Challenges aplenty for Mayor Solomon

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The new year in Warwick will mark the first year that a man not named Scott Avedisian will occupy the corner office of City Hall since the turn of the millennium. While tenured City Councilman Joseph Solomon has spent nearly two decades working in the building, his first seven months in the driver’s seat has already been wrought with challenges.

On top of assuming mayoral duties just as budget time kicked into high gear, Solomon had to grapple with finance director Bruce Keiser resigning just days later. There have been sewer line ruptures, water main breaks and burst pipes. Ongoing situations with the city’s destroyed annex building displacing a majority of city workers and the fiscally limping school department – which just brought suit against the city – are some other examples of city-wide strife faced by Solomon.

But don’t just take it from us that times have been challenging for the city’s new CEO.

“Every day is a new adventure,” he said quietly from the lower conference room during a recent interview. “I probably don’t smile as much as I used to but I’m getting the job done. That’s what the people elected me to do and I move forward and try to stay positive.”

Conducting interviews and some meetings from the lower conference room instead of his office is another indication of Solomon’s workload – he says his desk and surrounding office area is piled high with financial records and other city documents that he is pouring through daily.

City finance is perhaps the biggest area of focus for Solomon, and it has been especially under the microscope as numerous news outlets, including this one, have been following and reporting on fiscal discrepancies brought to light regarding the bookkeeping practices and certain contractual provisions of the Warwick Fire Department that have resulted in an ongoing audit via the city council and even questions being asked of certain individuals by the FBI.

Solomon has ended two practices of the fire department – one regarding sick time payouts that were initiated in a side agreement under former mayor Avedisian, the other a contractual provision regarding accrued excess vacation payouts that were changed in valuation through a change in contractual language that was never brought before the city council for approval.

“Was it a popular thing to do? Probably not, but it was the right thing to do,” Solomon said of the decisions, the former of which has resulted in a grievance that is now awaiting a decision via arbitration. “That’s what I’m all about as mayor of the city.”

Those were reactive changes made quickly, but Solomon says that changes he has made proactively to prevent such instances from happening in the future are also of importance.

Among these changes include better tracking changes and placing watermarks on all collective bargaining agreements so that, throughout a contract negotiation, there will be no confusion as to what changes are made, by whom, or when those changes were proposed and adopted into a tentative agreement.

“We will definitely be tightening up what has existed for years before me,” Solomon said, adding that he was waiting on a finalized report from the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council (RIPEC), whom he called in to assess the city’s financial situation near the beginning of his tenure. He said he had already been “implementing some of their suggestions.”

Hiring a new director of MIS – the city’s information technology branch – following the resignation of Carlos Zambrano, has also led to new revelations regarding improper allocation of city funds.

As reported to the council finance committee during their Dec. 17 meeting, new MIS Director Philip Carlucci – a former vice president of IT for Hasbro hired in October – and finance director Brian Silvia, who stepped into the role following Keiser’s departure, uncovered four bid items under Zambrano’s purview that were being paid out to vendors without proper authority from the city council.

These items included long-term contracts for wireless internet, telephone service, closed-circuit radio services for municipal and emergency personnel and wireless cellular services for municipal employees. Although it wasn’t clear how much was already spent in the wireless internet bid, nearly $400,000 was apparently spent between the latter three bid items between the expiration of the prior contract on Aug. 31, 2017 and the nearly 15 months since.

“There’s been some discoveries in the MIS department that will require outside eyes to look into and may result in an investigation of sorts,” Solomon explained. “Things did not follow the proper methodology of entering into contracts or paying for things. That’s the prior MIS director and I have to attribute our finance director and the new MIS director for their diligence. They’re both doing a tremendous job. They discovered it, I didn’t discover it.”

In his letter to the council, Carlucci indicated Solomon and Silvia had already implemented changes to prevent such a situation – where a department director seemingly entered into bid contracts unilaterally – from happening again.

“Since uncovering this anomaly, the Mayor and Finance Director have instituted changes that mandate paying all invoices requiring an associated bid to be paid via a process that requires documented bid draw-down tracking,” the report reads. “This change will both improve payment transparency and prevent unauthorized expenditures from going unnoticed in the future.”

Solomon said that these types of changes are best practices he would utilize in the private sector, and that he is more interested in getting an accurate assessment of all city finances rather than try to point fingers or levy accusations at the previous administration.

"These are items in the private sector that I’m accustomed to. Apparently, that’s not the way it was done,” he said. “These are changes I’m going to implement. It’s not because I’m saying anyone is dishonest, but it’s good for internal controls."

Personnel and big picture
 
Solomon mentioned how he has relied on the municipal department heads – many of whom were put into their positions by Avedisian – considering the unexpected nature of his rise to office. However, after being duly elected in November by a wide margin, he now has the opportunity to craft his administration exactly as he sees fit and as he wants it.

Already the city directors of finance, MIS and Parks and Recreation have been replaced with people appointed by Solomon. City Clerk Lyn Pagliarini was let go and Deputy Clerk Lynn D’Abrosca is filling the post. Mathew Solitro, who became the interim director of the Department of Public Works, is poised to become the permanent director, according to Solomon. New chiefs will have to be decided for both the fire and police departments.

In the past, Solomon has indicated that he will work with anybody who shares his ideals for governing the city moving forward. He points to improving infrastructure and continuing to grow relationships with community businesses as particularly important issues.

Financially, Solomon said that he meets with Silvia twice a day, and that revenue projections were coming in ahead of last year – close to 57-60 percent at about the halfway point of the fiscal year. However, he said that finding money to make infrastructure changes necessary, like the continued fixing of roads and repairs to water and sewer mains, would be challenging and would likely come down to possible bonding. Outside funding from the state and federal government would also be looked into.

“We need assistance. We’re not in great shape,” he said. “I’m not stating doom and gloom but there’s a lot of things that need to be repaired in the city of Warwick, whether it be roads, sewer lines, water lines, things of that nature.”

Looking ahead, Solomon expressed excitement to explore possibilities of putting school buildings returned to the city by the school department to good taxpaying usages.

“We need money to keep this city operating,” he said. “I’ve been faced with a lot of unexpected expenditures that have really upset the apple cart, so to speak. It’s going to be a challenging.”

Comments

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richard corrente

Readers know how I feel about Joe Solomon. I have stated my issues enough. Now, let's look at his first year as Mayor. Did he take 14 vacations in 12 months? No. He worked harder and longer than any Mayor since Joe Walsh. That's a fact. He didn't take one day off as far as I can see. He inherited a ton of Avedisian politics and policies and, so far, has eliminated enormous waste.

As far as Carlos Zambrano, I talked to him several times and learned that he always underspent his budget, at least according to his figures, but when he addressed the Council he was not at all well received. There may be more there than we, the public, are aware of. As far as the Mayors other decisions, I have to admit he has done an excellent job of running the City. He certainly is a full time Mayor, something Warwick has needed since the turn of this century. I wish him well in 2019 and hope he continues to improve our City. The 80,000 taxpayers that are paying the tab certainly do deserve it.

Happy 2019 everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Thursday, January 3
PaulHuff

Mr. Hartley....your article has doubled down on the yellow journalism regarding an FBI investigation into the cities fire department. It was inappropriate for you to have claimed it in the first place. It is downright irresponsible to continue to repeat the same false claim in subsequent articles. Nobody likes fake news Ethan.

As for Mr. Zambrano....anyone who dealt with him on a professional basis could plainly see he was in over his head. He was a bad hire.

Thursday, January 3
CrickeeRaven

The two-time election reject's continued lies about the now-former mayor aside [Mayor Avedisian never "took 14 vacations in 12 months"], he is contradicting his own words by saying Mayor Solomon "has eliminated enormous waste."

Just two weeks ago, he was claiming that Mayor Solomon's choices for department heads are "very costly to the taxpayers," and that the new hires are "almost double the cost" of prior employees.

Honest, intelligent, taxpaying readers can see his past comments here: http://warwickonline.com/stories/solomon-takes-steps-to-name-new-city-clerk,139117?#comments

Thanks to his pathetic and delusional behavior, the two-time election reject continues to justify the decision of a vast majority of honest, taxpaying voters to reject his lie-filled candidacy twice.

Thursday, January 3
Jimmy

Paul, you nailed it. Why is Ethan Hartley the only one on this story? If the FBI were actually investigating wouldn’t the “Real News” would cover it by now. Wby he continues to write stories about the FBI is beyond me. Awful journalism.

Thursday, January 3
Thecaptain

I find it interesting that people other than the administration and council have to find the 'ANOMOLIES" and bring them forth to the media and to the general public. Why hasn't the council found these things over decades of mis-management?

Also, how would Mr. Huff know whether or not there was any kind of investigation that was ongoing behind the scenes. Who is he to make a blanket statement disparaging an accomplished reporter that obviously speaks to numerous people in government. His opinion is simply conjecture with no facts to substantiate. He has stated in the past that "he knows for a fact" that there is no investigation. How does he know that? His opinion that he states is fact can be easily debunked, just as easy as "The Fake Mayor Dumbness.

Thursday, January 3
Jimmy

Rob, stop with the BS. There is 100% no FBI investigation. Try to spin in anyway you might but there isn’t one. End of story.

Thursday, January 3
PaulHuff

Sorry Mr. Cote, but you calling the FBI in your vendetta against the fire department does not actually mean there is an investigation. It just means that you’re calling everyone under the sun trying to get someone to take your claims seriously.

And you should be ashamed of feeding the false information to the “accomplished reporter” and taking advantage of his naivety.

There’s no FBI investigation. But by all means “easily debunk” my claims there is no investigation. I’ll be the first one to admit I was wrong.

Thursday, January 3
CrickeeRaven

Jimmy and PaulHuff:

Mayor Solomon himself confirmed an investigation to the Beacon: "I heard there is an outside agency looking at these issues..."

http://warwickonline.com/stories/fbi-looking-into-fire-department-allegations,138898

This explains why they keep reporting on it.

And Mayor Solomon separately confirmed with the Warwick Post that he called the FBI: "He said that he reached out to the FBI to offer his assistance in the event that they are investigating the deal."

https://warwickpost.com/solomon-solicitor-out-wfd-sick-time-review-continues/

So, it's not just Thecaptain -- the mayor himself is pushing this rumor. I'd suggest that's why it's in the local press.

Maybe we should be asking: Why is the mayor making these statements to the local media, hinting that there's an FBI investigation? Does he think it actually helps him [or anyone else] to be repeating a rumor that, at this point, can not be confirmed?

Friday, January 4
Jimmy

How is “I Heard there is an outside agency looking into this” confirming the FBI. Let me be clear. THE FBI IS NOT LOOKING INTO THIS.

Friday, January 4
Jimmy

I heard the moon is made of cheese. So it must be true!

Friday, January 4
CrickeeRaven

Jimmy, I wrote that Solomon "confirmed an investigation to the Beacon" [without specifying the FBI], and that he separately told the Post that he contacted the FBI himself.

Both of those statements are true, and I never argued that those statements are "confirming the FBI" -- in fact, I noted that the rumor can not be confirmed at this point.

So my point remains: The mayor is spreading what is, at this point, a rumor and is getting press coverage for it.

Maybe you should all-caps yell at him with your claim that there is no FBI investigation, since he is repeatedly hinting that there is.

Friday, January 4
Thecaptain

Jimmy and Paul,

Tell us all how "you know for a fact that there is no investigation". When the agency will not confirm or deny this or any other investigation, how is it that you have such deep and "credible" knowledge? Give us some facts.

Friday, January 4
Thecaptain

Silly me,

Paul, I just put 2 & 2 together.

huff

/həf/Submit

verb

gerund or present participle: huffing

1.

blow out loudly; puff.

"he was huffing under a heavy load"

2.

INFORMAL•NORTH AMERICAN

sniff fumes from (gasoline or solvents) for a euphoric effect.

"kids that are huffing spray paint like crazy"

Friday, January 4
Jimmy

Captain, I don’t need to justify or prove anything to you. I know the truth. You can believe whatever it is you want to believe. You can continue to spin whatever it is you want as well. That’s your right. In the end we will ultimately get to see who knows what. I’m looking forward to that day.

Friday, January 4
PaulHuff

Mr. Cote,

It is awfully childish to attempt to make fun of me because of my name. I guess it is just in your nature to resort to trying to be a bully.

As it relates to the supposed "FBI Investigation"....when WPD asks a question about an internal issue everyone hears about it right away. Never mind if it were the feds. It's a fabrication that you keep pushing to try to get attention to your pet peeve which is the WFD.

Don't be a bully Rob....civilized people should be able to debate a topic without resorting to kindergarten type actions. Note that I took the high road when you mentioned gasoline and didn't go there as that would have been childish of me.

Friday, January 4
Thecaptain

Paul,

I am sure your "name" is an alias.

Friday, January 4
Thecaptain

By the way Paul,

There is not a resident in the state of Rhode Island with name Paul Huff, nor is there any taxpayer listed in the city of Warwick with that name either. Just sayin!

Friday, January 4
CrickeeRaven

Thecaptain, I think the difficulty for Jimmy is that he's trying to prove a negative.

That's not actually possible, rhetorically speaking, and especially when he says "I know the truth" then says you can make up your own mind about it.

Well, which is it?

Is there a factual way to prove the existence [or nonexistence] of an FBI investigation -- or is it a matter of opinion?

[Also, how does his opinion prove or disprove anything, if it's just his opinion?]

Friday, January 4
justanidiot

da fbi is investigating. they hab a deep mole. someone in da mortgage bidness i hears. someone wit political ambition. someone who has runs for office but hasn't been erected twice. playin the stooge is the perfect cover

Friday, January 4
justanidiot

da fbi is investigating. they hab a deep mole. someone in da mortgage bidness i hears. someone wit political ambition. someone who has runs for office but hasn't been erected twice. playin the stooge is the perfect cover

Friday, January 4
JohnJames

Solomon, every other elected person in Warwick, and ALL taxpayers should be calling for Avedisian to be fired immediately from RIPTA. His Financial advisor, who now heads West Warwick, should also be fired immediately. They both contributed to the financial position, READY FOR BANKRUPTCY, of Warwick, and shouldn't continue in ANY taxpayer funded positions, period.

Let's ALL just say "YOUR FIRED".

GO TRUMP. We should have someone like him, a straight shooter, in Warwick and RI, instead of these CLOWN politicians and political HACKS running things!

Friday, January 4
Cowhesett Jeep Lover

JohnJames (STACIA) is back. Lol

Friday, January 4
JohnJames

Cowhesett Jeep Lover. .... THE IDIOT ........ is back

J

Friday, January 4
Cowhesett Jeep Lover

Stacia (johnjames) it’s too obvious. You really need to change up your words. And the whole Trump thing gives you away every time. Lol...

Friday, January 4
Thecaptain

The last line in this article is important. " It " (the software) is also used to help shorten the process of computing payroll. - Then why are we still doing the payroll on hand written pencil and paper sheets?

Purvis bid approved, Merolla argues city owns software

Posted Tuesday, August 20, 2013 1:00 pm

Jessica Botelho

Controversy concerning the rights to software for the city’s fire and rescue department created by Warwick Firefighter Henrik Dunleavy more than 10 years ago continues, as Ward 9 Councilman Steve Merolla maintains Dunleavy never had the authority to sell it.

In an interview with the Warwick Beacon in 2011, Dunleavy, who was exonerated after Rhode Island State Police conducted an investigation per the request of the council, said he hoped to put the situation behind him.

Fire Chief Edmund Armstrong also noted during a brief phone interview last week that Dunleavy didn’t do anything inappropriate.

“The State Police found no wrongdoing,” he said.

But that didn’t stop Merolla from questioning the situation.

While Dunleavy said he began writing the software on his own time in 1997, three years before the Warwick Fire Department (WFD) employed him, Merolla believes it’s in the city’s best interest to hire an intellectual property lawyer to regain Warwick’s right to the program because Dunleavy created the software with a $100,000 grant awarded to the city from the state.

“If it is our property, not only would we have the right to use it for free, we would have the rights to all the profits they made because they never had the right to purchase it in the first place,” Merolla said. “I think they’d be wise to just give us the software and just walk away. We should enforce our rights.”

Before joining the WFD, Dunleavy and two friends established the software company ACK Inc. In 2004, they sold it to Purvis Systems Inc., a technology and communications business based out of Middletown that specializes in providing products and services to public safety agencies.

Dunleavy made a verbal agreement with Purvis, ensuring the city would be able to use the software for five years at no cost. While that deal was honored, it’s now costing the city $29,101 per year.

“I don’t begrudge him for making money, but when you tell us you’re going to do it on our time with a $100,000 grant and that we’re going to get it for free, keep your word,” Merolla said.

Merolla is also frustrated with the way the WFD handled the bid last week. According to the code of ordinances, 56-6 allows for purchases under emergency basis or unique circumstances, which require six votes. The WFD brought the 56-6 bid to the council during the June 10 meeting because Purvis is a sole source provider, as they are the only company that can maintain their own software.

When the bid failed to get enough support on a 5-4 vote, with Merolla, Ward 4 Councilman Joseph Solomon, Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur and Ward 7 Councilman Charles “C.J.” Donovan voting in opposition, the WFD went out to bid. This act, said Merolla, changes the status of the bid.

“So, it wouldn’t be a 56-6, even though they knew that nobody else would bid on the contract because in a special situation like that you have to have six votes on a 56-6,” Merolla told a Beacon reporter. “They came back and said, ‘It’s no longer a special circumstance. We only need five votes.’ They circumvented everything they told us when they initially brought it before us.”

At last week’s meeting, Merolla said, “It cannot go out to bid. You can put a duck suit on it and call it something else, but it’s not. My suggestion is that we follow our own rules.”

Solomon agreed.

“I’m not going to say it was done with malice; maybe it was a mistake,” Solomon said. “However, as this stands before us this evening, it is not proper.”

Armstrong told them the WFD wasn’t attempting to fool anyone.

Despite Merolla’s argument, the council voted in favor of awarding the bid to Purvis 5-3, with Merolla, Solomon and Ladouceur in opposition. Donovan was not in attendance. The bid is a two-year contract for $58,202, running from Oct. 1, 2013 to Sept. 30, 2015.

The software is used in rescues in order for EMS staffers to quickly find the address of their destination, ensuring they arrive to scenes in a timely manner. It is also used to help shorten the process of computing payroll.

Friday, January 4
JohnJames

Cowhesett Jeep Lover ..... Sorry to tell you IDIOT ...

it's not Stacia it's me ..... keep guessing !

Saturday, January 5
wwkvoter

WE need the TRUTH found about the Firefighter overtime controversy. Anything less or any whitewash will cost this mayor and the council their credibility. Anyone who doesnt want the truth shown you have to wonder why.

The reason I apply that comment to this article is because the challenged are steep and the price will be high (tax increases) so the people will need to be behind the mayor and trust the council at this time. Solomon is going to have to find it in himself to make tough decisions about getting the facts out, and what to do when the facts come out.

Saturday, January 5
Jimmy

Wwkvoter

I could not agree more. Whatever it takes to get the truth out I am all for. Whoever and whatever means to get the truth should be used. I’m looking forward to the TRUTH coming out.

Saturday, January 5
Daydreambeliever

Captain Ricky Bobby fails to mention other city departments also use pencil and paper for payroll,sick and vacation time.

It's a city wide issue not just the FD but he fails to mention it.

It's possible once he's done disparaging the FD he will move onto other departments and year apart their contracts Nd side deals.

Sunday, January 6
Daydreambeliever

Also as Captain Ricky Bobby was exonerated of all charges back at his Dive Shop so wasn't Mr.Dunleavy by the RI State Police.

No wrongdoing cleared of any and all charges.

Had Mr. Dunleavy and his friends not ever created the software most certainly the FD would still be using pencil and paper as well as pen and carbon paper.

The city needs to come up with a program that is suitable to everyone it's 2019 for crying out loud.

Once they do it will quiet some down i hope.

Sunday, January 6
Ben Dover

Some of these comments must have been written by RC using various screen names because some make no sense...As has been stated, as is in most cases, pending, being investigated, looked at, etc...the FBI policy in almost all cases, is to not comment, or confirm or deny any investigation, for obvious reasons...When someone makes a categorical statement saying there is NO FBI investigation, They are either lying, or sharing information that is privy to the FBI and is need to know...If someone is leaking this information from inside the FBI, it opens the door to a whole lot of not so nice possibilities, "Compromising an on going investigation, obstruction, etc...Not good to be on the wrong side of that....

As far as a federal investigation, what makes you think it can only be the FBI? Did you ever think that the IRS-CID gang might be looking at this? That this could be well beyond the scope of overtime fraud. Disability pension fraud, income tax evasion, ( you know, those that might be working under the table or running businesses not registered or insured with DLT or DBR, not paying any income taxes or issuing 1098 statements)...The list is almost endless...and unlike the FBI with the IRS, you are guilty until you can prove you are innocent...I'd get righteous, right quick...Tax cheats don't make out too well with the IRS....Be careful out there...

Monday, January 7
Thecaptain

Here is a comment from the "Paul HUff. The screen name who tells us not to bully people or call names. Does Huff understand the term hypocrite?

PaulHuff

Doc, you left out the most important "Simple truth".....If a parent puts their children in a position to get tear gassed they are the ones to blame. Don't try to breach our border forcefully and it won't happen. Put the blame where it belongs, on those breaking our laws. And for the record, breaching the border and entering the country without authorization is not how one applies for asylum.

You should go see one of your co-workers as clearly you suffer from TDS (Trump Derangement Syndrome).

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2018

Monday, January 7
Mechanicman22

Cote

You seem to have all the answers..but show us your facts to back it all up! Still waiting on your equations and FBI..

Crickets

Tuesday, January 8
Not your average Joe

My favorite thing about the Captain is you make a comment like PaulHuff and The Captain spends his days ferociously scowering the internet (he must have a busy life) to find out things you have said. Or this internet tough guy runs to the Admin claiming he was being harassed online. Definition of Loser. How’s that FBI investigation going? I hear they are close to raiding all the stations. EThan Hartley will probably write a story off my comment. “FBI RAIDS FIRE STATION”

Tuesday, January 8
PaulHuff

Apparently I'm living in his head rent free. Try to focus on doing good Mr. Cote....going on the local papers comment section and calling people names is juvenile.

Control all that nervous energy and do something positive with it.

Tuesday, January 8