Ward 8 Councilman Anthony Sinapi will move forward a resolution to take a vote of no confidence in Warwick School Department finance director Anthony Ferrucci, citing financial mismanagement of the WISE pension fund, refusing community donations to bring down student lunch debt and “misrepresenting” financial information to the Warwick School Committee and city council as the motivating reasons.
“A vote of no confidence is mostly symbolic, but it means something to me, at least,” Sinapi said during an interview on Tuesday. “Hopefully it means something to people who have had to endure Mr. Ferrucci and the consequences of his actions.”
Sinapi cited, first and foremost, Ferrucci’s “unabashed defense” of funding the Warwick Independent School Employees (WISE) Union pension fund above the Annual Required Contribution (ARC) set forth by the actuary, which resulted in over $4 million in total payments above the minimum requirement since 2014.
This fact is now at the forefront of an ongoing mediation award that would take those contributions above the ARC and use them to settle the school’s current year deficit, which is in the same range of $4 million. Ferrucci has consistently defended his funding of the pension, as seen in an article that ran in Tuesday’s Beacon.
Sinapi, however, believes that this funding strategy left other, more important issues, by the wayside.
“Custodians wouldn’t have been laid off and mentor program would have been funded,” he said, alluding to two of the major budget cuts made during last year’s budget process. The funding for those items has been restored in the new budget approved by the school committee last month, but still has to go through city approval.
“Why not simply say the truth?” Sinapi continued. “Maybe say that it [contributing over the ARC] wasn’t the best idea given the financial situation the city and schools have been in, and that it was a mistake – that way he could be trusted. Instead of never holding himself accountable for anything.”
Next, Sinapi took issue with Ferrucci allegedly denying a donation of $4,000 from local restaurant Gel’s Kitchen, which wanted to give the money to cut down on school lunch debt that had swelled to $77,000 as of last week.
“Gel's Kitchen has made that donation to West Warwick,” he said. “They [Warwick] turned her away.”
Lastly, Sinapi alleges that Ferrucci has made “misrepresentations” to the city council and school committee regarding the school’s financial situation, but he did not provide specific occasions outside of the aforementioned pension issue. Regardless, he said that in his experience attending school committee meetings, council meetings and now sitting as a councilman, he had seen enough to make the resolution.
“I know personally when it comes time for budgets, if I have to have him before us, saying ‘Here’s how it works and here's what we need at the school department,’ I'm not going to be able to trust what he says,” he said.
The resolution was docketed during the meeting, which means that it will be taken up during the first meeting of next month. Sinapi said that he was hopeful the other councilmembers would support it.
Ferrucci declined to comment on the matter.
School Committee Chairwoman Karen Bachus was measured in her response.
“The council does what the council does. I really can't comment on their experience. I don't think it would be fair to comment on their experience with Mr. Ferrucci,” she said, adding later, “I think Mr. Ferrucci is working very hard to do the right thing for the district.”