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Russell Moore: Taveras and Cronyism

Monday, May 05, 2014

 

All these fiascoes are a sad commentary on a Mayor who entered his position with so much promise, believes Russell Moore.

Give Providence Mayor Angel Taveras credit: he can get away with shenanigans that "good government" groups would be up in arms over had anyone else done them.

Golocalprov.com reported last week that Taveras awarded his former chief of staff, Michael D'Amico a $200 per hour city contract to consult with him on the city budget. This contract was hammered out while D'Amico was still serving as the mayor's $196,000 per year chief of staff.

I would've personally told the Mayor for free that he raised taxes so much last year that he doesn't need to raise them again this year. To me, it seems pretty convenient that he's running for Governor this year.

The great negotiator?

For a guy that goes around the state bragging about how much of a great negotiator he is, it sure doesn't sound like he was being very tough on D'Amico—his childhood friend.

I know that some people aren't very mathematically inclined, so let me just point out that that accounts to a very big raise. When D'Amico was making $196,000 per year, he was making roughly $95 per hour for his work. Last time I checked, $200 is more than double that based on an hourly rate.

Given his performance here, I sure don't want Taveras negotiating on behalf of my money.

And, how could I have forgotten, the contract assumes that D'Amico can't afford to pay for his own travel expenses either, so the taxpayers will also have to pick them up. Nobody would expect Mr. D'Amico to have to pay for his own parking, would we? The horror!

The rules don’t apply

Here's the kicker: all this was done in such a way so as to avoid city rules. Under the rules set forth by both city ordinance and the city charter, any purchase of services between $500 and $5,000 must be made by the director of public property by going out to bid. Any purchases worth $5,000 or more must go out to bid and go before the Board of Contract and Supply.

But apparently, when you're Angel Taveras, you don't have to follow the rules. So this deal never went out to bid. And the city council never got the chance to vet this deal.

Kudos to former Council President and Acting Mayor, and current State Representative John Lombardi as well as current councilman Kevin Jackson and Sabina Matos for speaking out against this latest affront.

Where’s the outrage?

Did we hear anything from any of Rhode Island's scores of "good government" groups? Common Cause? Rhode Island Tea Party? Ocean State Tea Party In Action? Rhode Island Taxpayer? From each of those supposed good government groups, all we could hear were the sound of crickets chirping.

Good government processes exist for a reason. They're not feel good measures. Had this contract been sent out to bid, other organizations, companies, and people could have offered their services at a lower price.

Cronyism

Then, even if Taveras had his heart set on hiring his childhood friend (what a way to go about business), he could have had a better idea of what rate of pay he should have been awarded.

Trust me on this one, Providence surely could have found someone to do this cheaper than $200 per hour. Remember that next times you pay the sales tax or income tax, as Providence gets scores of revenue from the state sales tax.

You really can't blame Mr. D'Amico. He wasn't elected by the people of Providence to be a financial watchdog for their best interests. The man has always really been a businessman at heart. Most people would do just about anything for $200 an hour.

Taveras, however, is a completely different story. First, he negotiates a pension settlement with the city employees that merely puts off the city's financial crisis long enough for him to run for Governor. The Providence pension system, after his much-heralded "reforms", is by his own numbers, funded at 31 percent. Moody's analysis says it's funded at 22 percent. That's pathetic.

Whomever is unlucky enough to be elected the city's next Mayor is going to have some serious problems to deal with—another "Category 5 hurricane" if you will.

Bullying and deception

To add insult to injury, Taveras has the nerve to compare his negotiated pension "reforms" to those proposed by General Treasurer Gina Raimondo and enacted by the legislature. It's like comparing a sand castle to one of The Great Pyramids.

Then he closed the Davey pool last year because councilman Davian Sanchez followed his conscience and refused to vote against his severely flawed budget last year that raised taxes while providing no structural changes to city government. The pool was located in Sanchez's district.

All these fiascoes are a sad commentary on a Mayor who entered his position with so much promise. Everyone wanted to root for Taveras, myself included, a man who went from "Head Start to Harvard".

But at the same time, one would like to think that he learned more than cronyism, bullying tactics, and deception at the Ivy League school.

 

A native Rhode Islander, Russell J. Moore is a graduate of Providence College and St. Raphael Academy. He worked as a news reporter for 7 years (2004-2010), 5 of which with The Warwick Beacon, focusing on government. He continues to keep a close eye on the inner workings of Rhode Islands state and local governments.

 

Related Slideshow: Taveras’ Staff Revolving Door

Prev Next

J.R. Pagliarini

Role: Chief of Staff; Senior Executive Advisor

Left: December 18, 2012

Pagliarini served as Taveras' Chief of Staff before transitioning to Senior Executive Advisor. He left the Mayor's staff to accept a position at the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation (EDC).

See more of GoLocal's coverage of Pagliarini's resignation here. 

Prev Next

Michael Raia

Role: Communications Director

Left: December 17, 2012

Just before Pagliarini's departure, Michael Raia resigned as Taveras' Director of Communications. Raia left to assume the position of director of media relations and marketing for WGBH, the Boston-based public broadcasting station.

See more from GoLocalProv on Raia's departure here.

Prev Next

Arianne Lynch

Role: Deputy Chief of Staff

Left: November 30, 2013

Lynch tendered her resignation in October 2013, after she served as spokeswoman for Taveras' transition team during the interim between his election and inauguration. Lynch began her work with Taveras during his mayoral campaign. Previous to her recent work in city politics, Lynch was a managing director at the lobbying and PR firm Advocacy Solutions.

Prev Next

Melissa Withers

Role: Communications Director

Left: September 10, 2011

Melissa Withers was one of Taveras' earliest appointments, as communications director in December 2010. A former director of communications for the RI Economic Development Corporation, Withers resigned only nine months into her tenure.

Prev Next

Matt Jerzyk

Role: Deputy City Solicitor, Director of Policy and Municipal Affairs, Director of Government Relations and Senior Counsel to the Mayor

Left: January, 2014

Jerzyk resigned his position along with colleague Arianne Lynch in October of 2013, staying on at City Hall until the year's end. Jerzyk was a key staff member during Taveras' successful mayoral run, and was soon appointed as part of the mayoral staff. Jerzyk is currently consulting for The Hamilton Group, which is consulting with mayoral candidate Michael Solomon. 

Editor's Note: Matt Jerzyk used to write GoLocalProv's Side of the Rhode: Who’s Hot and Who’s Not in Rhode Island Politics column. 

Prev Next

Will Farrell

Role: City Council and Statehouse Relations

Left: January 31, 2014

Farrell, a key staffer, was charged with wrangling with the City Council on behalf of the Taveras Administration. Farrell said that he departed to "pursue other opportunities in government relations," though he voiced his "strong support" for Taveras' ongoing gubernatorial effort.

Prev Next

Angela Romans

Role: Senior Education Advisor

Left: May 20, 2013

Romans, who once took the helm of the Taveras administration's school policy, assumed a new role in May of last year when she joined the Annenberg Institute for Social Reform at Brown University. Romans joined AISR’s District Redesign & Leadership (DR&L) as a principal associate. She had worked 11 years at Brown as Associate Director of Admission.

Prev Next

Peter Baptista

Role: Finance Director

Left: November 15, 2013

Soon after resigning his position as Finance Director, for Taveras' gubernatorial campaign, Peter Baptista has signed on with The Hamilton Group, a Democratic consulting organization that he helped to found before joining the Providence mayor's staff. The Hamilton Group has signed on to work with mayoral hopeful Michael Solomon

Prev Next

Liz White

Role: Deputy Director of Communications & Media Relations

Left: February 2014

White is the latest in the Taveras adminstration's string of outgoing staffers. Her resignation was confirmed Thursday, February 27th, adding to the long list of political talent who have departed from City Hall since last winter began.

Prev Next

Mike D'Amico

Role: Chief of Staff

Left: February, 2014

Considered the Mayor's alter ego and de facto Deputy Mayor, the loss of D'Amico may mean more than change in the top spot. It could mean a dramatic shift in strategy, a yet unannounced decision to halt the run for Governor and try and stay in City Hall or Taveras could pull a Patrick Lynch and not run for Governor and take his campaign money and go back to private practice.

Read D'Amico's bio

 
 

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