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New: Block Files Criminal Complaint Against State Properties Comm.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014


Ken Block

GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Block has announced he is filing a criminal complaint against the State Properties Committee -- as well as Director of Administration, Richard Licht.

Block is charging that the committee has committed multiple open meeting violations, including the lack of posting meeting minutes.  See statement from Block below.  

The committee is chaired by Ronald Renaud in the Department of Administration, and consists of representatives from the department, the Attorney General's Office, and General Treasurer's Office.   In addition, Block is charging that the two public seats on the committee have not been filled --  and have remained open -- in the past 18 months.  


Parole Office Location Revisited

Richard Licht

The State Properties Committee had recently approved the move of a parole office from the current Prairie Street location with the Urban League, who is looking to sell the building, to a downtown location on Fountain Street.

Following the move, public opposition arose to the awarding of the contract.  On January 6, Licht announced that the State Properties Committee would re-open the process to seek proposals for a new space for the Providence Office of Probation and Parole, and issued the following statement:

"Out of respect for the concerns raised by the downtown business community, the Department of Administration (DOA) has decided to again seek proposals for space for the Providence Office of Probation and Parole. The DOA previously had conducted an open competitive bid process during the Summer of 2000 and only received one response from the Urban League, which is the existing landlord."

He continued, "Recently, the Urban League has entered into an agreement to sell its property, and the facility is no longer available. Due to the lack of bids, the DOA and the Department of Corrections proposed to relocate these offices in an existing building that houses other State of Rhode Island functions."

Created in 1953, the State Properties Committee, in cooperation with Departments, Boards, Bureaus, Commissions and Agencies of the State, exists for the purpose of acquiring, administering and disposing of interests in land and other real property for the improvement of State Government.

Statement from Block

"Denying the public its right to learn what the board is doing and who is making the decisions is exactly the kind of secretive behavior that brought us the 38 Studios fiasco," said Block in a State House press conference Tuesday. "The Open Meetings Act requires all public bodies to post minutes of their meetings on the Secretary of State's public web site. For ten meetings during 2013 no minutes have been filed; for one other meeting, minutes were filed well beyond the law's 35-day deadline.

"It's actions like this that give Rhode Island its reputation as the 'Who You Know' state, when we need to become the Transparent Government state. And the Governor, Attorney General and General Treasurer have all violated the public trust by allowing them to happen." The Properties Committee includes members appointed by the Governor, a voting member designated by the Attorney General and a non-voting member designated by the General Treasurer.

"It was at one of these meetings that this committee of administration insiders made the decision to award a no-bid lease for the state Probation and Parole office to set up shop at 40 Fountain St. in the middle of downtown Providence at more than triple the cost of its current rent," said Block. He noted that two board positions for public members have gone unfilled for a year or more, leaving the board with only state employees as members.

"Yesterday's last-minute decision to put the lease for Probation and Parole offices out to bid is a welcome recognition that the original process was completed without proper public oversight. This is the kind of thing that happens when public agencies ignore the Open Meetings Act and try to conduct their business in secret.

"Totally aside from the questionable wisdom of bringing dozens of convicted criminals into the state's retail, financial and entertainment hub every day, this lease raises serious questions about the administration's stewardship of taxpayer money. Why was there no bidding process? Couldn't the state have gotten appropriate space for lower rent in a depressed commercial rental market? With no public members and no minutes we have no way of knowing."

Block called on Governor Chafee to immediately name two qualified public members to the committee and to remove and replace his current appointees.

He called on Attorney General Kilmartin to penalize the committee for its multiple violations of the open Meetings Act.

And he called on Treasurer Raimondo to fulfill her oversight duties over the committee.

Block promised that, as Governor, he would issue executive orders holding state employees accountable if they violate the Open Meetings Act and extending from 48 hour to 96 hours the advance notice deadline for posting of agency meeting schedules and agendas.

"The public deserves to know what its government is doing, and to have the right to have its voice heard in a timely fashion - before decisions are made, not after.

Editors' note: The charges levied by Block are against the committee, and not any one individual as noted above.  


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Shay Rivera, a supervisor at the Davey Lopes Recreation Center, where the pool was closed this summer, told GoLocal,  "The teens will roll up in little packs on bikes. They'll find out the pool's not open and they'll take off. We're not stupid, we know what's going on. They're going to do something."

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Return of Dean Starkman

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"I think Rhode Island taxpayers will be blown away by these findings, if they understand what's going on, and I think I've put it in language that they can," said Siedle. "This is a shot across the bow of the hedge fund takeover of public pension funds across the country, which has been going on for close to ten years now."

Read that article here.

Siedle unveiled a 100 plus page report that called for a federal investigation regarding a number of issues relating the "withholding of material information and misrepresentations regarding state pension costs, as opposed to a lack of knowledge about the exponential growth and magnitude of the fees (tied to Wall Street Hedge Funds)." 

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