Critics: Central Falls Receiver Sets ‘Dangerous Precedent’
Thursday, November 11, 2010
“It sets such an extremely dangerous precedent that could be used against other communities,” said Steven Brown, executive director of the Rhode Island affiliate of the ACLU. “It amounts to a complete disenfranchisement of the electorate.”
Almost immediately after he was appointed as receiver, on July 16, Pfeiffer relieved Mayor Charles Moreau of his duties and slashed his pay. This week, he turned to the City Council, removing their powers, which he vested in his own Receiver’s Council.
'Overstepped the bounds of his authority'
That’s going too far, according to Dan Beardsley, executive director of the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns.
Prior to this week’s action, Beardsley said Pfeiffer had stayed within the bounds of the authority granted to him by a new law passed earlier this year. “He didn’t remove the mayor. He didn’t remove the city council. He just exercised the statutory authority given to him,” Beardsley told GoLocalProv.
“However, replacing elected officials with a hand-picked group of elected officials I think goes beyond the authority upheld by Judge Silverstein,” Beardsley said. “I think he’s overstepped the bounds of his authority.”
Judge rules controversial law is constitutional
A key issue is whether the new law and the actions of the receiver have changed the form of government in Central Falls. Silverstein, in declaring the law constitutional, said the government in Central Falls has not been changed. “As a result, the Court holds that the Act applies alike to all cities and town, addresses a statewide concern, does not alter a municipality’s form of government, and is substantially related to public welfare,” Silverstein wrote.
But Brown contends that Pfeiffer’s latest actions cross that line. Pfeiffer has handed over the powers of the city council to the Receiver’s Council, including licensing, permitting, and zoning. He also said he would provide updates on his work to them, instead of the city council.
'Wild accusations and wild claims'
For all his broad powers, what Pfieffer has been able to do with city finances has been limited to raising taxes, Beardsley claimed.
Amy Kempe a spokeswoman for Pfeiffer, disputed that. She ticked off a number of achievements: setting a $450 road operating permit for utility companies, reducing bonuses for employees who don’t take medical benefits from $5,000 to $1,000, eliminating vacant positions, and instituting layoffs. In all, she said he’d cut more than $1 million out of the budget.
“They’re making these wild accusations and these wild claims, yet they’re not based in any truth,” Kempe said.
She also dismissed worries that other communities might be next, saying the state prefers to work with financially distressed cities and communities to address their problems before they worsen. “The state’s first choice is not to go into a city or town to impose financial measures on them to fix their fiscal issues,” Kempe said.
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