Citizens question Council decisions
A handful of constituents were not happy with the way business was handled during the Finance Committee meeting on Monday night and criticized Council members as a result.
They felt that favoritism is a factor in the awarding of a $251.87 pothole claim and are frustrated that it’s necessary for Ward 4 Councilman Joseph Solomon to draft a resolution requesting six-month fiscal expenditure reports by department or acting department directors, which unanimously passed.
Further, they believe the information should be more readily available and displayed their disgust that certain departments in the city do not have prepared inventory lists.
At the meeting, however, Finance Director Ernie Zmyslinski said he conducts monthly analysis reports.
“I can do them quarterly if that’s what you’d like,” he said. “I do the work anyway. If you wanted to have a report as of today, I could have it for you.”
Yet, Solomon, who was not present to hear Zmyslinski’s comments but was told of them in Council Chambers, said he has often requested the reports to no avail. Recently, he said, he has made three requests of Zmyslinski and has not received an efficient response.
“He has not been forthcoming with this information,” Solomon said.
Rob Cote, the leader of the Car Tax Revolt, attended the meeting and agreed. He said the financial reports, whether they are monthly, weekly, daily, quarterly or every six months, are meaningless without a reconciled inventory list. Cote said he said sent in “many” requests only to get the “run-around.”
“The answer is always the same: ‘we can’t give you that. We don’t keep a running inventory list,’” he said at the meeting.
Moreover, Cote said that reports and inventory lists are vital and relatively simple to produce. In fact, he said businesses often have the information digitally filed.
“All you have to do is push a button on the computer,” he said. “You take that list and reconcile it with your monthly report. If Del’s Lemonade can do it, why can’t the City of Warwick?”
Not having the lists is problematic, Cote said, because he feels it results in internal theft. He cited the September incident involving Department of Public Works (DPW) employee, who “borrowed” $2,000 worth of city equipment. Shortly after, the man was charged with felony larceny.
“We ask [DPW Acting Director David] Picozzi what else is missing and if we can have an inventory list that’s reconciled with a monthly report and no such animal exists,” he said.
Cote, along with other citizens, was also frustrated that a $251.87 claim on vehicle damage caused by a pothole on Sand Pond Road was approved for the wife of a Highway Division employee, while two similar cases were denied. The constituents felt Tracy Gallant was favored because her husband, Richard, works for the city.
“You just denied two claims before her and it was the same scenario,” Cote claimed.
Ward 6 Councilwoman Donna Travis noted that the other people seeking claims were not present at the meeting. She said that because Gallant offered evidence, such as a photo of the pothole, they should vote in Gallant’s favor.
“If they were interested they would have been here to explain themselves,” said Travis. “If they take pictures and report it I don’t see what they can’t get the claim.”
However, DPW Business Manager, Christy Woodbury, said she did not receive a work order for Sand Hill Pond until Jan. 8. The date of the accident, she said, was Dec. 8.
“It was repaired the very next day because my husband works for the Highway Department,” said Gallant.
With that, Gallucci said, “I’m going to move favorable action.”
But, Ward 5 Councilman John DelGiudice interjected and recommended they hold it so they can review the protocol and the work order. But, then Richard told the Council he spoke to Picozzi about it and Picozzi ordered for it to be repaired.
“I don’t know if he drew up a work order but it was immediately fixed the next day,” said Richard. “I saw it and took pictures of it.”
Upon his comment, the Council approved the claim. Citizen Richard Langseth said, “You could be setting the precedent here, which is a good thing, but let’s make sure people get fair treatment.”
At the end of the meeting, resident John Tucker approached Gallucci, who heads the Finance Committee, and told Gallucci he feels he should resign due to the fact that Gallucci recently received and then returned $9,675 to contractor C.P. Watson, Inc. for operating his front-end loader for nearly 60 hours to help clean up damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene in August.
After City Solicitor Peter Ruggiero reviewed the matter, Gallucci refunded the money last week. In a letter dated Feb. 8 that Gallucci sent to Watson, Gallucci wrote that he was not aware of a city ordinance provision prior to a complaint being filed with the city.
“If you don’t know the rules how can you make decisions about how the city spends money?” Tucker said.
In a brief interview following the meeting, Tucker said, “How is it possible that the City Solicitor would not look at that type of situation as unethical? Gallucci doesn’t know the rules but he’s making decisions on how the city is spending money? There’s something wrong with that.”
In another interview following the meeting, Cote said he shares Tucker’s sentiments. He also feels it’s time for Gallucci to resign, as he said this is the third incident that Gallucci has made indiscretions, including shoplifting seafood from an East Greenwich store in 2006; recently violating an open meetings law; and now the situation with C.P. Watson. These incidents, Cote said, indicate that Gallucci’s behavior is dishonorable.
“Poor decisions cannot be remedied with an apology,” said Cote. “It is for these reasons that he should exercise a choice of integrity, and resign for the good of the people. He no longer can be trusted making fiscal decisions.”