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?

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16 years ago

I’m going to refer to this unique “arrangement” as what it actually is: quasi-legal MONEY LAUNDERING of private funds to a city official. Money laundering, in an of itself, is not always illegal. It is simply “the practice of engaging in financial transactions in order to conceal the identity, source, and/or destination of money.” Of course, whether the currently anonymous money transfers also constitute actual bribes to a public official would be dependent on the intent, as well as any “consideration” which may have been provided to the donors in exchange for the anonymous donation. To this point, that has yet to be established, though clearly the foundation is being used as a conduit to move money from the private sector to the public sector. Even if it turns out to be legal money laundering (kind of like justifiable homicide), that still doesn’t make it right or ethical. It’s repugnant.
The most interesting new development which I heard about on Buddy’s show earlier today (irony of ironies), and which was then repeated on Dan Yorke’s show, is that outgoing RI Foundation President Gallo claimed [on the radio today] that some of the funds, in addition to being from private anonymous individual donors, were also from local banks and other corporations — he even mentioned G-Tech by name. CVS? Blue Cross? Citizens Bank? Dunkin Donuts? Who knows how many companies might be paying into the anonymous “till.” Now, pray tell, what could large corporations with multi-million dollar tax deals with the City of Providence possibly have to gain by anonymously funnelling money through a private charitable foundation, for the seemingly sole purpose of “augmenting” the salary of one or more of the city’s top officials (insert dripping sarcasm here)?

16 years ago

Celona, Martineau, Irons. Some of these large corporations mean the state nothing but good things, Will!
Look, I am reluctant to find fault here, in part because the RI Community Foundation does a lot of good in this state with PRIVATE and not TAXPAYER money. At the same time, this is a little uncomfortable making and a little too reminiscent of the $86,000 (actually, more than that) in legal fees which Senate President Joseph Montalbano received from Harrahs, with the Town of West Warwick acting as a conduit. Do we really think that Mr. Montalbano did not know the original source of those legal fees? And of course Mayor Cicilline knew the source of these funds. The public has a right to know, also.

16 years ago

Right on! Harrahs came to mind with me also. Don’t forget Williamsons law office has also been on the West Warwick town gravy train to the tune of a 1/2 mil. Dan Yorke has mentioned more than once that Speaker Murphy hates being a criminal lawyer and had a job lined up with Harrahs if the casino went through. Yorke would know since his good buddy is Williamson and Tiny Tim is Murphy’s lap dog. If no job promise to Murphy think Harrahs gets to first base with their casino bill? Nice!
Now why don’t we read about these deals in the Projo or see stories about them on Channel 10?
They are a free and unbiased media are they not? lol

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