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Contract for Top Taveras Staffer Violates City Rules

Thursday, May 01, 2014


Providence Mayor Angel Taveras awarded his now former director of administration and acting chief of staff, Michael D’Amico, with a $200-an-hour city consulting contract without following the city rules for contracting services, GoLocalProv has learned.

D’Amico left his $196,000-a-year position at City Hall on March 14. While still a full-time employee, he negotiated a contract that allows him to work as an independent consultant on the 2015 city budget at a “discounted” rate of $200, according to a copy of the contract obtained by GoLocalProv through a public records request. The document, which was dated February 27, was signed by D’Amico, Taveras, and Jeffrey Padwa, the city solicitor.

The contract expires in June but can be extended for another six months. It does not cap the amount that the city can pay D’Amico. Under the contract, D’Amico can also be reimbursed for any travel expenses, including parking.

According to the city charter and city ordinance, any purchase of services between $500 and $5,000 must be made by the director of public property by going out to bid. Any purchases worth $5,000 or more also must go before the Board of Contract and Supply. But a review of the agendas for the past six months of meetings showed that D’Amico’s contract was never considered by the board.

“I think it’s wrong,” said state Rep. and former Councilman John Lombardi, adding that there should be a revolving door provision barring former employees from benefiting from city work for at least a year. “Apparently this administration doesn’t care.”

When contracts are awarded without a bid, they must also be approved by the city council, according to Councilwoman Sabina Matos. That did not happen, she said. “I think that contract should have gone out to bid. It’s in violation of our ordinance right now,” Matos said.

Exceptions to contract rules allowed only for ‘emergencies’

The city charter makes an exception on the competitive bidding rule for “emergency purchases,” which it defines as “an unforeseen situation, requiring immediate attention in order to safeguard the welfare of the people of the city, and one which renders the process of competitive bidding impractical or impossible.”

D’Amico’s two-page contract with the city makes no allusion to any such “emergency” circumstances. Under the agreement, D’Amico will be helping in preparing the 2015 budget and “other related activities.”

Councilman Kevin Jackson found that language puzzling. “Don’t we already have a director of administration and a director of finance to do that?” he said. (Before his departure, the city announced that Finance Director Larry Mancini would also exercise the duties of finance director.)

Jackson said he found it “strange and ironic” that an administration committed to transparency had bypassed both the council and the Board of Contract and Supply in awarding the contract. “In this case, there’s zero transparency,” Jackson said. “Transparency to me means everything is open.”

Matos, who had not even seen the contract until a reporter showed her a copy, is calling for the administration to appear before the council to explain itself.

Under the city charter, any purchases or contacts for supplies, materials, equipment, or services that is “contrary to the provisions of this Charter” will be “void and of no effect.” The charter also stipulates that those responsible for the contract will be personally liable for the cost. If the city has already made payments on the contract, “the amount may be recovered from such person or persons in the name of the city in an appropriate action.”

Jackson said the administration may think its action is justified because the money for D’Amico’s contract is coming out of the Mayor’s budget—although the charter does not appear to make an exception for that.

“It is completely out of the normal process as to how to handle this type of contract,” Matos said.

D’Amico credited for role in fiscal crisis

A city spokesman refused to answer any questions about the contract—including whether the city went out to bid for the work.

Previously, Taveras has touted it as a way to maintain continuity during a transition period.

“I am very proud of the work we have accomplished to address Providence’s Category 5 fiscal hurricane and put our city on firm financial ground. Michael’s continued work as a contract consultant to the city will assure a seamless transition to new leadership in the Mayor’s Office as we prepare the FY15 budget and continue our daily focus on moving Providence forward,” Taveras said, in March 3 news release announcing D’Amico’s departure.

D’Amico and Taveras are childhood friends and attended Classical High School in Providence together. D’Amico has served as director of administration since Taveras came into office in 2011. He also took on the role of chief of staff after J.R. Pagliarini left City Hall for a job at the Economic Development Corporation. Prior to his tenure in City Hall, D’Amico was the vice president and general manager for the U.S. Division of Johnson Matthey Emission Control Technologies.

One city councilman defended the contract, saying it was a good idea to retain D’Amico as a consultant.

“Mr. D’Amico, in my opinion, has been a great asset to the city. He helped us to get through this fiscal storm,” said Councilman Michael Correia. “I would support the Mayor’s decision to retain Mr. D’Amico.”

But, Correia added, he would have an issue with administration not following the proper procedures for awarding contracts.

Mayoral candidates speak out

Several candidates for mayor also expressed concern over the contract.

“This is the problem with city government of years, the ‘old boy’ network, where you need to know someone to get something done. These types of insider deals have ruined the Providence Economic Development Partnerships and led to grossly inappropriate tax stabilization gifts and led to city contracts with candy-like pensions,” said GOP candidate Dan Harrop.

“There was no reason not to put this through the normal process: if Mr. D’Amico was so good and Mayor Taveras thought he was so good, then why not just hire him all on the up and up and let the public know before the contract is signed,” Harrop added.

If elected, Harrop promised not only to “avoid such insider deals” and follow all applicable ordinances but also to go out of his way to make sure the public has an opportunity to fully review and comment on any special contracts.

Two other mayoral candidates, both Democrats, stopped short of condemning D’Amico’s contract, but said that they are committed to ethics and transparency in city government.

“While I don’t feel I have enough facts about the situation to make an informed opinion, ethics and transparency are a priority for me,” said Jorge Elorza. “I was the first and only candidate to take a comprehensive ethics pledge, and if elected, my personal commitment will be to ensure a fair and responsive government that works for all residents.”

“I respect Mayor Taveras and his work at City Hall,” added Lorne Adrain. “I have yet to hear from him or the City Council about the process that led to this contract and until I do, I’ll reserve final judgment about this specific matter. However, the perception and sometimes reality that political insiders receive preferential treatment in Providence is incredibly harmful to our city and has to change. I’ve pledged as Mayor to build an open government based on integrity and transparency accountable to the people of Providence.

A third candidate, Brett Smiley, declined comment, and City Council President Michael Solomon, also a candidate in the race, did not respond to a question for comment.

Stephen Beale can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @bealenews


Related Slideshow: Taveras’ Staff Revolving Door

Prev Next

J.R. Pagliarini

Role: Chief of Staff; Senior Executive Advisor

Left: December 18, 2012

Pagliarini served as Taveras' Chief of Staff before transitioning to Senior Executive Advisor. He left the Mayor's staff to accept a position at the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation (EDC).

See more of GoLocal's coverage of Pagliarini's resignation here. 

Prev Next

Michael Raia

Role: Communications Director

Left: December 17, 2012

Just before Pagliarini's departure, Michael Raia resigned as Taveras' Director of Communications. Raia left to assume the position of director of media relations and marketing for WGBH, the Boston-based public broadcasting station.

See more from GoLocalProv on Raia's departure here.

Prev Next

Arianne Lynch

Role: Deputy Chief of Staff

Left: November 30, 2013

Lynch tendered her resignation in October 2013, after she served as spokeswoman for Taveras' transition team during the interim between his election and inauguration. Lynch began her work with Taveras during his mayoral campaign. Previous to her recent work in city politics, Lynch was a managing director at the lobbying and PR firm Advocacy Solutions.

Prev Next

Melissa Withers

Role: Communications Director

Left: September 10, 2011

Melissa Withers was one of Taveras' earliest appointments, as communications director in December 2010. A former director of communications for the RI Economic Development Corporation, Withers resigned only nine months into her tenure.

Prev Next

Matt Jerzyk

Role: Deputy City Solicitor, Director of Policy and Municipal Affairs, Director of Government Relations and Senior Counsel to the Mayor

Left: January, 2014

Jerzyk resigned his position along with colleague Arianne Lynch in October of 2013, staying on at City Hall until the year's end. Jerzyk was a key staff member during Taveras' successful mayoral run, and was soon appointed as part of the mayoral staff. Jerzyk is currently consulting for The Hamilton Group, which is consulting with mayoral candidate Michael Solomon. 

Editor's Note: Matt Jerzyk used to write GoLocalProv's Side of the Rhode: Who’s Hot and Who’s Not in Rhode Island Politics column. 

Prev Next

Will Farrell

Role: City Council and Statehouse Relations

Left: January 31, 2014

Farrell, a key staffer, was charged with wrangling with the City Council on behalf of the Taveras Administration. Farrell said that he departed to "pursue other opportunities in government relations," though he voiced his "strong support" for Taveras' ongoing gubernatorial effort.

Prev Next

Angela Romans

Role: Senior Education Advisor

Left: May 20, 2013

Romans, who once took the helm of the Taveras administration's school policy, assumed a new role in May of last year when she joined the Annenberg Institute for Social Reform at Brown University. Romans joined AISR’s District Redesign & Leadership (DR&L) as a principal associate. She had worked 11 years at Brown as Associate Director of Admission.

Prev Next

Peter Baptista

Role: Finance Director

Left: November 15, 2013

Soon after resigning his position as Finance Director, for Taveras' gubernatorial campaign, Peter Baptista has signed on with The Hamilton Group, a Democratic consulting organization that he helped to found before joining the Providence mayor's staff. The Hamilton Group has signed on to work with mayoral hopeful Michael Solomon

Prev Next

Liz White

Role: Deputy Director of Communications & Media Relations

Left: February 2014

White is the latest in the Taveras adminstration's string of outgoing staffers. Her resignation was confirmed Thursday, February 27th, adding to the long list of political talent who have departed from City Hall since last winter began.

Prev Next

Mike D'Amico

Role: Chief of Staff

Left: February, 2014

Considered the Mayor's alter ego and de facto Deputy Mayor, the loss of D'Amico may mean more than change in the top spot. It could mean a dramatic shift in strategy, a yet unannounced decision to halt the run for Governor and try and stay in City Hall or Taveras could pull a Patrick Lynch and not run for Governor and take his campaign money and go back to private practice.

Read D'Amico's bio


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Ah Providence, "open for business", yet the highest commercial tax rates in the country. That "open for business" line has to be the best so far for 2014.

Comment #1 by Roy D on 2014 05 01

And you thought the Little T would be different ! Now he wants to run the state and screw everybody instead of just the people in the city of Prov. Remember when he had nothing bad to say about that crook Sissyline ?

Comment #2 by Roger Watson on 2014 05 01

Mayor, your city is a shit hole....fix it!!!!

There you go....Free Advice. Didn't cost the tax payers a dime.
See, it's not hard to cut costs.

Comment #3 by pearl fanch on 2014 05 01

Taveras is just concerned with taking care of his friends at our expense!

Notice Solomon has no comment!!!!????

Comment #4 by anthony sionni on 2014 05 01

Pearl, criticism, in the form of bad sarcasm, is not advice.

Comment #5 by Jonathan Flynn on 2014 05 01

This is what happens when blind Democrat Party allegiance replaces conscious thought and analysis in choosing the people best equipped to govern. It has ruined not only Providence, but Rhode Island, and the country. Chiefly at fault are the public employee unions, and other special interest groups that have glommed onto the Democrat Party to advance their own selfish agendas, and voters who fail to do their homework, finding party-line voting an easy substitute for rational thought. Just because you are forced to join a union and have your dues withheld (stolen) from your wallet is no reason why you have to support the union's broader political agenda which is really just the agenda of the leadership which has the most to gain by the corrupt bargain.

Benjamin Franklin's remark to the woman he met on the street at the end of the Constitutional Convention comes to mind: "What kind of government have you given us, Mr. Franklin." "A Republic, if you can keep it," was his reply. Based on the behavior of many Providence, Rhode Island, and national voters, Franklin's fears are being realized.

Comment #6 by Kendall Svengalis on 2014 05 01

Not at all surprised that Solomon did not respond to GoLocal's request for a comment. He is part and parcel of the Team Taveras. Under his lack of leadership, the Council has become little more than lap dogs for the Taveras administration.

I also notice that Mr. D'Amico's previous salary with the city escalated very significantly ($196K), after his initial (PR focused)agreement to accept a much lower salary when he took the job.

A close examination by the voters of Taveras's administration would reveal many such inconsistencies and highly questionable actions. Can't wait to hear the justification for this no-bid contract. I'm certain it will be filled with plenty of righteous indignation!

Comment #7 by Walter Miller on 2014 05 01

CORRUPTION that is what this is. Where are the FEDS. There is more to this relationship between TAVERASS and D'AMICO. Pals for a long time. Didn't channel 10 report on TAVERASS secret life. This might be the other half.

Comment #8 by Jackson Teller on 2014 05 01

Jono Flynn is a wife beater

Comment #9 by llik amabo on 2014 05 01

If the council can't negate the contract, let the courts decide. The taxpayers in Providence deserve better.

Comment #10 by Joan Overcash on 2014 05 01

Whomever LLIK AMABO is, come say that to my face and see how long your's stays in one piece. I don't why I read or respond to this site, it's filled with non news, right wing diatribes and moronic postings by anonymous creeps. You can all go to hell, btw Mississippi, Georgia, Teaxas, Oklahoma are all nearby.

Comment #11 by Jonathan Flynn on 2014 05 01

Jono Flynn is a bed wetting sissy

Comment #12 by llik amabo on 2014 05 01

Jonathan, I wasn't being sarcastic. The city IS a shit hole.
My advice....is to FIX IT!!
Let's see, roads are terrible, government is corrupt, schools are horrendous, crime is rampant, buildings are vacant and taxes are high.
Exactly what has he done to try and fix ANY of these things.
They're not criticisms if they are true.
All he's worried about is setting up his cronies, and moving on to greener (more corrupt) pastures in the governorship.

Comment #13 by pearl fanch on 2014 05 02

Pearl, with all due respect, fix it is not advice. It's criticism. If you have concrete plans, please put them here. If not , it's not advice. I appreciate that you use what I think is your real name. It makes some kind of dialogue possible. How would you fix the roads? For almost 8 years I worked in the Providence Public schools, not for them , but for an advocacy organization that tried to make things better. How would you make them better? Do you want the city to rent buildings? I don't think so. The Property Tax is a 19th Century revenue system hat still exists in the 21st Century. It needs to be replaced , but how? I don't think it's all about cronies.

Comment #14 by Jonathan Flynn on 2014 05 02

It goes beyond individuals.... there is a pervasive culture of corruption in the 'leadership elite' in the whole central Providence metro area.

They just plain cannot resist the urge to put their hand in the cookie jar they have been entrusted to keep.

It doesn't even matter if they sincerely figured to do the opposite at some point in their lives. When the cookies are within reach and remain there... the urge to just take some always overrules any other impulse.

Comment #15 by Caroline Evans on 2014 05 02

No, really, its ok...I'm the good guy...say hello to the new boss, same as the old boss. Clown Shoes.

Comment #16 by bill bentley on 2014 05 02

Jonathan Flynn - It may not be all about cronies, but there is certianly a apart that is. This would include backroom deals with unions to hedge fund deals with administrators.

Middle management in the government has increased by leaps and bounds in the past 30 years. We don't have people doing the actual labor of fixing and taking care of what government should.

Regulations and codes are out of control. The more regulations you put in place the more regulators you need for enforcement. All the codes and regulations include fees and taxes. How come Politicians know tax breaks and holidays increase and bring business, yet the taxes stay high? There are some State codes that conflict with local city and town codes. This happens because the Politicians all want their own little kingdoms.

There are very few things the Government should be reponsible for, I'm thinking Emergency Services like Police/Fire/EMS, basic public education, roads, courts and detention. Protection of citizens.

Most other things can be handled by charity, civic, church and community groups. Yet feeding and housing the hungry and homeless is being banned or so restrictive it makes it impossible.

Other things are just personal responsibility.
Laws and regulations should be for actions that harm or take from others. One of the most recent gun laws passed in RI is it is now illegal to use a stolen firearm in a crime. The fact that the weapon is already stolen and committing a crime is already illegal doesn't matter. The politicains and lawmakers are doing busy work and we're paying for it.

Comment #17 by Wuggly Ump on 2014 05 02

Right ou tof the Massachusetts Mini Me handbook. Sammyboy will weighing in with outrage shortly, and dumping it all on GW Bush. Sannny?? Sammy???? snore.

Comment #18 by G Godot on 2014 05 02


Comment #19 by Jackson Teller on 2014 05 03

In other news, Governor Taveras has ordered the closure of Lincoln Woods, drainage Olney Pond, and the sale of the property to the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation for use as the State's new landfill.

Comment #20 by Max Diesel on 2014 05 04

Max, what a great comment. You must be a member of the Center of Freedom from Relevance.

Comment #21 by Jonathan Flynn on 2014 05 04

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.