Smiley Inc - Gov’s Chief of Staff Mixes Government & Business - Sells House to Brown for $1.1M
Monday, July 31, 2017
This month, Providence City records show that he and his husband Jim DeRentis sold their house to Brown University for $1.1 million — 30% more than the assessed value of the house at $843,600.
The City of Providence set the assessed value in 2016 while Smiley was the Chief Operating Officer of the City of Providence — the value was less than what the couple had paid for the house two years earlier. The couple bought the house in May of 2014 for $895,000, but when the City re-assessed the value of the house in 2016 at just $843,600. The lower assessment took place during a time period when housing prices on the College Hill in Providence increased by nearly 20 percent.
When GoLocal first reported that Smiley was going to sell the property to Brown, the University refused to answer if they thought there was an appearance of a potential conflict, but did acknowledge that the Ivy League school was planning to purchase Smiley and his husband’s home.
"We are under contract to purchase 37 George Street, a single-family home immediately adjacent to the heart of the Brown campus and an ideal fit for our Brown to Brown Home Ownership Program, which encourages faculty and staff home ownership in College Hill," said Brian Clark, Director of News and Editorial Development for Brown in February. "We’re purchasing the property at fair market value and look forward to successfully adding it to the list of more than 15 Brown to Brown properties, many of which have been renovated, sold and added to the city’s tax rolls."
Brown, in 2016 while negotiating with Smiley and his husband to purchase the home, was also negotiating with the State of Rhode Island regarding it leasing space in the state-supported Wexford building on 195 land.
In total, Rhode Island has provided approximately $40 million in total subsidies to the Wexford project. To date, Brown and Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) are the only two tenants that have committed to the Wexford Building. It is believed that Brown is paying below market rent for the Wexford property according to sources close to the deal, but Brown, Wexford, and Commerce have all refused to disclose the rent being paid by Brown or provide the lease agreement after repeated requests by GoLocal. The three entities (Commerce, Brown, and Wexford) claim that the lease is a private business agreement between Brown and Wexford despite the approximately $40 million in state subsidies.
Smiley’s firm CFO Consulting Group, LLC has been paid more than $100,000 by the Elorza campaign -- the most recent payment according to State campaign finance report was reported in March of 2017.
More recently, Joshua Butera, a former fundraiser consultant for Smiley’s firm, has now joined the Raimondo staff starting in March of 2017.
GoLocal learned that while Smiley is negotiating with the City of Providence on behalf of Raimondo, his company was also getting paid by Elorza’s campaign.
Smiley’s firm (he also started compliance and lobbying firms) has collected the majority of the $100,000 from Elorza’s campaign during the time that Smiley has served as Raimondo’s top staffer and a period in which the Elorza administration has negotiated with state officials on everything from school aid, auto tax cuts, a potential tax on non-profits including Brown University, and the sale of the Providence Water Supply Board.
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