Documents delivered to the Beacon – initially left anonymously and later discovered to have been supplied by Republican mayoral candidate Sue Stenhouse – have indicated inconsistencies in statements made this July by Mayor Joseph Solomon regarding the City Hall Annex building.
During a meeting of the Warwick Rotary Club at the Radisson Hotel on July 12, Solomon gave a short speech as the featured guest where he was asked by a former city worker to provide an update on any impending solution for the closed Annex building, which had displaced city workers to the former Greene Elementary School following a severe pipe bursting incident this past January.
“Unfortunately, the records necessary to make those decisions were not made available to me,” Solomon said in response, adding that he was reaching out to the Rhode Island Interlocal Management Trust, the insurance agency for the city, along with two independent contractors hired at the discretion of former mayor Scott Avedisian’s administration (one a public claims adjuster and one a contracting company from East Providence) to acquire that information.
However, according to the documents received from Stenhouse, Avedisian actually sent a packet consisting of 135 pages of correspondence between the Trust, the contractors and other city officials outlining the entirety of the Annex issue to Solomon on April 27, 2018 – the first in a series of 47 so-called “transition documents” Avedisian provided Solomon in advance of his departure on May 15.
Stenhouse, who was also in the audience at the time Solomon made the above comment, said she looked into this statement and called Avedisian to see if he had truly not made Solomon abreast of the situation.
“Sue asked for the same information I had given to him because she was concerned that he had made an allegation that we had not given him any documentation,” Avedisian said on Monday. “I think he wasn't telling the truth at Rotary and he needs to stop saying that we gave him no information.”
“The Acting Mayor definitely had this information in hand months before the Rotary meeting,” Stenhouse said in a release. “And if he failed to read it, he surely should not claim to not have received the information to the business community at a public meeting.”
Solomon, when reached on Monday, said the timing of the documentation being released – about a week before the Democratic primary – indicated clearly the political motivation behind releasing of the documents. He stressed that he was looking further into the issue was focused on getting workers back into a healthy space and ensuring “just compensation for the taxpayers.”
Included in the documents was the Trust’s assessment that the city could be reimbursed in the net amount of $279,212.25 for the damages sustained in January. The report from East Side Construction indicated upwards of $1.78 million in necessary repairs that needed to be made to the building, compounded by the fact that the inspection found seven serious code violations in the building, including a lack of a fire sprinkler system and an insufficient number of exits from the building.
The documents also included the extensive report from Bill Depasquale – who at the time was the director of the Planning Department, and is now Solomon’s Chief of Staff – which presented the projected costs of renovating the existing building or replacing the Annex with a new building. It also presented multiple other buildings in the city that could potentially become the new Annex.
On Monday, Solomon said that the initial report was missing a “structural engineering report,” and that he couldn’t disclose more about what this report entailed or contained due to a possible lawsuit pending from a party involved in the matter. He did not expand further on what that entailed, but he said that the report would be made public in the future.
“I've seen a draft of it,” he said. “You and the general public will see the extent of the damage to that structure and the need to move as quickly as possible to resolve the situation.”
Stenhouse, however, perceived the situation as not moving quickly at all.
“I am concerned about the lack of action on this issue, as it greatly affects our city employees’ ability to deliver the best services to our constituents,” Stenhouse said in the release. “It seems as though this acting administration simply wants to pretend never receiving information on this issue, the school and city budget situation and several other issues, to cover for lack of vision and action. As a member of the City Council for the last 18 years and as council president four times during his tenure, it is time for Solomon to take ownership of issues and stop skirting his responsibility.”