Same as the old Boss?
Dan Yorke has been asking for some media outlet to look into the links between The Rhode Island Foundation and Providence Mayor David Cicilline’s administration. According to a 2003 press release, the Rhode Island Foundation set up a contribution structure to the Mayor’s Administration via The Fund for Providence:
The Fund was established at The Rhode Island Foundation shortly after the Mayor was elected in November 2003, and provides a mechanism to attract external resources to advance the Mayor’s ambitious agenda for re-energizing and re-shaping city government.
The Fund for Providence is designed to support the development of new initiatives aimed at expanding and improving the delivery of city services. ProvStat, an accountability and tracking system to monitor the performance of city services is one such example of the work supported by the Fund. The Fund is also supporting research, planning, and public engagement strategies around priority issues facing the city and its residents and businesses.
Apparently, that includes helping to pay the salaries of government officials. Ian Donnis had this in a story on Yorke back in January:
Yorke points to how a private fund managed by the Rhode Island Foundation pays a fraction of the nearly $200,000 salary earned by John Simmons, the mayor’s director of administration. While the mayor has said that Simmons’ private-sector experience has yielded millions in savings for the city, through enhanced bond ratings, Yorke calls the arrangement’s partial anonymity at odds with open government and Cicilline’s self-description as a reformer.
Fraction is right. According to the latest City of Providence compensation numbers (PDF, line A18, p. 15), Simmons should be making in the mid-$60K range. Yet the fact that the public doesn’t know for sure who exactly funnels money to pay $140K worth of Simmons’ salary doesn’t bother the Mayor. In a post by Brown Prof. Darrell West in 2004, West reported that Mayor Cicilline defends this setup.
According to Cicilline, the concept is “new to Providence, but not new to cities” around the country. Responding to complaints about possible conflicts of interest between outside donors and the city, the mayor defended the practice and said “we never would have gotten half the things done without this.”
So the ends justify the means, right? Didn’t someone else get in trouble using that logic?