Meet the Mysterious Man Behind the Prov Bus Strike and $200M in School Contracts

Friday, October 05, 2018


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Photo: Flickr Clyde Robinson

Over the past three years, First Student has been paid more than $30 million by Providence and Aramark, the maintenance and custodial contractor to the Providence Schools, has earned nearly $200 million since 2005.

The man behind the deals is maybe the most unlikely “fixer” in Rhode Island politics.

Robert Struck, the former owner of Foley’s bar on Academy Avenue, is the man who has put these mega-deals together. And, as in the case of the labor dispute between First Student and Teamsters Local 251, Struck has helped to put together the response strategy for the British-owned transportation company.

Now, 76-year-old Struck has closed up his modest business office on Smith Street in Providence and sold off the building. He lives in Narragansett and he and his wife have made political donations of approximately $100,000 to many of the top politicians in Rhode Island — Democrats and Republicans.

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Former Speaker Gordon Fox

The donation list for Struck and his close family members is eclectic. It includes former Speaker of the House Gordon Fox, Attorney General candidate Peter Neronha, and Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza.

Struck has all of his political bets covered this cycle— he is a donor to both Governor Gina Raimondo and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung.

In a brief phone interview with GoLocal, when told he has made over $100,000 in donations, he said, “Please don’t tell my wife, she will get mad.”

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Governor Gina Raimondo has received $5,565 from Struck and his wife.

Struck then begged off further questions about his roles regarding some of the biggest Providence contractors. “Call Frankie [Frank McMahon] the public relations spokesman for First Students."

“Bob has worked with First Student since 2014 and he is paid according to a common monthly fee agreement. There is no conflict in his consulting services between First Student and Aramark as those companies provide different services in the State of Rhode Island,” said McMahon.

Struck cannot be found on the lobbying databases for the State of Rhode Island or the City of Providence’s list.

McMahon said he was not aware of Struck’s status as a registered lobbyist.

Contracts for this year Aramark will earn more than $17.5 million. According to the minutes of the City of Providence Board of Contract and Supply, the company received approval for the fourth year of a five year agreement.

“Purchasing Administrator Petrarca, under date of April 9, 2018, requesting approval for the School Department/Plant Maintenance & Operations-Local to award the fourth year 2017-2018 contract, with Aramark Management Services, L.P., for Facilities Management, Custodial, Maintenance and Grounds Services”-5 Year Contract/Local, which includes $16,682,143.58 for the annual Aramark Fee and $900,000.00 for supplemental services for the 2017/2018 school year, for a total amount not to exceed $17,582,143.58. (Minority Participation is 0%) (LOCAL)”

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Teamsters Local 251 picketing

In total, Aramark is slated to earn approximately $80 to $86 million over the course of this five-year contract.

And in the past three completed calendar years, First Student has earned $8.6 million in 2015, $12.7 million in 2016, and 9.7 million in 2017.

“I am a nobody. I just try to help things out,” said Struck.


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