The Right Reimbursement
Providence Mayor David Cicilline told The Hummel Report in February that no city resources would be used on his newly-launched campaign to replace Patrick Kennedy in Rhode Island's First Congressional District - even though for the next five weeks he used a city vehicle and police driver to go to more than a dozen campaign stops. The mayor's campaign has reimbursed the city for some of that travel. But this week, Jim Hummel asks him the question: is it enough?
Providence Mayor David Cicilline joined dozens of riders in the annual Bike to Work Day last Friday.
But his city vehicle, and one of the officers on the security team who drives him were on standby, as they always are - at a cost to taxpayers of more than half a million dollars a year.
During an interview in February, Cicilline - who had just announced his bid for Patrick Kennedy's First Congressional District seat, assured us Providence taxpayers would not be paying for any campaign-related expense - even though he was still using the car and driver to go to campaign events at the time.
Cicilline: ``If I'm going to an event outside the city of Providence, the campaign will reimburse the city. There's a federal reimbursement rate, which of course we will do - we will monitor that and that will be reimbursed to the city.''
Hummel: ``In mid-March Cicilline began using a campaign car and staffer to events outside of Providence. We wanted to know what taxpayers got in return for the five weeks he was using the city vehicle - and police driver - for campaign stops. This week, we have the answer.''
According to records the campaign filed with the city of Providence, Cicilline took 15 trips between February 15th and March 20th - to a variety of locations in the First District - all with his city-owned Chevy Tahoe and Providence police officer behind the wheel.
But the reimbursement is for mileage only - not the officer's time. The campaign reports that 15 stops resulted in a total of 169 miles. At a federal reimbursement rate of 55 cents per mile, that means taxpayers have gotten back...$92.95.
Hummel: ``You're going on the 55 cents a mile. The fact is you had reimbursed the city for less than $100 for all of that travel - and use of police officer. Is there any thought in your mind of reimbursing the taxpayers of Providence for all of those hours a police officer was with you.''
Cicilline: ``No, no the reimbursement that was done...reimbursement was made by the campaign at a fee set by the federal government.''
Hummel: ``55 cents per miles, but....''
Cicilline: ``I'll answer your question if you let me I'll finish.''
Hummel: ``Go ahead.''
Cicilline: ``The determination about whether a police officer remains with me is a public safety issue- they determine it, not me.''
The Hummel Report found discrepancies in the accounting of mileage on the forms the campaign submitted to the city. For example a trip to this coffee shop in Tiverton on the last Sunday in February - where the mayor met with a local state rep about the campaign was logged at 28 miles roundtrip - when the distance is actually 25 miles one way, or 50 miles roundtrip.
The mayor's Facebook page also has a dozen pictures of him meeting at various locations in the district - most of them documented on the reimbursement form, but some omitted.
Then there's the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Newport on March 13th. The mayor took his car to Newport and marched in the parade. And there's his driver - Patrolman Earl Lopez - walking near him - on the parade route - and on the clock. Cicilline's campaign says the Newport parade was not a campaign event, but related to Cicilline's being mayor of Providence - so no reimbursement.
On the campaign trail, the mayor says he is only obligated to reimburse the city for mileage on the SUV - not the officer's time.
Hummel: ``The taxpayers look and say: and we looked at the records...''
Cicilline: ``Just to be clear Jim there's no additional cost - these officers are assigned to an 8-hour shift. There is no additional cost to the taxpayers when I leave. These officers are working and are paid on a shift.''
Hummel: ``That's what I mean, there's a half a million dollar cost to the taxpayers that on a Sunday in Tiverton when you're meeting with a guy about the campaign, you have a guy sitting in the car - and the taxpayers are saying....''
Cicilline: ``Jim, that's not correct, to be clear. The police officers who are assigned, have a shift, whether I have an event for two hours - they're assigned - so there's no additional cost if I leave and do a campaign event in a campaign vehicle. You can't hire a police officer for an hour, they're on that shift, they remain on that shift.;;
Hummel: ``So what's happening to your police officers who are not going with you on campaign events at night, who normally would have been with you?''
Cicilline: `` They remained stationed at the police station until their shift concludes.''
Hummel: ``What are they doing?''
Cicilline: ``They remain at the police station until their shift concludes. In the event I have to do something city related. They have a work shift - they're required to complete that work shift. I have to go finish....
Hummel: ``Thanks for your time.''
And with that - Cicilline hopped on his bike and headed for City Hall...his SUV and police driver, not far behind.
In Providence, Jim Hummel, for The Hummel Report.