To the Editor:
Pertaining to the recent antics of the Warwick City Council, I would like to update those who are not regular attendees of the council meetings with some of the more recent highlights.
The City Council President Travis has on several occasions refused to suspend the rules so that members of the general public can question the council, the mayor and the actuaries about the tiny little debt that our children will be obligated to, to the tune of about $780 million. However, during the same time period, the rules were allowed to be suspended to talk about such dire subject matters as how many chickens residents can have on their property, how many cats and dogs one can have, overnight parking, and a host of other not so relevant issues.
One recent issue that has caught several residents’ attention is the new hire of the City Council auditor, Ms. Cathleen Avila. Ms. Avila was hired by the council president after Councilwoman Wilkinson looked at numerous résumés. In the end, the recommendation of the hire came from Wilkinson and we now have a part-time city auditor to the tune of $30K+ a year. The hiring of the new city auditor was also another subject that the general public was circumvented from posing questions or giving any feedback.
To wit, several residents have submitted access to public records request on the new hire and have been met with some difficulty obtaining the documents requested. However, a few documents were obtained by a persistent and diligent resident, Mr. John Kennedy. Of these documents, the job requirements were obtained, clearly indicating that the candidates hold, at a minimum, a CPA with a background in financial auditing. Ms. Avila’s résumé was also obtained clearly indicating that she does not have a CPA, but yet had a psychology degree. This raised the eyebrows of several residents who in turn contacted several members of the City Council.
Fast forward to the events of the Aug. 13 council meeting. Upon certain council members peppering the city solicitor with questions about protocol and hiring practices, council legal counsel John Harrington offered that the current city ordinance requires that all council hires must be approved by a vote taken by the City Council. The vote never took place. In fact, the hiring of Avila by Wilkinson and Travis was a direct violation of current Warwick city ordinances.
So where does that leave us now? Presently, Ms. Avila, although wrongfully hired by ordinance, coupled with the fact that she does not have the minimum job experience as set forth by the application process, is still on the payroll. When the question of the ordinance was posed by Councilman Merolla, he was instantly castigated and insulted publicly by Travis as she went on a tirade to call him a sexist numerous times. The entire exchange was publicized on USTREAM and can be seen in its entirety at the following website link www.ustream.
The debate is heated at the 1:09 mark but prior to, when Wilkinson is questioned by other council members as to the credentials of her new auditor, Wiklinson goes into a 10-minute diatribe about her own résumé and her own background in hiring processes, never sharing a single word on the credentials of the new hire.
To any clear thinking resident who has basic fundamental knowledge of the city process, the overall review of the matter can only be described as a knowing willful violation of the city ordinances, which was carefully contrived by Wilkinson and Travis to hire a friend. As shameful as this may seem, it pales in comparison to the outrageous displays by the two councilwomen when they are questioned while both their hands are in the cookie jar. Although the two have a history of casting insults and making disparaging comments against residents who question their behavior, to publicly insult a seated council member for the sole purpose of attempting to subvert a legitimate question, is unconscionable.
This, my friends, is why it is so important for the general public to attend council meetings. Had it not been for the perseverance of Mr. Kennedy and others, this issue would be one of the many issues in Warwick that have been swept under the rug. My personal hypothesis is that this issue will be business as usual and the two councilwomen will concoct some type of scheme to allow an “after the fact” vote where the other followers will continue to follow, never to lead.