UPDATED – RE: Same as the old Boss?

Ian Donnis weighs in with a bit more on the RI Foundation and how it funnels money–donated anonymously–to help fund Providence Mayor Cicilline’s administration:

Cianci had departing Rhode Island Foundation chieftain Ron Gallo on his show yesterday. Just a few moments ago, Cianci pointed to how conflicts could arise from the foundation’s funding arrangement for Simmon’s salary.
In particular, Cianci asserted that GTECH may be contributing to the related fund at the foundation, and he noted how Donald R. Sweitzer, a senior VP at GTECH, is a Democratic fundraiser. (Btw, as I first reported, Mike Mello, Cicilline’s former chief of staff, took a job overseen by Sweitzer.)
I need to declare a mea culpa here. Steve Aveson asked me about the Simmons-RI Foundation issue during the roundtable portion of today’s taping of Newsmakers. In noting the tension between Cicilline and Yorke, and how Simmons is professionally well-regarded, I concluded that this isn’t a huge deal. After thinking about it a bit more, I’ve changed my mind.
The element of anonymity in funding Simmons’s salary is at odds with the good government/transparency philsophy espoused by Cicilline, and it does create at least the potential for conflicts.

UPDATE: Dan Yorke has obtained a few documents related to this issue. First, here are the first two pages (pg.1, pg.2) of the contract between the Providence Fund and Providence city hall Director of Administration John Simmons, which outlines a $3,500/month stipend from the Providence Fund to Simmons. Here are the first two pages (pg.1, pg.2) of the employment agreement between John Simmons and the City of Providence, which stipulates that Simmons will be paid $120,000 for the first year (2003) with $5K raises in year 2 and 3. Currently, Simmons makes around $150,000.
Please note: the salary/compensation numbers in the above documents don’t square with the numbers outlined in my previous post, which were based on my own research and those given by other sources. For my part, I used the Director of Administration salary as a base when Simmons is actually the Chief of Administration. I don’t know the intricacies of Providence City Government and it appears as if these may be different positions.
UPDATE II: In fact, Simmons was originally hired as a consultant with the title Chief of Administration. Additionally, Dan Yorke cited a 2005 ProJo story by Cathleen Crowley that I found via ProQuest (See extended entry). And now Ian Donnis is reporting that Simmons’ salary is now paid for entirely by the City of Providence, though Karen Southern, spokeswoman for Mayor Cicilline, “was unable to identify specifically when the foundation stopped contributing to Simmons’ compensation.” The question still remains (as the story below shows): who was the single contributor that supported Simmons’ salary boost? Here’s the relevant excerpt:

When Cicilline was elected, he hired Simmons as a consultant. Cicilline enlisted the Rhode Island Foundation to help pay for Simmons’ work and to finance other projects. The foundation created the Providence Government Restructuring Fund, now called the Fund for Providence.
“David Cicilline said, “What I need is some really significant outside assistance, some great advice, some independent review of the structure of city government before I take office,’ ” said Rick Schwartz, spokesman for the Rhode Island Foundation. “And lots of folks contributed.”
About 37 institutions and individuals donated to the fund, including Fleet Bank, Citizens Bank, the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, Narragansett Electric, Verizon, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Elizabeth and Malcolm Chace, Alan Hassenfeld and Frederick Lippitt.
The foundation reviews requests from the city and approves payments, Schwartz said.
“The structure [Cicilline] set up shielded any of the contributors from looking like the old days, which was ‘Well, of course we are going to contribute to this because it will do us some good,’ ” he said.
After six months as a consultant, Cicilline asked Simmons to join the staff as chief of administration.
“Personally, for me to come here, I needed a level of compensation and the mayor was able to get it partially through the city and partially through the Fund for Providence,” Simmons said last week.
Cicilline asked the Rhode Island Foundation to help augment Simmons’ salary by $42,000 a year and the foundation agreed. In order to avoid any conflict of interest, Schwartz said the foundation found a contributor that didn’t have any business before the city and earmarked that donation for Simmons’ salary.
“I don’t even know who it is,” Simmons said.
The foundation refused to identify the source of the donation, saying the contributor wanted to remain anonymous. Schwartz said the donor is a family foundation.

“It’s a well-known family. We can’t think of any connections to the city that they would benefit from in any way,” he said.
Simmons said he answers to the mayor, and nobody else.

Here is the entire story from 2005:

PROVIDENCE – City workers received 1.5-percent raises late last year, but Mayor David N. Cicilline increased the salaries of some of his own staff by 5 percent to 37 percent earlier this month.
The raises are aimed at holding onto talented people, the mayor’s office said.
Cicilline increased the salary of John C. Simmons, chief of administration 6 percent, from $126,900 to $135,000, and the salary for Carol J. Grant, chief of operations, rose 9 percent, from $111,650 to $121,800, which brought her to the same pay as Michael Mello, chief of staff .
Simmon’s salary is augmented by $42,000 a year, from a local, nonprofit foundation; Simmon’s total annual pay is $177,000, which is $52,000 higher than the mayor’s salary.
Unlike the salaries of other city workers — which are designated by ordinance — the mayor is allotted a pool of money for salaries that he can divvy up as he sees fit.
The city’s internal auditor, James J. Lombardi III, was critical of the raises, although he acknowledged that the mayor remained within his budget. At a time when the city is trying to control costs, the mayor’s raises are inappropriate, said Lombardi, who was particularly bothered by the increases given to the mayor’s top deputies who already earn more than $100,000.
“These raises send the wrong message to the rank and file employees, and the taxpayer, who do not receive these exorbitant increases,” Lombardi said.
The mayor gave several lower-paid employees raises, but Lombardi did not question those.
Nine of Cicilline’s 31 staffers received raises above the city- wide 1.5 percent. Two switchboard operators received 5-percent raises, increasing their salaries from $30,450 to $32,000; and two administrative aides received 23-percent raises, increasing from $30,450 to $38,500. The salary for the director of special events increased from $47,500 to $50,000.
The deputy chief of staff, Christopher J. Bizzacco, received a 37- percent raise, jumping from $47,500 to $65,000.
“Chris works 18-hour days, he works day and night, seven days a week for the city,” said Karen Southern, spokeswoman for the mayor’s office.
The raises were retroactive to September.
Southern said the salaries for the high-level staff members help the city attract and keep talented people.
“It was important for the mayor to hire the best and the brightest for his administration,” Southern said. “These are people would be receiving a much higher salary in the private sector.”
The mayor was on vacation for several days and was not available for comment.
Grant is a former vice president of human resources for Textron. She was a vice president at Nynex, now Verizon, where she was responsible for 900 employees serving 650,000 customers.
Simmons is no stranger to Providence. He served as director of administration under former Mayor Joseph R. Paolino Jr. and has served as the state’s deputy general treasurer for finance. He was chief financial officer for Boston Mayor Thomas Menino before he started a consulting company. He has 25 years experience in government administration.
When Cicilline was elected, he hired Simmons as a consultant. Cicilline enlisted the Rhode Island Foundation to help pay for Simmons’ work and to finance other projects. The foundation created the Providence Government Restructuring Fund, now called the Fund for Providence.
“David Cicilline said, “What I need is some really significant outside assistance, some great advice, some independent review of the structure of city government before I take office,’ ” said Rick Schwartz, spokesman for the Rhode Island Foundation. “And lots of folks contributed.”
About 37 institutions and individuals donated to the fund, including Fleet Bank, Citizens Bank, the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, Narragansett Electric, Verizon, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Elizabeth and Malcolm Chace, Alan Hassenfeld and Frederick Lippitt.
The foundation reviews requests from the city and approves payments, Schwartz said.
“The structure [Cicilline] set up shielded any of the contributors from looking like the old days, which was ‘Well, of course we are going to contribute to this because it will do us some good,’ ” he said.
After six months as a consultant, Cicilline asked Simmons to join the staff as chief of administration.
“Personally, for me to come here, I needed a level of compensation and the mayor was able to get it partially through the city and partially through the Fund for Providence,” Simmons said last week.
Cicilline asked the Rhode Island Foundation to help augment Simmons’ salary by $42,000 a year and the foundation agreed. In order to avoid any conflict of interest, Schwartz said the foundation found a contributor that didn’t have any business before the city and earmarked that donation for Simmons’ salary.
“I don’t even know who it is,” Simmons said.
The foundation refused to identify the source of the donation, saying the contributor wanted to remain anonymous. Schwartz said the donor is a family foundation.
“It’s a well-known family. We can’t think of any connections to the city that they would benefit from in any way,” he said.
Simmons said he answers to the mayor, and nobody else.
“This provides me the economics that I need to come here and do this job, which is a job I wish to do,” Simmons said. “It’s not just about the money. It’s about the job.”
H. Philip West Jr., executive director of Common Cause of Rhode Island, a government watchdog group, said there doesn’t appear to be a conflict of interest with Simmons’ arrangement, though West cautioned that he didn’t know the details and that his organization receives grant money from the Rhode Island Foundation.
West said Simmons is vulnerable to accusations of impropriety and suggested that the city get an advisory opinion from the state Ethics Commission.
The commission, West predicted, would probably conclude that there is no conflict.

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rhody
rhody
13 years ago

What’s a political scandal without GTECH, Blue Cross or CVS in the middle of it?
The lasting damage to Cicilline may be the realization that he’s just as corporate as the rest of ’em.

Monique
13 years ago

Regarding the “Fund for Providence”:
> a firm called the Clarendon Group has been involved with it –
http://www.zoominfo.com/Search/PersonDetail.aspx?PersonID=701231513
> and page 2 of these 2003 Minutes quotes someone named Carol Golden on the Fund for Providence, who says that the Fund has attracted many new donors.
http://www.cof.org/files/Documents/Community_Foundations/CFLT/2003/November2003.pdf

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