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INVESTIGATION: URI President Spent Nearly $500,000 on Repairs for Taxpayer-Funded Home

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

 

Since 2009, the University of Rhode Island has conducted a variety of renovations to President David Dooley’s on-campus residence, costing the state more than $460,000 in the process.

According to information obtained through a public records request, the repairs were made to bring the house up to full-time occupancy status after being used exclusively for functions in the previous seven years. Former President Robert Carothers did not live in the home.

Among the most expensive renovations include $211,897 for what the University called basic building repairs, $127,287 for interior renovations, and $55,208 for furnishings and rugs for public spaces.

Other expenses include $39,200 for irrigation systems for grounds and beds, $18,580 for telecommunications updating and $4,573 for landscaping and $960 in moving fees.

“Over the tenure of the previous three University Presidents, the house was initially occupied, but in the outer years of their tenure it was only used for functions,” said URI Assistant Director of Communications and Marketing Dave Lavallee. “The building was in need of a major exterior envelope and interior systems work as well as renovation and modernization.”

Dooley moved into the residence, located on 56 Upper College Road in Kingston, when he was named President in July 2009 and the property still serves as a space for functions. In 2010, the house played host to 48 events, 46 in 2011, and is scheduled to hold 42 events by the end of this year.

Despite the need for the building to pull double duty, not all Rhode Islanders see the need to pour nearly a half million dollars into a single state university property.

“This seems very excessive,” said State Representative Doreen Costa. “There are so many cuts being made to the disabled, maybe the money could have been used there. We are always talking about cuts to schools, music programs, etc. This money would have went a long way.”

Cuts in State Aid

According to the most recent Grapevine study, Rhode Island spent $163.5 million on higher education in 2011-2012, not including federal monies. That figure has dropped from $196.4 million in 2006-07.

In 2008, student athletes on campus felt the consequences of budget cuts when the field hockey, men’s tennis, and swimming teams were eliminated as part of a series of campus-wide cutbacks.

URI is not the only state university whose spending on behalf of its president has recently come into question. Earlier this year, the Dayton Daily News reported that Ohio State University (OSU) spent more than $895,000 for gatherings at the president’s mansion between April 2008 and June 2011, and blew through over $64,000 on bow ties, bow tie cookies, and O-H and bow tie pins for President Gordon Gee (the former Brown University President) and others to distribute. Since becoming President of OSU October 2007, Gee has reportedly racked up nearly $7.7 million in expenses.

Rhode Island Statewide Coalition (RISC) executive director Donna Perry also questioned the renovations considering the state’s current budgetary squeeze.

“In light of a recent report that noted URI is not keeping pace with other comparable state schools in terms of facilities and infrastructure, it would seem that spending over $400,000 on furnishings and remodeled rooms for the University President’s residence is an inappropriate use of state tax dollars when clearly other building facilities needs exist at the campus,” said Perry.

State Senator Wants More Info

Regardless of the steep costs of the renovations during a harsh economic climate, State Senator Louis DiPalma, a member of the Senate Education Committee, said he’d like to learn more about the expenses.

“From the outside, it does appear to be a high number,” said DiPalma. “I’d like to speak to someone in the University’s Controllers Office and see exactly what the money was used for. I’d like more information.”
 

 

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Comments:

but the URI Sports Institute situation remains unresolved..not an indictment, not a charge..SILENCE
the $500K is DISGUSTING...but watch what follows !!!

Comment #1 by frank bentley on 2012 12 18

Should be paying attention Doreen

Comment #2 by tom brady on 2012 12 18

and yet a ninth year has come and gone where the University has promised and failed to upgrade members of the University Police Department to a decent wage. This failure has caused a lawsuit between the two unions that the police are in. Patrolman and a Captain in one, and the Lieutenants and a Sergeant in another. The Patrolman are SEVERELY underpaid and have been promised to be "upgraded" for years. Since they have not, they have sued the other union trying to oust the Lieutenants and Sergeant from their positions...The University could EASILY solve this with the stroke of a pen...the total cost? Probably about $85.000. Instead, money is being spent on attorneys not only by one union but by the individuals themselves...I can see the frustration from the patrolmen's point of view when they spend more than what the total upgrade would cost on mulch for commencement....

Comment #3 by Kenneth Olsen on 2012 12 18

Although the $500K as a lump is eye opening the fact that the building is used as a residence and meeting facility seems reasonable. Especially if the meetings are beneficial to the university.
The schools total budget may reflect many ways to economize.

Comment #4 by Gary Arnold on 2012 12 18

They take hard working people’s pensions and cola saying the state is broke but ironically the same hard working taxpayers are paying for self serving Dooley to renovate his home at URI? This angers me to no end.
The state claims no money and they take away people’s pensions while this guy spends money like water? Who gave him the right to spend a half a million dollars to renovate the house that is not even his permanently? He is a guest there as President and money spent to renovate should be vented. Where is the transparency…the vigilance of watching where the tax money goes…the monitoring of the dollar especially after the International Institute of sport scandal still unresolved down at URI.
This state is not broke. This state has money for scams and scandals that the public finds out months and months later through investigative reports.
The politicians and those in charge of taxpayer money at the colleges are a bunch of liars, starting from Gina Raimondo who used scare tactics and cooking the financial numbers to her advantage knowing the GA politicians are clueless as to how the pension system works with its actuarial reports, its accounting of liabilities, assets, investment strategy, etc.
These inept sheeple politicians passed the bill because Fox told them to and because they could not show their embarrassment of ignorance on how the pension system works. They bought Raimondo’s Kool-Aid hook, line and sinker so as not to appear that they were ignorant in such matters, Many can’t even do their own income tax-they hire tax preparers and accountants, never mind understand the propaganda report called Truth in Numbers which I call “Making the pension financial scene look bad to the public Numbers”…
If the state is broke, why isn’t there oversight to big money being spent? Why is DePalma sticking his neck out NOW asking for accountability? And he is on the education committee. Why isn’t there a committee to monitor just the expenses of URI since it is one of the biggest entities of RI and a huge source of tax payer money?
It would seem that spending over $400,000 on furnishings and remodeled rooms for the University President’s residence is an inappropriate use of state tax dollars. (Did someone’s pension money that they put in with their paycheck, get used for some piece of furniture Dooley bought? lol))
There needs to be a group of people, honest with no self serving, personal agenda, maybe retired people, where they can watch the taxpayers’ money not be used for scams and scandals; who can go through the state expenditures in every avenue so that stories like this one about Dooley don’t make the headlines in a state that is supposedly “broke.” Wait! Didn’t Dooley make headlines before…with the International Institute, with his exorbitant salary and what about the salary of URI’s football coach? Wasn’t he making the most in salary in this state before he was discovered?
This spending of taxpayer money has to stop. Agencies need to be monitored better. We just had a terrible tragedy in Sandy Hook School occur and now they are monitoring safety precautions again. Shouldn’t the monitoring of money that taxpayers are forced to give the state also be monitored carefully? Taxpayers have to cut down when their finances are decreasing. State budgets need to be decreased as well. So what gives Dooley the right to use state money for personal furnishings? Let him use his own personal salary …we pay for that, too!
And if there is money for Dooley's renovations, there is money also for pensions and I bet social programs like hiring more mental health staff for schools (social workers & psychologists) as well....

Comment #5 by dis gusted on 2012 12 18

What a terrible article. URI get's very little state aid. URI functions mostly on it tuition revenue. So instead of everybody but getting hot and bothered, which is clearly the purpose behind this crappy GoLocal piece (because GoLocal hates to do actual research before printing something to sensationalize), try and take a look at the bigger picture.

Comment #6 by John T on 2012 12 18

Go figure, the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.

Comment #7 by Mark St. Pierre on 2012 12 18

This is why your paper loses credibility with most readers. Try and get the facts before you start writing garbage. These were renovations that needed to be done in order to make the house viable for someone to live in it. I really am sick and tired of your paper constantly bashing the University of Rhode Island. When was the last time you published a positive article on URI? President Dooley in his short time as president has done remarkable things at our university. Far more than Dr. Carothers. Do you guys write about that? No? I am a proud alumni of the university and am sickened to constantly read the bad press you give my alma mater by writing negative articles. Do you ever think that maybe potential students go to the president's house and that maybe it needs to be up to standards so they will choose URI over other schools? I live in Connecticut now and am amazed at the amount of support and money that is alloted to UCONN, the state's major university. This money is then put into the university to make it a more attractive place for students to go which brings revenue back to the state ten fold. URI is the state's only major university and a good one at that. I think the state of RI and this paper need to focus on the positive things that this president is doing for our university rather than the negatives.

Comment #8 by David Kaletski on 2012 12 18

maybe we should approve of another bond for the colleges lol

Comment #9 by anthony sionni on 2012 12 18

It seems like this house was suffering from decades of neglect from previous presidents, who probably didn't want to invest in the place because of just this type of public backlash. And they likely didn't want to live there because it sounds like the place was a dump. Don't forget that URI only receives about 10% of its funding from taxes, so it's not likely that you and I payed this bill, at least not all of it. Also any government institution is required by law to pay Prevailing Wage which can add 5-15% to the cost of a renovation above what you and I would pay. This "Investigation" which I'm sure took all of 15 minutes to look up some numbers was clearly written to inflame RI taxpayers.

Comment #10 by Puzzl ed on 2012 12 18

460k over three years to catch up on the building being neglected seems within reason to me.
The fact it is used for functions (that hopefully bring in income) at about four a month is good. It is our property it should have never gotten so far into disrepair.

There are many buildings the State should be taking care of, this is something that annoys me about the State. GoLocal should look into abandon buildings the State owns and report to us so we can ask our Reps questions about them.
A few that come to mind are buildings at the Howard complex some of which are being torn down. The Welcome Center building on 95 that has now been closed for a few years. The Ladd School buildings that they haven't torn down yet, but remain vacant. These are facilities that belong to us and are not being utilized for our benefit. Even just opening the grounds for recreation would be a step in the right direction.

The State continues to waste money in other areas that must be looked into, but I don't think spending money on facilities that help us all is a bad thing.

Comment #11 by Wuggly Ump on 2012 12 18

@David, Wuggly, & Puzzled - All great points.

@Anthony Sionni - Your constant negative commenting is sickening. Maybe if you spent half the time you spend on blogs and used it to fill out job applications, you would be able to get job and be off unemployment. It's really ridiculous all the hate you spew.

Comment #12 by John T on 2012 12 18

For that amount of money, you could build a new house. Stop spending my money.

Comment #13 by Joaquim de Amorim on 2012 12 18

lol @john t , if you only knew what your talking about, nice to know you think you know everything about me. You may not agree with what I say but its not negative, its reality!

Whats nice about the internet, is you can go on any time, weather it be 2 in the morning or 6 pm. I dont make negative comments, I point out what is wrong and keep people like taveras from making himself think he is the best thing since sliced bread.

Comment #14 by anthony sionni on 2012 12 19

"John T

11:28am on Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What a terrible article. URI get's very little state aid. URI functions mostly on it
tuition revenue."


Yeah and they increase the tuition rates to refurnish this guys house lol Your missing the point, its money that could be used for other more important things, and it is tax payer money, regardless if its 50 bucks! wake up johnny!!!

Comment #15 by anthony sionni on 2012 12 19

this article is not about Sionni..grow up..he has his right to say whatever he wants, whenever he wants..as for you "enablers" there are dorms & classrooms w/out screens on windows, w/out railings & antiquated heat but its ok for the PREZ to get $500K to wine & dine..r u people effin nuts..r u? John T..go back to EG

Comment #16 by frank bentley on 2012 12 19

@anthony @frank

You people don't have a clue what your talking about. There is a reason why UCONN is the top regional public school, and that's because the state invests in it. URI doesn't get the luxury. The house serves a valid purpose, as explained above. @Frank, I just graduated from URI two years ago. They just built new dorms, are you crazy? @anthony, you don't point out anything useful. You just sit and cry about everything. Your answer to things is to try and get some wack job like Gemma elected. I don't know how you can think Taveras is doing a bad job considering he took over the city at such a terrible time. What else could you do? Out of the $361,316,587 revenue URI has, $57,352,670 comes from the state. URI raises most of it's own cash, let it do what it wants with it to try and compete with the other regional schools.

Comment #17 by John T on 2012 12 19

i bet a majority of taxpayers in RI cannot come anywhere near being able to provide those types of updates for their own homes, and that would innclude spreading the 460K or so over 10 years..

the notion that it is used primarily for functions does not make me feel better.

Comment #18 by Mateo C on 2012 12 19

well lets take away the 57 million and let them do anything they want! Look at what s been going on with the international institute?

As far as Taveras is concerned, if you follow everything closely you will see all the stuff he does , like giving raises to his friends during the financial crisis and having the tax payers pay for his staff to park at the Biltmore to the tune of over 100k, maybe you think thats ok, but I dont!!! Thats just a small part, I could write a book, I frequent city hall and keep track of whats going on, most people have no clue except what they hear on tv!

Comment #19 by anthony sionni on 2012 12 19

Also Gemma is no whack job, hes been pretty successful and he would do a better job than most people in any government job!

Comment #20 by anthony sionni on 2012 12 19

jOHN t..MY APOLOGY..I am so humbled to be within the actual presence of a URI grad..blow it out of your a*s..URI-ne
Sionni works for a living not sits back w/his diploma under his a*s waiting for Zuck to recruit him..d-bag

Comment #21 by frank bentley on 2012 12 20

Why is their no article about the $2 million yearly subsidy that PC gets for playing on the new Dunk almost free of charge, or the $25 million cost overrun on the Dunk, or the fact that the Dunk will cost the state 1/4 a billion dollars over the next 25 years? At least the Presidents house at URI is a house owned by the State, where the City of Prov owned the Dunk.

Comment #22 by Tony Ricci on 2012 12 21

Hold on! He didn't spend it his "personal" residence!

The residence of the President of URI was upgraded, not only to reflect the Office but to welcome visitors and their ilk.

I'm afraid you headlines and story telling is becoming somewhat a tad sensationalizing.

Sad, indeed.
John Gallagher

Comment #23 by john Gallagher on 2012 12 22




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