One Man’s Junk

Actually, lots of junk – in this case, operation of the Central Landfill – has turned into real, if unauthorized, treasure for a few public officials.
Susan A. Baird covers this investigation in yesterday’s Providence Business News:

Preliminary results from the state’s ongoing examination of the R.I. Resource Recovery Corporation raise “serious concerns about how the state’s landfill and recycling operation have been managed,” Gov. Donald L. Carcieri said in a statement today …

Like the landfill, preliminary findings are not pretty.
The RIRRC bought a bunch of land. They paid too much for it. (That was easy to do; no appraisals were carried out.) And the kicker: much of it will not or cannot be used for its “intended” purpose.
Two specific items in this category struck me, one small, one significant. The report cryptically but intriguingly notes that the RIRRC’s initial offer for Parcel 4 “also included employment of the seller’s husband”. A state job to clinch the deal? We may never know for sure as this condition was subsequently dropped from the purchase.
And one of the better known beneficiaries of some of the real estate transactions is the former Mayor of Johnston William Macera, as well as members of his family. The RIRRC paid them $8m for 105 acres of land but out of this, only ten (10) acres proved usable, the balance being either wetlands or contaminated.
Several purportedly charitable donations were made by the RIRRC to entities with which RIRRC Commissioners were affiliated in an official capacity. In fact, the purpose of these donations is questionable.

“Finally, the corporation has spent at least $2.1 million on charitable contributions over the years,” the governor said. “In some cases, these included payments for items such as sporting events that corporation board members or employees were allowed to enjoy. As a state-authorized monopoly, it isn’t clear why the corporation needed to curry favor with community organizations by making these types of contributions.”

For alert readers who heard the “leak” of this report several months ago, this is where the infamous $4,000 on surfboards can be found.
And after an … er, inconsistent RFP process, substantial RIRRC investments were placed with one investment company, Van Liew Trust Company, with whom one of the RIRRC Commissioners, John St. Sauveur, enjoyed a paid (WPRO said this morning ownership) role. Side bar: just out of curiosity, why does the Rhode Island Secretary of State’s website provide no corporate information on the Van Liew Trust Company?
Though described as preliminary, the report is well researched and presented.

“The examination is far from complete,” the governor concluded. “But this preliminary information alone shows that the Resource Recovery Corporation has been mismanaged for years. Because every citizen of Rhode Island is affected by the work of the corporation, every citizen should be outraged.”

Indeed. The operation of the Central Landfill appears to be quite contaminated.

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