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CCRI President Spends Tens of Thousands on Private Club, Pool

Thursday, December 05, 2013

 

CCRI President has expensed over $20,000 at the privately owned University Club in Providence, a GoLocal investigation uncovered.

A GoLocal investigation into finances at the Community College of Rhode Island has uncovered that since 2006, over $20,000 has been spent by CCRI President Ray Di Pasquale at the private University Club on the East Side of Providence through the privately-funded CCRI Foundation.

In the same time span, the public two-year institution has spent over $325,000 maintaining Di Pasquale's Knight Residence on the Warwick campus, including over $50,000 on the upkeep of the swimming pool -- and a new $20,000 fence -- on the property.

For the 2010-2011 school year, CCRI’s three-year graduation rate was just 9.6 percent, ranking Rhode Island No. 48 in the country when it comes to graduation rates from two-year institutions.

See Breakdown of Expenses for President's Property and University Club BELOW

Di Pasquale, who received a salary of $180,000 when he began in 2006, received yearly increases, including a raise to $265,000 in 2010, when he was appointed to the position of Interim Commissioner of Higher Education along with his CCRI role -- a salary he recently maintained for solely the role of CCRI President, with the recent reorganization to the Rhode Island Board of Education.  

Matthew Segal, founder and head of national youth advocacy organization Our Time, told GoLocal, "We believe in shared sacrifice. If you look at who's sacrificing, it's the students-- costs for college get higher and higher percentage wise."

Last March, GoLocal reported that Rhode Island students had the third largest tuition burden in the U.S., according to data compiled by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Organization, which showed a growing national trend that has seen tuition at public colleges skyrocket by almost 20 percent over the last five years -- while state government aid is down 23.1 percent over the same time period.

Segal continued, "When you look at the fact that students are taking on the brunt here, and on the flip side, a college administrator appears to live high off the hog, it's not good at all. The real issue is if we're going to be serious about mitigating the student loan debt crisis, there needs to be shared sacrifice."

See GoLocal's Coverage of Di Pasquale's Compensation HERE

CCRI spokesperson Richard Coren told GoLocal, "The Knight estate was bequeathed to the state, and the buildings are really falling down. The President has to live in it. You could make the case that we haven't done everything we could have done. If our next president were to have a family, I don't seem them as being able to -- or wanting to -- live here." Coren said that the pool had been on the property since the 1970s."

Coren, however, did not address the University Club expenses -- and whether the entertaining could take place instead on the CCRI campus.

College Expenses Scrutinized

The pool at the President's residence at CCRI has cost over $50,000 to maintain since 2006 - including a new $22,000 fence built in 2008, seen in the background.

In a letter dated November 1 from Mark Gim, President of the CCRI Foundation to Coren, Gim wrote that the CCRI Foundation routinely establishes its budget to support the general advancement and development of the College, and its role in "obtaining additional resources has become a vital support to the integrity of the college and its goal of helping students change their lives and achieve their dreams."

College foundation spending recently came under scrutiny at Westfield State University in Massachusetts. The Boston Globe reported last month that President Evan Dobelle resigned amidst an investigation by the Globe that "reported on Dobelle's free-spending ways, including a tab of nearly $150,000 to take a Westfield State delegation to Asia and $10,000 for tickets at Tanglewood, where Dobelle like to take potential donors."

Coren told GoLocal regarding the spending documents provided by the College, "When you look through the docs, you'll find that the president is modest when it come to spending money, he doesn't travel. He's very conservative."

Clark Greene, spokesperson for the Rhode Island Board of Education, said, "Great attention is paid to higher education spending. This office maintains an internal audit function, and and extensive external audit is performed each year. No irregularities, as indicated here by the comparison to Westfield State -- were reported in the audits." 

Larry Berman, spokesman for Speaker Fox, told GoLocal, “The focus of all three higher education institutions and the Board of Education should be on providing our students with a quality and affordable education. Speaker Fox expects that the Board will hold the colleges to that standard, and he intends to do the same." 

Taking Issue with Spending

The Knight Residence at CCRI in Warwick.

However, Lisa Blais with tax-advocacy group OSTPA said that "whether it is the cost of a pool for CCRI's president or the cost drivers contained in public sector collective bargaining agreements, we need to look at the big picture to determine our priorities of how and on what our taxpayer dollars are spent in context of what is affordable and sustainable. From an aggregate cost of $50,000 to pay for the upkeep of (presumably) a private pool to providing a higher salary that was a result of formerly performing two roles, Rhode Islanders will continue to struggle under the high cost of living until every single elected official and appointed board members for public enterprises are willing to draw a hard line in the sand to control the spending of taxpayers' money."

Blais continued, "Too often, those who are in control of spending taxpayer revenue become insulated to the point where the results of their decisions smack of indifference to the people who pay for those decisions. It is easy and sometimes right to provide employment perks and benefits when individual decisions are viewed myopically. That has been the problem in RI for too long. We are overdue for a wider perspective when it comes to matters of spending. One question should be asked with every financial decision: how will this deliver value and benefit RI taxpayers and can they afford to pay for it?

Segal told GoLocal that he thought from a perception standpoint, the situation was "incredibly troubling."

"We understand the necessity for entertaining, getting donors -- we're not irrational," said Segal. "But top administrators taking pay raises years after year, it appears to be the 99 and 1 percent-- students scraping to get by and taking on increasing debt, and then they see their college administrator throwing parties, living in country-club type houses. From a perception standpoint, it's incredibly troubling."

According to survey results by the Harvard University Institute of Politics released to the Huffington Post this week, "Fifty-eight percent of adults ages 18 to 24 consider rising student debt levels in the United States a "major problem" -- and 39 percent blame colleges and universities for the rising amount of debt, and were more likely to blame colleges for rising student debt if they were currently enrolled in school."

Governor Lincoln Chafee's spokesperson Christine Hunsinger said, "$20,000 over a period of seven years is less than $3,000 a year. You want your college presidents to do fundraising, to do recruiting, and what's necessary to advance their institution."

 

Related Slideshow: CCRI: Residence and U. Club Spending

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U. Club '08 Spending

Total Amount for Year: $6,203.24

Top 5 Expenses

1. July 24, 2007: Membership Dues & Entrance Fees, $3,225.00

2. Oct. 30, 2007: Food Charges, $601.40

3. (Tie) Oct. 30, 2007: Membership Dues, $450.00

3. (Tie) Feb. 8, 2008: Membership Dues, $450.00

3. (Tie) April 29, 2008: Membership Dues, $450.00

Photo: Flickr/EwenRoberts

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U. Club '09 Spending

Total Amount for Year: $3,252.11

Top 5 Expenses

1. Oct. 23, 2008: Charges Thru 9/30/08, $1,191.72

2. Feb. 10, 2009: Charges Thru 12/31/08, $587.18

3. Aug. 18, 2008: Charges Thru 6/30/08, $463.75

4. June 30, 2009: Charges Thru 6/30/09, $331.05

5. March 12, 2009: Charges Thru 2/28/09, $162.91

Photo: Flickr/AlenaAlioshina

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U. Club '10 Spending

Total Amount for Year: $666.93

All Expenses

1. June 9, 2010: Charges Thru 5/31/10, $259.22

2. May 6, 2010: Charges Thru 4/31/10, $150.38

3. Dec. 23, 2009: Charges Thru 11/30/09, $147.97

4. Nov. 9, 2009: Charges Thru 10/31/09, $109.36

Photo: Flickr/copperblue2

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U. Club '11 Spending

Total Amount for Year: $1,402.77

Top 5 Expenses

1. Feb. 8, 2011: Charges Thru 12/31/10 & 1/31/11, $295.67

2. Oct. 20, 2010: Charges at University Club, $202.52

3. May 17, 2011: Beverage/Restaurant Lunch, $184.41

4. April 7, 2011: Restaurant Lunch, $149.31

5. Sept. 21, 2010: Charges Thru 8/31/10, $135.81

Photo: Flickr/khamerica

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U. Club '12 Spending

Total Amount for Year: $5,079.48

Top 5 Expenses

1. Feb. 9, 2012: Function/Beverage Restaurant, $760.19

2. May 8, 2012: Charges Thru 4/30/12, $470.08

3. June 6, 2012: Function Restaurant, $357.48

4. Nov. 4, 2011: Restaurant Dinner, $351.32

5. June 6, 2012: Restaurant Dinner, $255.96

Photo: Flickr/Nick J Webb

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U. Club '13 Spending

Total Amount for Year: $2,403.85

Top 5 Expenses

1. May 16, 2013: Function/Beverage Restaurant, $355.21

2. May 16, 2013: Function/Beverage Restaurant, $337.73

3. June 27, 2013: VPAA Candidate Dinner, $300.21

4. May 16, 2013: Function/Beverage Restaurant, $215.46

5. May 16, 2013: Dinner Restaurant/Beverage, $200.88

Photo: Flickr/Super Fantastic

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U. Club '14 Spending

Total Amount for Year: $1,066.95

Top 5 Expenses

1. Aug. 6, 2013: VPAA Candidate Dinner, $256.21

2. Aug. 6, 2013: VPAA Candidate Dinner, $218.37

3. Aug. 6, 2013: Restaurant Lunch, 201.69

4. Aug. 6, 2013: VPAA Candidate Dinner, $186.34

5. Aug. 6, 2013: VPAA Candidate Dinner, $184.15

Photo: Flickr/sh0dan

Prev Next

Knight Estate '06 Costs

Total Amount for Year: $24,700.56

Pool Costs: $3,569.20

Top 5 Non-Pool Expenses

1. Date Unavailable: Cost of fuel for estate, $7,814.88

2. Date Unavailable: Cost of electricity for estate, $2,977.04

3. July 19, 2006: Repair/refasten handrails at estate, $2,269.00

4. Aug. 2, 2006: Upholstery and carpet cleaning at estate, $2,183.75

5. Aug. 2, 2006: Washer and dryer replacement, $1,388.95

Photo: Flickr/Leshaines123

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Knight Estate '07 Costs

Total Amount for Year: $55,252.03

Pool Costs: $3,488.75

Top 5 Non-Pool Expenses

1. Sept. 12, 2007: Water damage repair to residence, $12,900.00

2. Sept. 28, 2007: Cost of fuel for estate, $11,713.98

3. Oct. 25, 2007: Dome construction, $6,205.70

4. June 25, 2007: Storm window replacement, $5,786.00

5. June 5, 2007: Final external chimney repair, $3,813.00

Photo: Flickr/andrewcbraithwaite

Prev Next

Knight Estate '08 Costs

Total Amount for Year: $50,575.12

Pool Costs: $25,262.04

Top 5 Non-Pool Expenses

1. Nov. 20, 2008: Cost of fuel for estate, $8,003.13

2. Date Unavailable: Cost of electricity for estate, $4,425.67

3. Sept. 10, 2008: Removal of four trees, $2,483.50

4. Aug. 1, 2008: Repair broken glass on garage, $2,044.00

5. Date Unavailable: Internet and cable, $1,154.80

Photo: Flickr/brandonthemandon

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Knight Estate '09 Costs

Total Amount for Year: $63,238.68

Pool Costs: $3,115.85

Top 5 Non-Pool Expenses

1. Dec. 3, 2009: New Carriage House roofing system, $37,232.00

2. Oct. 16, 2009: Cost of fuel for estate, $8,843.96

3. Date Unavailable: Cost of electricity for estate, $4,273.23

4. Oct. 21, 2009: Tree and limb removal, $1,404.00

5. Date Unavailable: Internet and cable, $1,197.98

Photo: Flickr/lesanimaiux

Prev Next

Knight Estate '10 Costs

Total Amount for Year: $23,592.93

Pool Costs: $2,680.00

Top 5 Non-Pool Expenses

1. Oct. 20, 2010: Cost of fuel for estate, $11,743.42

2. Date Unavailable: Cost of electricity for estate, $4,325.18

3. Jan. 6, 2010: Tree and limb removal, $1,404.00

4. Date Unavailable: Internet and cable, $1,277.66

5. Date Unavailable: Phone, $856.05

Photo: Flickr/lAlexBramwell

Prev Next

Knight Estate '11 Costs

Total Amount for Year: $30,039.48

Pool Costs: $3,173.65

Top 5 Non-Pool Expenses

1. Oct. 24, 2011: Cost of fuel for estate, $9,889.28

2. Oct. 26, 2011: Tree and limb removal (hurricane damage), $3,806.00

3. Date Unavailable: Cost of electricity, $2,908.81

4. Date Unavailable: Phone and wireless access, $1,964.19

5. Oct. 17, 2011: Transplant trees at estate, $1755.00

Photo: Flickr/Pascal

Prev Next

Knight Estate '12 Costs

Total Amount for Year: $28,653.39

Pool Costs: $6,355.29

Top 5 Non-Pool Expenses

1. July 1, 2012: Cost of fuel for estate, $12,816.63

2. Date Unavailable: Cost of electricity, $2,860.14

3. Date Unavailable: Phone and wireless access, $1,746.94

4. Date Unavailable: Internet and cable, $1,354.36

5. July 20, 2012: Repair pure water system, $1,189.99

Photo: Flickr/chloe004

Prev Next

Knight Estate '13 Costs

Total Amount for Year: $37,565.42

Pool Costs: $3,565.00

Top 5 Non-Pool Expenses

1. April 1, 2013: A & E for renovation of Knight residence, $31,400.00

2. July 29, 2013: Cost of fuel for estate, $712.42

3. March 21, 2013: Emergency roof repair, $768.00

4. June 18, 2013: Tent rental for college event at estate, $620.00

5. July 2, 2013: Tent rental for college event at estate, $500.00

Photo: Flickr/BrahmMeyer

 
 

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