Central Falls Mayor—Don’t Blame Me for Bankruptcy
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
“I don’t take any blame for it,” Moreau said. “I don’t.”
A case in point: union contracts that allow police and fire to retire after working 20 years. Those agreements were crafted before he took office eight years ago—although Moreau was not sure exactly which mayor was responsible.
Much the same goes for disability pensions. “People are out on disabilities running marathons—that didn’t happen under my administration,” Moreau said.
‘Canary in the coal mine is dead’
Instead he said what doomed Central Falls is endemic to cities and towns across the state—rising health care costs, unfunded pension liabilities, and generous union contracts.
“The canary in the coal mine is dead,” Moreau said. “It’s precedent-setting and it’s not something I’m proud of—just something that had to be done.
He supports the decision to file for bankruptcy under federal law, saying it was what he and the city council did a little over a year when they applied for a similar status under state law. He accused the state of wasting time and money by immediately intervening through a new state law that paved the way for state-appointed receivers to take control of city government. “I think we wasted a lot of time,” he said.
But he praised the current receiver, retired Supreme Court Justice Bob Flanders. “To give him his due, Judge Flanders has been working diligently and doing a good job,” Moreau said.
Were he still in power, Moreau said that he would be deferring many of the decision Flanders has made—such as raising health insurance premiums to 20 percent or cutting pension income by as much as half—to a bankruptcy judge.
“My concern is … that there are some people getting hurt financially,” he said. “This stuff could devastate them.”
Plans big comeback
One year ago, Moreau was effectively reduced to a mayor-in-name-only as Pfeiffer took the helm of city government. Moreau was ordered to turn over his keys to City Hall along with his city cell phone and car. His pay was docked from $1,500 a week to $500 and he was essentially sent packing while the state receiver turned to the task of righting the city’s finances.
Now, Moreau is hoping that he will have more of a role as the city navigates its way through bankruptcy. “For me to serve my constituents I really need to be back there,” he said.
One ray of hope: a change to the state receiver’s law stating that the mayor and city council can formally advise the receiver in his work. “I have many ideas and many ways to save the city money,” Moreau said.
A fiscal emergency is not the only storm cloud overshadowing Moreau. He also has to contend with a state and federal investigation over his awarding of city contracts to a campaign donor. Moreau said he couldn’t comment on the case—but he isn’t worried that it will prevent him from running for re-election.
“I’m running again in 2013,” he said. “I already have my bumper stickers printed.”
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