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State Report: Medical Pot, Central Falls Corruption & Educating Poll Workers

Saturday, November 24, 2012

This week, the State Report centers on a pair of Central Fall stories: it’s upgraded bond rating and ex-Mayor Charles Moreau’s guilty plea to corruption charges. Additionally, we examine Sen. Jabour’s proposal that would require poll workers to take additional training classes.
Aside from Jabour’s proposal, AG Kilmartin’s plea to Congress for extended tax relief for struggling homeowners is also on the docket. Lastly, what weekly roundup would be complete without a medical marijuana-related story? Keep reading to discover the details.

Former Central Falls mayor pleads guilty to corruption

Ex-Mayor of Central Falls Charles Moreau pleaded guilty to a federal charge of corruption on Monday, admitting that he granted a lucrative city contract to a political supporter in return for gifts.
Moreau, who faces up to 10 years in prison, said on Monday that he was unaware the activity was illegal, but takes responsibility for his actions. “People make mistakes in life, and I made a mistake. I’m going to pay for it,” said Moreau outside the courthouse on Monday.
Moreau’s friend and political supporter Michael Bouthillette entered his own guilty plea on Monday, acknowledging that he paid in part for a furnace installed at Moreau’s former residence in Central Falls and for renovations at Moreau’s Lincoln home. In return, Bouthillette received a lucrative city contract to board up vacant homes. Bouthillette boarded up about 167 homes between 2007 and 2009, making hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits.
Prosecutors are expected to seek prison time for both men. Court documents indicate that prosecutors would recommend at least one year for Bouthillette and upwards of 10 for Morneau.
A court-appointed receiver filed for bankruptcy on behalf of Central Falls in August 2011. The city emerged out bankruptcy in October.

Central Falls’ bond rating gets upgraded

In other Central Falls news, Standard and Poor’s Rating Services has upgraded the city’s long-term bond credit rating to BB with a stable outlook. The new rating is a noticeable improvement from the city’s previous rating of C with a developing outlook.
Standard & Poor’s point to the city’s quick balancing of the budget and successful emergence from bankruptcy as the main factors for the rating upgrade.
“The upgrade reflects active state oversight of the city's financial operations and an approved six-year operating plan that maintains structural balance after the city emerged from Chapter 9 bankruptcy without defaulting on its long-term General Obligation debt,” according to the Standard & Poor’s Rating Services report.
Central Falls Director of Revenue Rosemary Booth Gallogly added:
"We are pleased that Standard and Poor's Rating Services has recognized the efforts of the State and the City in developing a stable fiscal framework for Central Falls. Over the next few months, the State and the City will work together on the transition to local control of city government. The implementation of the six-year financial plan and the balancing of the budget was critical to this rating change as was the successful emergence from bankruptcy."

Sen. Jabour proposes increased poll worker education

On Tuesday, Sen. Paul Jabour announced his intention to introduce legislation requiring poll workers to take additional training courses. Poll workers are currently required to participate in one training session before Election Day, but Sen. Jabour’s bill would require election workers to attend two classes per year, including non-election years.
“Voting is so important, and yet we hire different people to run the polls every year, and give them very little in the way of training or preparation. They need to be given the resources they need to respond swiftly and correctly to all the of the common problems encountered at the polls on Election Day so every voter gets the opportunity to vote in a timely manner,” said Sen. Jabour (D-Dist. 5, Providence).
Although not finalized, Sen. Jabour may also propose breaking up Election Day into different shifts, rather than requiring poll workers to work from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Lessening the work load may decrease exhaustion and make the day run more easily, said Sen. Jabour. Also, shorter shifts may encourage a wider variety of candidates to apply for poll worker positions, he added.
“For the sake of both the voters and those who work the polls, workers should be given more professional preparation and a more reasonable workday. We’re asking a lot of those workers, and considering the importance of what they’re doing, we should be better enabling them,” he said.
Sen. Jabour’s announcement comes two weeks after several Providence polling locations experienced long lines on Election Day. In some instances, voters were forced to wait two to three hours in line.

Kilmartin urges Congress to extend tax relief for distressed homeowners 

Attorney General Peter Kilmartin has joined 41 other attorneys general in an attempt to get the U.S. Congress to extend tax relief for homeowners who have mortgage debt or financial hardships. Consumer tax relief will expire on December 31, 2012 if Congress does not grant an extension.
The tax relief expiration comes at a time when countless homeowners are taking advantage of the $25 billion national settlement agreement with the country’s five largest loan servicing companies. Over 1,000 Rhode Islanders have received more than $73 million as a result of the decision, according to Kilmartin.
“I urge Congress to extend this critical tax exclusion so that the very families who least can afford it are not stuck with an unexpected tax bill at the end of the year,” said Kilmartin. “The mortgage modification and debt relief programs under the National Mortgage Settlement are providing real relief to homeowners fighting to keep their homes and trying to get back on their feet. Unless Congress acts, any progress made to right the housing market by the debt relief provided under the National Mortgage Settlement, as well as other mortgage debt relief programs, will likely be undone.”
Over 7,500 homes have been foreclosed on in Rhode Island since January 2009; the majority of which were in Providence.

Medical marijuana health assessment company ordered to close 

On Wednesday, the state Health Department ordered a Providence medical marijuana “health assessment” company to close its doors because it was not licensed.
Located at 400 Reservoir Ave., 11th State Consultations was assessing people to determine whether they qualify for medical marijuana. The company’s website describes the company’s goal as follows:
“Our goal is to continually educate others of the amazing medicinal uses of cannabis through educational campaigns along with keeping all members of the community updated with the current status of the Rhode Island Medical Marijuana program. We also hope to assist all those who qualify for the program and wish to enter.”
Despite its intentions, 11th State Consultations, which is operated by Tom Focarelli and Maria Petrucci, is not a licensed health-care facility. The Heath Department has given the company 10 days to shut down operations and stop advertising its services. A hearing has been set for Nov. 30.
The company’s website is currently operation and available to view HERE.

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