Scoundrels Chapter 7: Politicians Protecting Their Own

Monday, February 13, 2017

 

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Each week, GoLocalProv will publish a chapter of the book Scoundrels: Defining Corruption Through Tales of Political Intrigue in Rhode Island, by Paul Caranci and Thomas Blacke. 

The book uses several infamous instances of political corruption in Rhode Island to try and define what has not been easily recognized, and has eluded traditional definition. 

The book looks at and categorizes various forms of corruption, including both active and passive practices, which have negative and deteriorating effects on the society as a whole. 

Buy the book by CLICKING HERE

Chapter 7 

Politicians Protecting Their Own

Police departments are established in jurisdictions throughout the United States for the protection of its citizens from the actions of those who would benefit from violating the laws. Most of us expect that when we call the police to report a crime, harassment or some other unlawful activity, the end result will be the administration of justice. At least that’s the expectation. But what happens when the violator is an elected official who enjoys the protection of high ranking public officials and the police in the cover-up of his actions?

Brian Quirk moved from Watertown, Massachusetts to a quiet North Providence, Rhode Island neighborhood toward the end of 1986. Brian and his wife Sharon loved their new home and began to raise their family which grew to include two sons. After almost 20 years in North Providence, however, Brian and his family became the target of, what Brian termed, systematic harassment and relentless and unjustified vengeance at the hands of a couple of neighbors with a personal ax to grind. He turned to law enforcement for help only to uncover an alleged web of deceit and collusion resulting from a perverted sense of camaraderie between the harassers and some key town officials. Those relationships obstructed any attempt for the Quirk family to obtain justice. What followed over the next 9 years is nothing short of extraordinary.

During the fall of 2005, the Quirk’s received word that Brian’s father, who along with his wife, had retired to Falmouth, MA, had terminal cancer. Treating and caring for him in Rhode Island required that the Quirks invite Brian’s parents to join his family in their North Providence home. To accommodate the expanded family, the Quirks now needed more living space, but didn’t want to leave their neighborhood. By coincidence, the larger house right next door to the Quirk’s home was listed for sale. The Quirks inquired of the Realtor and learned that the owner was negotiating with two parties that were dead  locked with prices substantially less than the asking price. The Quirk’s responded by submitting a bid offering the full price of $329,999.00. Eventually, one of the other parties, relatives of the Quirk's neighbors,  purchased the home for the much higher price, but they apparently blamed the Quirks for driving up the cost.

Still without any prospects of a new home by spring 2006, the Quirks made a decision to simply build an addition on their existing home in order to provide the space necessary to accommodate Brian’s parents. The Quirks hired a contractor and decided to make a photo album chronicling the various stages of construction. While taking pictures of the improvements, Brian had his first run-in with another neighbor, Joseph Giammarco, a state worker. An irate, and perhaps guilt-ridden Giammarco, accused Quirk of taking pictures of him while he was using a RI Department of Transportation vehicle to transport trees and shrubs to his home, something he probably should not have been doing, according to Quirk.

These two unrelated incidents led to the formation of an alliance between the two neighbors determined to unleash the most heinous and cowardly acts of harassment and torment against the Quirks throughout the last few months of Brian’s father’s life and beyond. As Brian explained to the North Providence Town Council both verbally and through the submission of detailed official documents, the neighbors' actions, “spawned by vindictiveness and the aid of certain town officials,” gave the neighbors cause for delight.

It started in March of 2006 with late night harassing phone calls in which the caller would not speak. On April 20th however, during one of a string of harassing phone calls, the caller left a message accusing Quirk of “not being man enough to speak with him” and threatening to “run [them] out of the neighborhood and burn down the house.” 

The caller also left his name; Joe Giammarco. This threat proved to the Quirks that Giammarco was confrontational, irrational and dangerous and prompted the first incident report taken by the North Providence Police who listened to the message. By May 25th, Giammarco’s threats against the Quirks took on new meaning as both of the Quirks vehicles were damaged while parked outside their home in apparent retaliation for Quirk calling the police. Just three weeks later, the Quirk’s awakened to find that the tires on both their vehicles had been slashed overnight. The damaged tires were replaced only to be slashed again the following night.

Giammarco meanwhile, was having problems in his own family. Giammarco had been drinking again, and his wife had had enough. On July 23, 2006, when his wife and son failed to come home, Giammarco filed a missing person report with the North Providence Police. The police eventually located the missing pair who acknowledged that “they were fine, but had had it with his [Joe Giammarco’s] drinking."

The following month, the police arrived at the home of Brian Quirk informing him that, as the result of an anonymous complaint, he would have to remove his son’s basketball hoop which violated the Town’s ordinance. Despite the existance of hundreds of similar hoops scattered at other homes throughout the Town, the Quirks complied.  

Around the same time, the Quirks began receiving late night pizza deliveries to their home, pizza that they never ordered! On September 8th, Giammarco, who was now a candidate for the North Providence Town Council, again threatened Quirk, this time yelling at Brian for parking his car on the street outside Quirks home which Giammarco considered to be too close to his home. “I told you not to park there,” Giammarco screamed, “I guess you didn’t learn your lesson," an obvious reference, Quirk believed, to the slashed tires. "When I’m elected, I’m running you and your family out of town.” Giammarco wasn’t elected, however, as he failed to garner enough votes to win the September primary.

Toward the end of that month, after retiring to bed for the evening, the Quirk family was awakened by several loud explosion type bangs. Startled, they immediately vacated the premises as a safety precaution. While outside, Quirk caught a glimpse of Giammarco leaving the yard of an abutting neighbor’s property and immediately called the police. Upon arriving on the scene, police discovered that several pieces of cut lumber (2 X 3s) had been thrown against Quirk’s house. Unfortunately for Giammarco, the pieces still had the store bar codes attached and police were quickly able to match them to similar pieces of cut lumber by matching bar codes on the wood piled up in Giammarco’s yard. Police also discovered a power miter saw covered in fresh saw dust.

On October 19, 2006, Giammarco was arrested by the North Providence Police for his actions against the Quirks. What happened next, according to Brian Quirk, was both shocking and appalling! Captain Joseph Sanita assured the Quirks that the police prosecutor would follow through with a court hearing and there was no longer any need for the Quirks to worry. Neither, he advised, would it be necessary for the Quirks to appear at the court hearing as the police prosecutor would handle the matter. However, on January 4, 2007, the North Providence Police prosecutor failed to attend the criminal hearing resulting in the dismissal of the case under rule 48(a). The Quirks were not only denied the promised justice in this matter, but later learned that Captain Sanita grew up with Giammarco. This fact was learned, however, some years later, only after Sanita was himself arrested for stealing items from the police department’s evidence room.

On December 3, 2006 Quirk, walking to his car, discovered three inch masonry nails strewn across his driveway, and the harassment continued. Throughout the spring and summer of 2007 Quirk received regular visits from town Building Inspector William Signoriello regarding several “egregious” ordinance violations. Each of the visits was attributed to an anonymous complaint. The “egregious” violations included grass that was too long, planting shrubs and flowers without a permit, the improper location of trash cans, renting rooms to strangers, who were actually Quirk's parents, and an illegal flagpole and garden in the backyard. Each time the town official refused to document the visitation or reveal the identity of the complainant.

To the Quirks, the complaints were frivolous, untrue, and not rising to the level of an ordinance violation. They considered these visits just further attempts at harassment and wanted them to stop.

In an effort to put a halt to the unwarranted and unjustified inspections, the Quirks scheduled an appointment with Mayor Charles A. Lombardi, who also serves as the Town’s Public Safety Director. Surely, the Quirks believed, the Mayor will be outraged by the activity of his neighbors and the compliant inspectors that seemed to be doing the neighbor’s bidding.

But rather than lending a sympathetic ear, the Mayor stunned the Quirks with a pompous display of arrogance. After pleading their case and asking for an end to the harassing visits, Lombardi, who sat back in his oversized chair with his feet on the desk said to the Quirks, “maybe next time you should think about whose sign you put on your front lawn.” (a reference to Quirk placing the campaign sign of Lombardi’s opponent in his yard during the previous election.)

The Quirks were incredulous at the statement and left the Mayor’s office in disgust knowing that they would receive neither satisfaction nor justice from the Town’s highest ranking elected official. It was only after Quirk had video cameras installed around his property on July 2nd that future visits from the town’s inspectors ceased. 

The very next day, District 2 Councilman Frank Manfredi agreed to try to mediate the situation between Quirk and Giammarco. In fact, Manfredi and his wife did approach Giammarco at a July 4, 2007 fireworks display at the Town’s John Notte Park. That effort ended quickly, however, when Giammarco advised Manfredi, “Do not get involved, I want to run the Quirks out of town and after all they are Irish, who wants them around.” 

On July 31st, the Quirks had a chance encounter with Giammarco who was driving on Mineral Spring Avenue. The Quirks tried to avoid a confrontation, but, according to Brian Quirk, Giammarco seemed determined to create a conflict. After reporting the incident to police, the investigating officer noted in his report that while speaking to Giammarco, the patrolman “smelled an odor of alcohol emanating from his breath.” Future police reports taken throughout 2007 and 2008 describe Giammarco’s behavior as even more bizarre and irrational, threatening to call the Mayor if the police didn’t comply with his demands. 

The afternoon of May 15, 2008 was a difficult one for the Quirks. They had spent the day taking Brian’s father to several doctors culminating with the news that the elder Quirk would require additional surgery to effectively treat his cancer. Exhausted from the day’s events, Brian and his wife Sharon decided to retreat to their backyard to discuss what needed to be done to make Brian’s father as comfortable as possible. That’s when the heckling started from just over the bushes separating Quirk’s back yard from that of the new neighbors. There, Quirk observed Giammarco drinking with members of the neighbor's family and together, they shouted lewd and insulting remarks directed toward Sharon. By this time, the police had already warned Quirk that he could be arrested if he continued to call to them, but feeling worn out and desperate, he dialed the phone anyway. While he was on the phone with police, Giammarco ran to his house and returned to the neighbor's yard with a tiki torch in hand. Giammarco and his neighbor wedged the torch between the bushes and the fence that formed the privacy barrier between the two yards and ignited it.

When police arrived, Giammarco removed the torch and held it in his hand away from the fence. After surveying the situation, the police officer informed Quirk that it was not a police matter, but rather a matter that should be handled by the fire department. Almost as soon as the police left Giammarco replaced the torch against the fence again prompting Quirk’s call to the fire department. Firemen responded and took a report. Rather than dissuading the neighbors from their continued harassment, however, calling the authorities seemed to intensify Giammarco’s harassment techniques. He installed a spotlight and directed the bright beam directly into Brian’s father’s bedroom window every night. Pushed to the limit, Quirk obtained a restraining order in Superior Court. The restraining order was delivered to Giammarco on May 30th and Quirk thought he might finally enjoy a peaceful summer in his own backyard. Any thoughts of peace that might have flittered through Quirks' mind, however, were soon dispelled as, according to Quirk, the other neighbor, learning of the restraining order against Giammarco, decided to pick up the mantle of harassment against the Quirks while his friend’s hands were bound by the court.

That neighbor, while publicly drinking and parading back and forth in front of Quirk’s home, became outraged, shouted obscenities and made inappropriate hand gestures. On a rather ongoing basis, he and his extended family members began parking their cars in front and on the side of Quirk’s home creating a difficult situation for emergency vehicles that occasionally responded to Quirk’s father’s medical needs. It became quite clear to the Quirks that that neighbor had been an accomplice of Giammarco’s all along as they quickly became the new source of malicious acts and erroneous and anonymous complaints to various town departments against the Quirks. 

As soon as Giammarco was ordered to remove the spotlight that he shone into Quirk’s father’s bedroom window, the neighbor rigged his lights to shine directly on the Quirk home. Each week that same neighbor placed his trash barrels on either side of the Quirk property and installed professional sized speakers by the side of Quirk’s house, frequently blasting them and disrupting any chance of peace and quiet that the Quirk family, including his elderly and sick father, desired. Many times, the neighbor allowed his power lawn mower to run, unattended, by the side window of Quirk's house and the neighbor and his family strategically parked their cars in front and behind of Quirk’s vehicles so closely as to render Quirk’s vehicles un-drivable. All of these actions coincided with the rapid decline of Brian’s father’s health further exacerbating the Quirks frustration.

On June 16, 2008, police were dispatched to the Quirk home based still again on a frivolous and erroneous complaint filed by the neighbor. Quirk spoke to the responding officer explaining the long-standing issues that existed between the neighbors and expressed his willingness to oblige Lt. Pelagio’s request to discuss and resolve all issues with the neighbor's family, but Lt. Pelagio’s report concluded that the “neighbors were adamantly unreceptive.” The situation quickly worsened when on July 6, 2008, the neighbor deliberately positioned his swimming pool discharge hose under his fence, jetting water into Brian Quirk’s son’s lower level bedroom window. The young Quirk’s computer and desk were ruined. In addition to the photographic evidence collected by Quirk to substantiate the hateful and destructive actions of his neighbor, other impartial neighbors submitted testimony describing the offending neighbors' actions. Yet, nothing came of the incident.

Toward the end of July, the visits to the Quirk residence by the Department of Zoning and Planning commenced, again, based on anonymous complaints. The result was the forced removal of the underground sprinkler system and water drain pipes located on Quirk’s property. The town officials reasoned that the underground system extended to close to the unpaved town owned “sidewalk” that was grassed over and maintained by the Quirks. Despite the great number of other residents that have such systems on “town owned” land, only the Quirks were forced to remove their sprinklers and underground water collection system. In an effort to stop the torment that was making Brian’s father’s last days very uncomfortable, the Quirks filed a court action against the neighbors. In August, 2008, a restraining order was sought but on October 8th, with the elder Quirk’s life drawing to an end, a dismissal stipulation was signed.

Brian’s father lost his battle with cancer, passing at Brian’s home on Sunday October 12, 2008. The elder Quirk’s death didn’t provide pause to the harassment, however, as in November Joseph Giammarco finally did win election to the North Providence Town Council. The victory was followed, almost immediately by a new notice of violation being issued by the Town’s Zoning Officer on the Quirks for “the open lot storage of refuse and rubbish.”

In early July, 2009, approximately six months after assuming his seat on the Town Council, Giammarco filed a police report against Brian Quirk for throwing a rock at Giammarco’s truck as the two passed each other on the road. Police questioned the Quirks who informed the officers that they were both at home when the incident was alleged to have happened. Police investigated the matter further, speaking with business owners and employees of the businesses located in the vicinity of where the incident had allegedly taken place. Despite their efforts, they were unable to verify anything Giammarco had alleged in his filing.

Quirk responded by delivering a letter to Police Chief John Whiting informing him that Councilman Giammarco had filed a false police report accusing Quirk of throwing a rock at Giammarco’s truck and offering unequivocal proof and statements from impartial witnesses disproving Giammarco’s accusations. Chief Whiting, however, seemed unimpressed and did nothing in response to Quirk’s allegations. (Chief Whiting was later convicted of felonious activity in an unrelated matter and was sentenced to prison. He served several months at the Adult Correctional Institution in Cranston before being released on probation. Giammarco eventually lost his bid for reelection to the town council and the neighbor separated from his wife for a period of time moving out of his North Providence home and living elsewhere.)

During the neighbor’s absence from the neighborhood (August 2009 to June 2013), things quieted down for the Quirks. But once the neighbor returned, he resumed his role as instigator and began provoking fights as well as once again placing anonymous complaints to the Division of Inspections. In addition to this juvenile behavior, the neighbor actually challenged Quirk to a fight. After receiving several of these challenges, Quirk met with the new North Providence Police Chief, Paul Martellini and Deputy Chief Pelagio to discuss the issue. In an attempt to defuse the issue so as to avoid any further problems, it was decided that a police vehicle would periodically patrol the neighborhood. It was further decided that the police would send Sgt. Perez to the neighbor’s house to intervene in the matter if the problems persisted. Once relieved of the corrupt influences that infiltrated the North Providence Police Department, things seemed to quiet down for the Quirks and the harassment ceased. 

Many neighbors in communities throughout the United States experience problems often resulting in official municipal government intervention. Most often, these situations have a way of working themselves out. Occasionally, however, the incidents will result in the physical harm of one or more of the neighbors. Many newspaper headlines describe how one neighbor killed another over what in retrospect seemed like a meaningless issue. Yet, the situation like the one experienced by the Quirks was not quieted by the authorities, but rather aided and abetted by a couple of corrupt police officers and other town officials that are supposed to exist for the protection of the residents living within their jurisdictional boundaries. A councilman using the police department and the zoning officer as political weapons in an arsenal of hatred and deception can be defined as nothing less than corruption. The actions of the town's public safety director more interested in retribution for a lack of political support than forcing his departments to administer justice further exacerbated the situation. When those actions are ignored or covered up by the actions or inactions of other corrupt officials, the entire system of government begins to break down causing harm and inflicting pain on the very people that those officials are elected and appointed to serve and protect. The Quirk saga provides a graphic example of both active and passive situational corruption and demonstrates the harm that it perpetrates on its victims.

 

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Paul F. Caranci is a historian and serves on the board of directors for the RI Heritage Hall of Fame. He is a cofounder of, and consultant to The Municipal Heritage Group and the author of five published books including two produced by The History Press. North Providence: A History & The People Who Shaped It (2012) and The Hanging & Redemption of John Gordon: The True Story of Rhode Island’s Last Execution (2013) that was selected by The Providence Journal as one of the top five non-fiction books of 2013. Paul served for eight years as Rhode Island’s Deputy Secretary of State and for almost seventeen years as a councilman in his hometown of North Providence. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Margie. They have two adult children, Heather and Matthew, and four grandsons, Matthew Jr., Jacob, Vincent and Casey.

 

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Thomas Blacke has devoted his life to marketing, media and public relations and currently runs his own marketing, PR and security consulting firm. He has worked on many high level political campaigns, served as a lobbyist, and has held leadership positions in the local Democrat Party. Thom is also a professional magician and escape artist who holds multiple Guinness® World Records for escape artistry with ten world records in all. Blacke is the Editor/Publisher of an international magazine and the co-creator of a TV reality show. This is his seventh book.

 

Related Slideshow: Rhode Island’s History of Political Corruption

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Vincent A. "Buddy" Cianci resigned as Providence Mayor in 1984 after pleading nolo contendere to charges of assaulting a Bristol man with a lit cigarette, ashtray, and fireplace log. Cianci believed the man to be involved in an affair with his wife. 

Cianci did not serve time in prison, but received a 5-year suspended sentence. He was replaced by Joseph R. Paolino, Jr. in a special election. 

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Joseph Bevilacqua

Joseph Bevilacqua was RI Speaker of the House from 1969 to 1975, and was appointed as Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court in 1976.  It was alleged that Bevilacqua had connections to organized crime throughout his political career.  

According to a 1989 article that appeared in The New York Times at the time of his death:

The series of events that finally brought Mr. Bevilacqua down began at the end of 1984... stating that reporters and state police officers had observed Mr. Bevilacqua repeatedly visiting the homes of underworld figures.

The state police alleged that Mr. Bevilacqua had also visited a Smithfield motel, owned by men linked to gambling and drugs...

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Thomas Fay

Thomas Fay, the successor to Bevilacqua as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, resigned in 1993, and was later found guilty on three misdemeanor counts of directing arbitration work to a partner in his real estate firm, Lincoln Center Properties.  

Fay was also alleged to use court employees, offices, and other resources for the purposes of the real estate firm.  Fay, along with court administrator and former Speaker of the House, Matthew "Mattie" Smith were alleged to have used court secretaries to conduct business for Lincoln, for which Fay and Smith were business partners. 

Fay was fined $3,000 and placed on one year probation. He could have been sentenced for up to three years in prison. 

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Brian J. Sarault

Former Pawtucket Mayor Brian J. Sarault was sentenced in 1992 to more than 5 years in prison, after pleading guilty to a charge of racketeering.  

Sarault was arrested by state police and FBI agents at Pawtucket City Hall in 1991, who alleged that the mayor had attempted to extort $3,000 from former RI State Rep. Robert Weygand as a kickback from awarding city contracts.

Weygand, after alerting federal authorities to the extortion attempt, wore a concealed recording device to a meeting where he delivered $1,750 to Sarault.

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Edward DiPrete

Edward DiPrete became the first Rhode Island Governor to be serve time in prison after pleading guilty in 1998 to multiple charges of corruption.

He admitted to accepting bribes and extorting money from contractors, and accepted a plea bargain which included a one-year prison sentence.

DiPrete served as Governor from 1985-1991, losing his 1990 re-election campaign to Bruce Sundlun.

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Plunder Dome

Cianci was forced to resign from the Mayor’s office a second time in 2002 after being convicted on one several charges levied against him in the scandal popularly known as “Operation Plunder Dome.” 

The one guilty charge—racketeering conspiracy--led to a five-year sentence in federal prison. Cianci was acquitted on all other charges, which included bribery, extortion, and mail fraud.

While it was alleged that City Hall had been soliciting bribes since Cianci’s 1991 return to office, much of the case revolved around a video showing a Cianci aide, Frank Corrente, accepting a $1,000 bribe from businessman Antonio Freitas. Freitas had also recorded more than 100 conversations with city officials.

Operation Plunder Dome began in 1998, and became public when the FBI executed a search warrant of City Hall in April 1999. 

Cianci Aide Frank Corrente, Tax Board Chairman Joseph Pannone, Tax Board Vice Chairman David C. Ead, Deputy tax assessor Rosemary Glancy were among the nine individuals convicted in the scandal. 

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N. Providence Councilmen

Three North Providence City Councilmen were convicted in 2011 on charges relating to a scheme to extort bribes in exchange for favorable council votes. In all, the councilmen sought more than $100,000 in bribes.

Councilmen Raimond A. Zambarano, Joseph Burchfield, and Raymond L. Douglas III were sentenced to prison terms of 71 months, 64 months, and 78 months, respectively. 

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Charles Moreau

Central Falls Mayor Charles Moreau resigned in 2012 before pleading guilty to federal corruption charges. 

Moreau admitted that he had give contractor Michael Bouthillette a no-bid contract to board up vacant homes in exchange for having a boiler installed in his home. 

He was freed from prison in February 2014, less than one year into a 24 month prison term, after his original sentence was vacated in exchange for a guilty plea on a bribery charge.  He was credited with tim served, placed on three years probation, and given 300 hours of community service.

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Joe Almeida

State Representative Joseph S. Almeida was arrested and charged on February 10, 2015 for allegedly misappropriating $6,122.03 in campaign contributions for his personal use. Following his arrest, he resigned his position as House Democratic Whip, but remains a member of the Rhode Island General Assembly.

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Gordon Fox

The Rhode Island State Police and FBI raided and sealed off the State House office of Speaker of the House Gordon Fox on March 21--marking the first time an office in the building has ever been raided. 

Fox pled guilty to 3 criminal counts on March 3, 2015 - accepting a bribe, wire fraud, and filing a false tax return. The plea deal reached with the US Attorney's office calls for 3 years in federal prison, but Fox will be officially sentenced on June 11.

 
 

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