RI Health Looking at Mold Allegations at Brady Sullivan’s Coventry Lofts, Town Administrator Leaving
Sunday, March 18, 2018
On Friday, GoLocal reported that more than 100 tenants are complaining about adverse health issues which they believe are tied to living at the Coventry mill complex as well as two other Rhode Island-based properties rehabbed and operated by New Hampshire developer Brady Sullivan.
According to Joseph Wendelken, spokesman for the Department of Health, “Someone from the Director’s office is going to be reaching out directly to town leadership today to better understand the situation, and find out if any steps need to be taken to improve the health and safety situation for tenants.”
Town Administrator Waters in a phone call with GoLocalProv confirmed that he has received notification from the Health Department. “I have received it but have not read it,” said Waters.
Waters confirmed that he has resigned as Town Administrator and said he did not have another position, but he has been working on a graduate degree. “This is a good time to leave,” he said.
“We have multiple clients at the Lofts at Anthony Mills [in Coventry, RI] and the Pocasset Mill complex [in Johnston, RI],” said Artin Coloian, the lawyer for the tenants, in an interview for Friday's article. “We are seeing similarities in complaints with the symptoms of mold exposures and other pathogens from exposure at the property."
In Rhode Island, Brady Sullivan operates six major properties — all mill rehabs. Now, there are allegations of illness tied to three of the properties. Coloian contends that Brady Sullivan takes shortcuts when rehabbing old mill structures into residential apartments.
Those six properties are: Harris Mill Lofts in Coventry, US Rubber Lofts in Providence, Lofts at Anthony Mill in Coventry, Tourister Mill in Warren, American Wire in Pawtucket, and Lofts at Pocasset Mill in Johnston.
Health Does Not Have Jurisdiction Over Mold, but Towns Do
The Department of Health was clear that they do not have primary jurisdiction for mold and that cities and towns do in Rhode Island.
“Mold is not an environmental health issue that the Department of Health regulates or has jurisdiction over, in the way that we do with substances like asbestos, radon, and lead. Mold issues are typically managed at the city and town level,” said Wendelken.
"For that reason, we contacted Coventry’s Building Official about concerns related to the Harris Mill in the past. The town’s Building Official communicated to us that they have responded several times to issues regarding mold at the Harris Mill complex and that, when an issue was identified, the building managers have been responsive in fixing it," he added.
Only One Complaint and Inspection
The Coventry Town Administrator defended the lack of enforcement action.
Waters told GoLocal that he has read the articles about the growing number of claims against Brady Sullivan, but that the town has only received one complaint and that complaint was inspected and did find mold and remediation did take place at the Mill Lofts property.
Waters said despite the press about the number of complaints the town by policy does not do inspections without a formal complaint. “We only have two inspectors and we have 36,000 residents,” he said.
Waters also confirmed that he lives at the controversial Mill complex and said he said he does pay fair market rent.
Waters' Ethics Issue
In February, a GoLocal request for a copy of the ethics financial disclosure form for Waters was responded to with a series of confused and incomplete responses by the Rhode Island Ethics Commission. Waters became the Town Administrator in February of 2016. He is the highest-ranking official in Coventry.
Over a three-day period, Ethics Commission staff could only confirm that there was no form for Waters on file.
Lack of Tracking, Clarity, Answers
GoLocal had interaction with three different members of the staff and it became apparent that the Ethics Commission staff could not track the records and could not confirm if Waters had been noticed for non-compliance.
“The question of whether [Waters] is required to submit financial statements has not yet been addressed by the Town (Coventry). We have not sent him a form because his name has never been submitted to us,” wrote Michelle Berg, Financial Disclosure Officer of the Ethics Commission.
The Ethics Commission does not post financial disclosure forms online. Members of the public and the media must call or visit the office to access copies of the public documents. This is an aberration from practices of the majority of states where all ethics documents are posted and searchable online.
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