on Woonsocket’s parade today.’’
What we didn’t realize until later is that just minutes earlier the mayor had spoken with a Channel 12 photographer about her son’s hiring and the ethics commission investigation.
Baldelli-Hunt: ``I’m not perfect and I’ve never proclaimed to be perfect. I have made a mistake. I’ll probably make many more mistakes. I hope I don’t make too many more. But I come from the private industry, not from the public and there is an adjustment to be made. And I’m certainly not happy I had that misstep but I certainly don’t mean any harm to anybody or to my community.
Hummel: ``That’s why we waited until….
Baldelli-Hunt: ``Then Thursday we have a second press conference regarding the unveiling of new construction in the city and that’s also at 10 o’clock. So this week I’m focusing on economic development.’’
Hummel: ``Mayor I have two quick questions. Mayor I have two quick questions.’’
Badelli-Hunt: ``Thank you for the compliment….Thank you. Thank you Joe.’’
We wanted to ask the mayor about her nephew’s employment - and his criminal record. Driscoll was involved in a highly-publicized case three years ago, charged by the Johnston Police Department with sexually assaulting three teenage girls at Memorial Park.
The police report says Driscoll, then 20 and living in West Warwick, friended the Johnston girls through Facebook, saying he was 17. Police say he brought a bottle of flavored rum with him and gave it to the girls, who were 15 and 16 at the time, on a ride to Johnston Memorial Park. One told the police she tried to fend him off when he made sexual advances but was too intoxicated to do so.
Driscoll initially was held without bail at the ACI on a first-degree sexual assault charge. But police tell The Hummel Report the parents of the girls later changed their minds and did not want to go through with the case.
The charges were eventually reduced to two counts of simple assault. He pleaded no contest in December of 2012, the case was filed and he was ordered to have no contacts with the victims. The following summer Driscoll was charged with procuring alcohol for a minor in a separate case in West Warwick. He pleaded no contest and was given six months of probation.
Hummel: ``Mayor I have just two quick questions. Mayor is your nephew Tyler Driscoll?’’
Baldelli-Hunt: ``Jim, really, can you, can you just understand that today is about economic development…’’
Hummel: ``And that’s why we waited until after the press conference. We didn’t ask any questions while you were at the podium.’’
Baldelli-Hunt: ``So if you want to make an appointment with my secretary.’’
Hummel: ``I have you for two minutes right now…’’
Baldelli-Hunt: ``I’d be happy to speak with you.’’
Hummel: ``Mayor why are you running away, you can’t just stand and answer for two minutes, you gave us plenty of time a couple of weeks ago, w2hat has changed mayor? Mayor, you have a nephew Tyler Driscoll, is that correct?’’
Baldelli-Hunt said we should call her secretary for an appointment, which we did that afternoon.
She scheduled an interview for the following Thursday morning - nine days later. At 5 p.m. the afternoon before the interview the mayor’s secretary called us back, cancelling the appointment, saying that Baldelli-Hunt needed to reschedule. She didn’t offer a reason why.
Hummel: ``Mayor you’re not going to say anything? You’re just going to run away?’’
Baldelli-Hunt: ``Oh, I don’t run away from anything Jim.’’
Hummel: ``Then why don’t you stand and talk with us for two minutes?’’
Baldelli-Hunt: ``Just please make an appointment with my secretary and I will see you. That’s all.’’
Hummel: ``So when will you talk to us?’’
Baldelli-Hunt: ``When you make an appointment with my secretary.’’
Hummel: ``Okay and when will we be able to get in and talk with you?’’
Baldelli-Hunt: ``Call her, 767-9205 and she’s very accommodating.’’
The mayor told Channel 12 she didn’t think twice about hiring her son because she had heard of City Council members in the past hiring their children for jobs. We weren’t able to find any evidence of that but we did discover that another employee in the Highway Department is the mayor’s cousin, John Baldelli. He was hired in 1989 when his father - Lisa’s uncle, Charlie Baldelli - was the city’s Mayor.
Seventeen days after Mayor Baldelli-Hunt told us she’d be happy to talk with us, we’re still waiting for an interview.
In Woonsocket, Jim Hummel for The Hummel Report.