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Historic East Side Mansion of Murdered Dr. is Being Turned Into Suboxone Clinic

Monday, December 26, 2016

 

The mansion at Lloyd and Thayer sold in April, 2016 by Deb Zaki.

One of Providence’s most acclaimed historic mansions is being transformed into a suboxone clinic. The mansion, on the corner of Lloyd Avenue and Thayer Street on the East Side, was purchased last April by Oxford Investment, whose corporate manager is Johnston resident Richard Dion. The mansion was purchased for $1.6 million from Deborah Zaki.

Zaki is the widow of Hani Zaki, who was murdered in 2001 and the crime has never been solved. He was killed in his home on Prospect Street — just two blocks up the street from the Lloyd property.

According to multiple news reports, she was a leading suspect in her husband’s death although she was never charged in the crime.  (Mike Stanton mentioned the murder in The Prince of Providence.)

Since the death of her husband, the mansion has had a range of usages. Dr. William E O'Connor Jr. practiced at the location; it housed the Ivy Spa, and reports allege it served a Consulate for the United Nations.

The yellow brick mansion, named the Sarah and John Tillinghast Mansion, is on the National Historic Registry.

The mansion has had a number of uses over the past 15 years

Not the First Suboxone Clinic in the East Side Area

As GoLocal reported, Wickenden Street business and neighbors voiced strong opposition to a suboxone facility being located in Fox Point earlier this year:

A former Rhode Island tax preparer who was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison by the Department of Justice has opened a suboxone therapy clinic Wickenden Street in Providence.  Neighbors have taken to social media as a number of people were victims of his tax scheme are concerned about the new venture.

Michael Brier, who in 2013 pleaded guilty to underreporting over a million dollars in income and violating a federal court order that had permanently barred him to preparing tax returns for others, opened Recovery Connection in Providence in June, to "provide counseling services to those with opioid and drug addiction issues," at the same location where his tax preparation services had been.

Moreover, a former partner is associated with the new business. Jeffrey Sroufe was also barred from the tax business by the Department of Justice and now, according to RI Secretary of State filings, is the incorporator in Recovery Connection and Brier is a Director and the registered agent. 

Signs out front advertise suboxone therapy --  suboxone is a prescription medicine indicated for treatment of opioid dependence and should be, according the drug manufacturer, used as part of a complete treatment plan to include counseling and psychosocial support.  The location is a few hundred feet from the Vartan Gregorian Elementary School (formerly the Fox Point Elementary School).

"Basically, as a small business owner, finding out your tax preparer got arrested for fraud isn't exactly good news," said Chris Daltry, a Providence resident who had been a client of Brier's. "Maybe he's reformed, but based on his history, he's not exactly trustworthy."

Brier was less than pleased to hear anyone had concerns. "If they're talking about me, if they have any balls, they'll come to my door, and ask me," said Brier.

 

Related Slideshow: 16 Biggest Blunders of 2016

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#16

ProJo Pulls Gregg from State House - What is GateHouse Thinking?

Veteran Providence Journal State House reporter Katherine Gregg, generally considered to be the strongest in the press pool with the most institutional knowledge, is being pulled to cover other areas at the paper, after decades on the political beat. 

The move comes after long-time editorial writer M.J. Andersen was laid off at the end of July.

So just what is the ProJo’s — and owner GateHouse’s — strategy? 

“I can’t speak to a management decision, I have no idea what prompted this,” said Providence Newspaper Guild President and ProJo reporter John Hill, of Gregg’s move, which Rhode Island Public Radio was first to report on Wednesday.  “As for corporate, well, to them, stories are just a sequence of words. M.J. Anderson had been here 35 years, and it’s just a huge loss. It’s just another diminishment of the paper — editorial writers in this market are just as important as reporters. But hey, it’s their call.”

GateHouse had acquired the ProJo when it purchased it from A.H. Belo in June 2014; in April of this year, GoLocal reported that Gatehouse CEO Kirk Davis got a $1 million raise, despite massive layoffs. 

Of those let go at the ProJo, Hill said there were 22 “within four or five months after [GateHouse] took over in late 2014.”

“And a couple of buyouts, too, so that number’s probably around 30. And that’s just Guild people. They’ve cut and bought-out non-union,” said Hill. “We work for a corporation that’s sitting on millions in their war chest. They could do so so much to build and better the paper.  Just watch and see, they’ll all get bonuses again.”

Former ProJo editorial pages editor Bob Whitcomb, who now writes a weekly “Digital Diary” feature for GoLocalProv.com, echoed Hill’s sentiment.

 

“What GateHouse will do to maximize its profits is get rid of as many people as possible, as fast as it can. Mr. Davis then can pay himself millions,” said Whitcomb. “I don’t know, but this might be a strategy to force [Gregg] out. It's standard operating procedure for GateHouse to prioritize profit above all else."

Strategy in Question

Alan Mutter, a consultant specializing in corporate initiatives and new media ventures involving journalism and technology after previously having been City Editor for the Chicago Sun-Times and at the San Francisco Chronicle, up until recently penned musings for his personal website, “Reflections of a Newsosaur.”

“I don’t know anything about the individuals or the background, so I cannot comment specifically on these events. However, it is safe to say that revenue-challenged publishers looking to reduce costs frequently have tried to replace older and higher-paid reporters with younger staffers,” said Mutter. “Having said that, newspapers aiming to beef up digital content need people who can take pictures, make videos, post on Facebook, tweet and more.  In some cases, traditionally trained print journalists are unwilling and/or uncomfortable with these very real new requirements.” 

Gregg has been an increasingly prolific on Twitter, posting over 20,000 Tweets since joining in 2011, and amassing nearly 6,000 followers.  ProJo State House reporter Jennifer Bogdan has some 7,000 tweets, and 3,700 followers. 

Whether Gregg, who is out on vacation, steps into a different role — or takes another direction altogether — remains to be seen. 

“When long-serving staffers depart, they take a good deal of institutional knowledge and contacts with them,” said Mutter. “And that is not good for the paper or the community it serves.”

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#15

Providence Journal Hires Top Lobbyist to Protect Mandate on Legal Notices

The self-claimed newspaper of record is the first one to call out government waste or a conflict of interest, but the Providence Journal's NY-based parent company now fighting for its financial survival and hiring a lobbyist to protect the outdated requirement for the state and cities and towns to place legal notices in a printed newspaper. 

As GoLocal reported in May:

In the midst of the recent controversies at the State House about special interests, one New York-based company has spent nearly $100,000 on a top lobbyist to repeatedly block efforts to rescind an outdated law that costs cities and towns -- and the state -- hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

For the past three years, the Providence Journal via the Daily Newspaper Association has paid top lobbyist Joe Walsh nearly $100,000 to block legislation intended to repeal the requirement for legal notices to be published in the newspaper of record.  

According to the Rhode Island Secretary of State’s database of Rhode Island Corporations, no such entity exists. Moreover, the contact email in the state lobbying database for the RI Daily Newspaper Association is none other than Walsh’s secretary. The phone number listed for the organization is a phone number at the Newport Daily News, but those answering the phone say there is no such thing as the "RI Daily Newspaper Association."

Walsh, the former Mayor of Warwick, is one of the most powerful lobbyists on Smith Hill. He and his firm have given candidates and elected officials more than $120,000 in political donations. Walsh represents the Construction Industries of Rhode Island, Rhode Island Automobile Dealers Association, and the Rhode Island Builders Association, to name a few.

In 2016, Walsh's firm will earn in excess of $500,000 in fees according to state reports. 

READ THE REST OF THE STORY HERE

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#14

Clinton Leading in Brown Poll

A Brown University Poll just two days before the RI Presidential primary had Hillary Clinton with a solid lead, but she was crushed by Bernie Sanders -- it just wasn't close.

As GoLocal reported on the Brown poll: 

"The most interesting thing that it's a really close race -- in the Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton's got a solid 9-point lead which we expected," said Jim Morrone at Brown's Taubman Center.

Clinton Leads

Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders 43 to 34 percent with 16 percent undecided. Sanders leads among voters under the age of 45.

Sanders garners 48 percent of those under 45 to Clinton’s 34 percent. Clinton wins 52 percent of voters age 65 and older, with 23 percent for Sanders. 

Women strongly favor Clinton, at 47 percent versus 30 percent for Sanders. Among men, Clinton received 39 percent of the likely vote to Sanders’ 38 percent. 

Clinton’s strongest support lies with African American voters, at 63 percent, to 13 percent for Sanders. A majority of Latino voters favor Clinton, 55 percent to 36 percent for Sanders. Among white voters, Clinton’s lead is less decisive: 42 percent to Sanders’ 35 percent, according to the Brown poll.

"With 16% undecided...that would make you a little nervous getting into the weeds. The independents are breaking for Bernie (in Rhode Island). It's a lot closer than it looks on the surface.  If you're Sanders, you see hope," said Morone.

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#13

Elorza’s Office SUV Gets Booted and Seized for Excessive Tickets

As GoLocal reported:

A vehicle used by Mayor Jorge Elorza’s Office for advance work was booted and seized on Friday for excessive tickets.

The white Ford Expedition was parked illegally on the street next to Providence City Hall. The plates are unmarked as a municipal plate which is against policy. Unmarked plates are only suppose to used by law enforcement for undercover police work. The vehicle was illegally parked on Eddy Street.

The Mayor’s office refused to respond to questions regarding the vehicle and its seizure. Nor would they answer questions about the misuse of plates.

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#12

Raimondo’s Neuman Was Managing DraftKings Legislation As Wife Applied for Top Job

A GoLocal investigation unveiled the conflict situation by Governor Gina Raimondo:

Governor Gina Raimondo’s Chief of Staff was negotiating legislation that impacted one of the most controversial companies in America -- just three weeks before his wife started her job for the very company as Vice President, GoLocal has learned.

Boston-based DraftKings is a “fantasy sports” startup company that is now valued in excess of $1 billion, and is under fire in many states for being an unregulated gambling venture.

READ THE REST OF THE STORY

A GoLocalProv investigation that included a request for public documents relating to meetings, lobbying, emails and conference calls between members of Raimondo’s staff and representatives of DraftKings unveils that Chief of Staff Stephen Neuman was actively involved in legislation as his wife was under consideration for the position of Head of Regulatory at DraftKings. Her hiring for the position was announced on February 22.

Timeline in Question

After Neuman’s wife was hired, only then did he seek an advisory opinion from the Rhode Island Ethics Commission on how to handle a potential conflict moving forward, but the letter seeking the advisory opinion did not speak to Neuman’s involvement in legislation during his wife’s hiring process.

The state’s ethics statute states, "A substantial conflict of interest exists if an official has reason to believe or expect that he, any person within his family, a business associate or an employer will derive a direct monetary gain or suffer a direct monetary loss by reason of his official activity.”

"Fantasy Sports" companies took in more than $3 billion in 2015

DraftKings is under fire in many states for bypassing state gambling laws. Presently, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, New York, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, and Washington State have banned/blocked playing DraftKings. 

For companies like DraftKings, and its competitor FanDuel, hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake as states deem whether these companies are games of skill (as FanDuel and DraftKings claim to be) or games of chance, as a growing number of regulators claim.

DraftKings and FanDuel are linked in their lobbying strategies and in Rhode Island they have hired high powered lobbyists. DraftKings is represented by Lenny Lopes, former top staffer in the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office who is paid $72,000 a year to lobby both the legislature and the Governor’s office. He has lobbied on behalf of DraftKings on ten different House and Senate bills.

Lopes and former Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch both lobby for FanDuel. Lopes is paid another $36,000 a year to lobby for FanDuel and Lynch receives $7,200 a year, according to state records.

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#11

UPDATED: Raimondo’s Chief of Staff Smiley Launches Late Night Crude Tweet, Previous Staffer Resigned

Steve Neuman was not the only Raimondo Chief of Staff to make the blunder list. A late night tweet by Brett Smiley makes the list too. As GoLocal first reported:

Donald Trump is not the only one using Twitter for late night bizarre tweets. Now, Governor Gina Raimondo's Chief of Staff is joining the GOP Presidential candidate.

Brett Smiley, Raimondo's top staffer, tweeted an expletive laden attack on Republican Presidential nominee Trump. It was tweeted during the Presidential debate.

Similar behavior in the past had led to the end of careers. In November of 2003, Jan Reitsma, Director of the Department of Environmental Management, was forced to resigned after sending a swear ladden emails to the head of a fishing group. Then-Governor Don Carcieri accepted Reitsma's resignation for the improper behavior.

But, in 2016 Smiley's tweet was ignored by Governor Raimondo. Spokesperson for the Governor, David Ortiz, wrote to GoLocal, "Brett addressed it himself and apologized, we are not going to have anything more."

About twelve hours after the initial tweet, Smiley tweeted a message, "It's always a good reminder to listen to Michelle Obama's advice. When they go low, we go high. I regret tweeting coarse language last night."

GOP Response

"Who am I to say anything?  Look, I get it...he can say what he wants. But, I think the Governor should distance herself probably," said Brandon Bell, Chair of the Rhode Island Republican Party.

"We should all probably be taking 'a-bombs,' 'f-bombs,' and 'a--holes' out and probably should be more civil. And look, I'm guilty as charged. [Smiley's] firing people up," said Bell who came under fire for calling Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton "sub-human."

The complexity of this issue is that if Trump were to be elected, it could put Rhode Island at a disadvantage in advocating for Rhode Island with a Trump White House.

Recently, the Atlantic magazine published a list of Trump's late night and often controversial tweets.

"Some of @RealDonaldTrump’s nocturnal submissions have made the news: His slams against Megyn Kelly (3:53 a.m.), accusations that Ted Cruz committed fraud in Iowa (1:38 a.m.), the denunciation of Alicia Machado (5:30 a.m.). They’re also a series of valuable data points about a presidential candidate’s sleep cycle—a ping that, yes, Donald Trump is awake and restless," wrote the Atlantic.

GoLocal is waiting for comment from the Raimondo administration and will update the story.

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#10

Gov. Raimondo’s Chief-of-Staff Smiley Owns Company Fundraising for Elorza

It is hard to even imagine that this blunder could take place, but even after the massive conflict was unveiled, the Governor Raimondo has had no comment. The Governor's Chief of Staff continues to own a political consulting firm at the same time as he collects a state pay check.

As GoLocal reported:

When Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza needs funding from the State of Rhode Island, Brett Smiley is the point person to see in Governor Raimondo’s office. Smiley, the Chief of Staff, is the go-to staffer for the Governor, however GoLocal has learned that while Smiley is negotiating with the City of Providence, his company also getting paid by Elorza’s campaign. Smiley formerly served as Elorza's Chief Operating Officer.

Smiley’s firm CFO Consulting Group, LLC  (he also started compliance and lobbying firms) has been paid more than $80,000 by Elorza’s campaign during the past two years and including payments made during the period of time that Smiley has served as Raimondo’s top staffer this year.

According to Smiley’s State Ethics disclosure forms and RI Secretary of State’s Division of Business Services, Smiley is the founder and CEO of "CFO Consulting," which has received the tens of thousands in payments from Elorza's political account.

Smiley’s firm still trumpets him as founder on its website and states, “Politics is not just Brett’s career – it is also his passion. When he’s not working with a client or sitting in a kitchen cabinet meeting, he is most likely engrossed in an independent film or out for a run.”

Newly-elected House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan questioned Raimondo and Smiley for the appearance of conflict.

“I guess if it feels like a conflict, smells like a conflict, it probably is. Is it illegal? Probably not," said Morgan. "But is there no other fundraising firm that could do that work?”

Common Cause RI’s John Marion warned that the relationship could border on a conflict situation.

“Out of an abundance of caution Mr. Smiley could either sever his business relationship with the consulting firm altogether or seek an advisory opinion from the Rhode Island Ethics Commission," said Marion.

“Public officials have the responsibility to really put space between them and any conflict as much as possible -- and again, it's not like there aren't other [fundraising] firms out there,” said Morgan.

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#9

Raimondo Names Her Point Judith Partner to Top Board

The Governor seems to be conflict challenged and after GoLocal made phone calls and raised questions about naming her Point Judith partner to the Convention Center Board, even Raimondo knew that this appointment was beyond reasonable.

As GoLocal reported:

Governor Gina Raimondo has named her business partner in Point Judith Capital to one of the top boards in Rhode Island.

David Martirano, a managing partner in the Venture Fund that Raimondo continues to have significant financial interest in, according to state Financial Disclosure form, is being appointed to the Board of the Convention Center. 

The appointment was submitted to the State Senator for advice and consent. Correspondingly to GoLocal's repeated inquiries, on Thursday Raimondo withdrew the nomination of Martirano.

As GoLocal reported in April of this year:

The Rhode Island pension system has lost 1.1 percent of its investment into a venture capital fund that Governor Gina Raimondo helped create -- and while the state has been losing money, Raimondo continues to earn hundreds of thousands in fees. Regardless of the fund's performance, Raimondo and others in the fund earn 2.5 percent annually.

"Gina Raimondo redefines venture capital 'success.' If doing well for yourself is the definition of success, then Raimondo meets and exceeds the benchmark," said former SEC lawyer and Forbes columnist Edward Siedle, who penned a column under the same verbiage on Wednesday for Forbes. 

"As of September 30, the fund performance was .3% positive, which is dismal. I knew we were at the critical moment it would slip into the negative," said Siedle.  "That proved correct with these latest numbers released."

Raimondo's press office refused to respond to a half dozen calls and emails regarding questions and potential conflicts associated with the appointment of Martirano. Shortly after Raimondo was elected General Treasurer, the Rhode Island-based company move to Boston.

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#8

Ava Anderson Hit By USDA for False Claims of Organic

In December, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) cited Ava Anderson for making false claims about its products being organic -- and now its new company is under fire for labeling and ingredient issues less than two months after announcing it was relaunching under a new name.

Matthew Michael, Director of Compliance and Enforcement Division of the USDA’s National Organic Program, in a letter to one of the complainants -- and circulated widely -- wrote, “Your complaint alleged that AA (Ava Anderson) marketed its Essential Oil product as organic, in violation of the USDA organic regulations. Our investigation confirmed your allegation. In response, the AA modified its Essential Oil labels and other market information to comply with the law.”

The Michael letter was sent on December 11, 2015, referencing the Ava Anderson products. Less than six weeks later, the company was rebranding and the first story as to why its founder, Ava Anderson, was leaving was tied to claims of "cyber-bullying."

As GoLocal reported in late January:

Ava Anderson, the Barrington teen who started a non-toxic cosmetics company, will be stepping down from the company she started five years ago, according to a statement on their website. 

However, after mounting criticism by green bloggers regarding ingredients used in their products, Ava Anderson Non-Toxic announced that suppliers were to blame for including ingredients in their products that they had "lobbied against."

In February, the company was renamed Pure Haven Essentials and according to filings with the Rhode Island Secretary of State’s Office, the newly named company’s corporate address in 170 Adams Point Road, Barrington.  That address is the Anderson family’s waterfront estate in Barrington.

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#7

RI’s Investment Losses in Raimondo’s Pt. Judith Have Grown 127%

Governor Raimondo has made more in the past two years with her ownership interest in Point Judith Capital than Rhode Island retirees have made via a $5 million state investment in the same fund.

As GoLocal reported:

Rhode Island’s investment losses in venture capitalist Gina Raimondo’s Point Judith Capital are piling up for the Rhode Island State Retirement Fund. At the end of 2015 it was bad, and at the mid-point of 2016 it is now far worse.

The state’s loss grew 127 percent over the past year, from a -1.1 rate of return in the period ending December 31, 2015 to a loss of -2.5%. The significant decline in the performance in the fund may indicate it is beginning to crater. 

The fund that the state invested in called Point Judith Capital II, has been dismal for retirees, but now Governor Raimondo and her partners in the fund have earned as much as a 2.5% fee annually - rain or shine.

"It's the perfect wealth transfer"

"The fees are 2.5%, the performance was negative 2.5%. It's the perfect wealth transfer -- she's been paid 2.5% and the pension fund lost 2.5%," said Ted Siedle Forbes columnist and Raimondo critic.

“[The performance] is certainly not ideal -- it has underperformed our PE (private equity) benchmark. Ultimately, a decision to extend should be to get the highest price possible for assets,” said Evan England, spokesperson for General Treasurer Seth Magaziner.

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#6

Projo Ridicules Legislator as “No Show” While He is at Military Service

A state legislator who was serving at required training in the U.S. Coast Guard was one of the members of a General Assembly House Finance subcommittee who were publicly chastised en masse by the Providence Journal for missing a hearing on legislative grants on Thursday. 

Representative Carlos Tobon, who has served in the U.S. Coast Guard since 2012, said he was shocked to see his picture alongside the headline "R.I lawmakers are a no-show" on Friday; the Projo then ran an unprecedented front-page editorial on Sunday calling out Tobon and four other lawmakers, saying sarcastically that they "must have had something better to do with their time."

"I said, 'Oh, I'm in the paper,' when I saw my photo on Friday. Then I read it," said Tobon, who was serving his annual two-week required service at Pt. Judith, which is in addition to one weekend a month of required training. "I get it, you want accountability. But if you're doing an investigative piece, you should investigate. No one [from the Journal] asked me why I wasn't there." 

The Providence Journal's Tom Mooney wrote of the "no-shows" at Thursday's subcommittee hearing to discuss reforms to the highly controversial legislative grant program:

After the hearing, Naughton, deputy chairperson of the House Finance Committee, was asked where her subcommittee members were. “You would have to ask them,” she said. “I would like [them here] but I am not in the military. I cannot order them to be here.”

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#5

Raimondo Refuses To Fly Flag at Half-Mast for Cianci’s Death

After the February death of Buddy Cianci, Governor Gina Raimondo refused to fly state flags at half-mast. A social media explosion occurred and Raimondo flipped her position. The damage was done.

As GoLocal reported:

The American flag was flying proudly over Providence City Hall at full-staff at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday - quitting time for city workers.

The reason why?  Only the Governor can order the American flag to be flown at half-staff, which Raimondo has said she will not do. 

At 11 a.m., Mayor Elorza issued a statement that said, “I have ordered flags at City Hall to be flown at half-staff as we make arrangements to recognize his (Former Mayor Vincent Cianci’s) memory.”

When the question was asked why the American flag was still at full-staff Thursday evening, the Mayor's office provided the following:

"The American flag and State flag [to be flown at half-staff] requires an order from the Governor," said spokesperson Evan England on Thursday afternoon. "The Mayor has ordered City flags to be flown at half-staff.  It's the blue one. And it will remain at half-staff though the memorial."

Cianci's Passing

This morning GoLocal was the first to report that Cianci — Providence’s longest serving Mayor and two-time convicted felon — had passed away.

Elorza and Cianci faced each other in a bitter general election battle in 2014. The two had not developed a relationship as Elorza refused to go on Cianci’s radio show and did not attend the unveiling of Cianci’s Mayoral portrait.

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#4

Elorza’s Parking Meter Policy

Mayor Jorge Elorza's parking meter policy has been widely criticized by Providence residents and small business owners. GoLocal has unveiled a number of the issues tied to the Elorza policy.

As GoLocal reported:

New data shows stores and restaurants on Thayer Street in Providence reporting a 40% or more decline in business and employment since the addition of parking meters, according to real estate developer Kenneth Dulgarian. 

The additional information comes after two businesses -- Verizon and ZuZu's Petals -- told GoLocalProv.com that they closed their doors due to loss of business with meters.  

In a letter sent to the Providence City Council this week, Dulgarian informed elected officials that after talking with business owners, he learned:

* Paragon Restaurant had averaged 6200 customers a month before meters and now averages 4000 a month

* Antonio's Restaurant had 25 employees before meters and now has 7

* Silvia Disposal hauled away 2.5 truckloads of rubbish a week from Thayer Street before meters and now has 1.5 truckloads

"Quite frankly, it's embarrassing to have to review things of this nature," said Dulgarian on Thursday. "Even to be off 5% on sales is devastating. These businesses are on oxygen support."

Heeding Elorza's Call for Data

In his letter sent to council members this week, Dulgarian made the case for the removal of the meters, based on the decline in the aforementioned three businesses - as well as the two that closed. 

"Mayor Jorge Elorza has scoffed at the claim that his parking meters are an economic plague that is destroying business in the classic Thayer Street shopping area. However, he says he will remove meters if anyone can show him statistics proving business owner claims that the meters have cut business on Thayer Street 40 to 70 percent. But he clearly doubts anyone can,” wrote Dulgarian. 

“Here are statistics that he asks for from parking meter-sick businesses showing a 40 to 100 percent decline in business from mid-2014 when the meters were installed to today. Because of thin retail profit margins, more than a 5 percent decline is deadly,” Dulgarian continued. “One additional statistic that the Mayor can personally observe by driving down Thayer Street: Eight store fronts are empty and for rent; there are three more just off Thayer, plus several second floor units as well.”

Dulgarian said he has spoken with Councilman Samuel Zurier, whose Ward 2 includes Thayer Street. 

“I’ve spoken with Councilman Zurier,” said Dulgarian. “He's an astute, knowledgeable man. He is concerned, and wanted to see stats, which we provided. But there’s a saying — it’s a long distance from the teacup to the mouth.”

Zurier told GoLocal on Thursday that he met with Thayer Street business owners recently, but was prepared to facilitate another meeting - with the Administration. 

“I met with business owners a couple of months ago and offered to facilitate a meeting with them and administration.” said Zurier. “I recommended that they assemble some data. It appears they've assembled some data, so at some point soon I'll follow up to see about a meeting.”

“The business owners believe they can make a case that meters have affected the value of their business and city's tax revenue beyond the gains made from meter revenue, so I asked them to assemble data to see if that's the case,” said Zurier. “I predict we'll have a meeting at some point soon."

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#3

Fired Providence City Worker Gets Multimillion-Dollar Contract from Elorza Administration

This is a true "only in Providence kind of story."

A GoLocal exclusive:

In 2012, David Pontarelli was fired by the City of Providence for being a “no-show” worker and taking city property for use at a night club that he simultaneously managed, while working for the city.

GoLocalProv has learned that Mayor Jorge Elorza’s administration has awarded a multimillion-dollar lease to group of companies - which include Pontarelli - giving him a management interest in Providence’s iconic Waterplace Park.  

The contract was issued by the Parks Department and approved by the Board of Contract and Supply, which Elorza chairs.

A Target 12 investigation in 2012 had tracked Pontarelli for a total of 120 hours and found that on Providence taxpayer time, he repeatedly went to have his eyebrows threaded, did work for his other job and went shopping.  

Regarding Pontarelli, Tim White of WPRI said he “soaks up the sun and dines on the Hill.”

Providence-based MM Assets and Boston-based Delpidio Group recently won control of Waterplace and Pontarelli has stepped forward in numerous press events to talk about his vision for Waterplace. 

Pontarelli’s new venture has been branded Skyline and a press release in March, Pontarelli said, “Skyline at Waterplace will breathe new life into Providence…I can see clearly how Skyline at Waterplace will push Providence to the next level.”

At the time of the WPRI investigation, Pontarelli’s behavior was roundly criticized.

“It is outrageous and maddening,” said then Mayor Angel Taveras after being shown the video of Pontarelli, “It's a horrible example. I won’t stand for it.” 

Pontarelli was first suspended and later fired by the Taveras administration, according to press reports.

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#2

Raimondo, Commerce Give $3.6M to “One of Most Dishonest and Unscrupulous” Developers

This was the first in nearly two dozen stories that raised questions about the process -- and review -- of how RI Commerce and its Chair, Governor Gina Raimondo, make decisions about economic development priorities. This GoLocal investigation is ongoing and the tax credits are under review.

Governor Gina M. Raimondo and the Board of the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation voted to provide Urban Smart Growth — which is run by controversial developer Lance Robbins — up to a maximum of $3,569,657 in Rebuild Rhode Island Tax Credits.

However, one of the top advocacy lawyers in the country, Lauren Saunders, told GoLocalProv.com following the announcement on Tuesday, “Robbins was one of the most dishonest and unscrupulous people I have come across in my career working for vulnerable tenants and consumers. I cannot imagine entrusting any (public) money to him.”

Saunders, who is Associate Director of the National Consumer Law Center in Washington, DC, had battled with Robbins when she represented tenants in Los Angeles, CA where Robbins operated before relocating to Rhode Island.

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#1

RI Tourism Campaign

Most Rhode Islanders can't tell you if Rhode Island overspent by giving Johnson & Johnson $6 million (or $80,000 per job) to bring 75 jobs to RI, but everyone could decipher that the $5 million tourism campaign's logo was dreadful, the tagline "cooler and warner" was insulting, and you don't show images of Iceland to promote your New England state.

GoLocal unveiled many of the errors and omissions and the story became a national embarrassment. 

Sadly, the Governor called Rhode Islanders cynical and now for the better part of a year the efforts to grow an important part of the State's economy has been stalled. READ MORE

 
 

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