Happy Sunshine Week, West Warwick!
Mike Stanton of the Projo picks up the story of a possible non-town employee seeking to draw a town pension in West Warwick. The scope of the story is broadening to include Thomas Iannitti, the acting chairman of the State Board of Elections and the director of West Warwick’s senior center (which is not part of the town) since 1986, as well as the ongoing Federal corruption investigation in Rhode Island…
A federal corruption probe of the Rhode Island State House has branched out into the town of West Warwick, home to powerful Senate Finance Chairman Stephen D. Alves.As a result of these various controversies, West Warwick officials are having a hard time getting into the spirit of this year’s “Sunshine Week” in government (March 11-17)…
Officials confirmed yesterday that West Warwick’s finance director and the town pension board’s secretary appeared on Thursday before a federal grand jury in Providence.
Federal investigators also have subpoenaed records regarding various financial dealings in town, including contracts with Alves’ employer, UBS Paine Webber, to help manage West Warwick pension funds.
The Journal has previously reported that Alves, an investment adviser, is among seven politicians under investigation as part of a wide-ranging State House influence-peddling probe dubbed Operation Dollar Bill.
The probe, which began with former state Sen. John A. Celona, who recently reported to federal prison after pleading guilty and agreeing to cooperate, has also focused on Senate President Joseph A. Montalbano. The Journal reported last fall that the FBI has questioned West Warwick officials about title work that Montalbano did for the town, and Alves’ role in Montalbano’s hiring.
Yesterday’s disclosures came as a result of a stormy meeting of the town’s pension board, during which two vocal critics of Alves and the town attacked the pension application of the longtime director of the West Warwick Senior Center, Thomas Iannitti.
[West Warwick Resident Tom Jones] also said that he understood that the FBI has questioned officials of the pension board. Members denied that, but acknowledged that the board’s secretary, Chris Payette, has been questioned.
With Jones pressing for more details, Town Manager Wolfgang Bauer interjected that federal investigators had asked town officials to keep the FBI’s inquiries “confidential.” That prompted board officials to decline to discuss the matter further.
Afterward, town Finance Director Malcolm Moore declined comment when asked about being questioned by federal investigators. However, town officials confirmed that he and Payette appeared before the grand jury last week….
The question of whether Iannitti is a town employee is a confusing one. [West Warwick Resident Alan Palazzo], who has waged a year-long battle to obtain town records regarding Iannitti’s pension, said that he was initially informed by Joseph Pezza, the board’s lawyer, that Iannitti was an employee — only to be contradicted later by the town’s lawyer, state Rep. Timothy Williamson.
The town has blocked access to the records Palazzo requested.