Hummel Report: The Abuse of Power of the Emergency Board-Up
Jim Hummel’s original report available here.
In addition to the issue of Mayor Moreau’s third party billing arrangement for his new furnace, Hummel’s report throws a spotlight onto the Mayor flexing emergency powers to deal with empty, foreclosed houses.
These – and more than 200 other houses – were boarded up by Bouthillette’s company, under the mayor’s “emergency powers’’ – which meant Bouthillette was the only game in town. The Hummel Report has also learned it meant Bouthillette’s company had the building official and in some cases the police department, behind him when he went to board up a house – sometimes charging more than 10 times what other companies we spoke with would charge for the same job.
By keeping emergency powers in place, the Mayor was able to avoid putting the work out to bid. Competition drives down prices. But when you’re designated as the only company for the job, you set your own rates. Property owners, then, were at the mercy of Certified Disaster Restoration Corporation, which was
one of several companies owned by Mike Bouthillette, a close friend and campaign contributor to Mayor Charles Moreau.
Except that, at ten times the going rate, Certified Disaster did not show much mercy.
I called City Hall this morning to ask how long the emergency powers were in effect. The Mayor’s Executive Assistant, Kristin Sullivan, did not know, which is puzzling because she works for the man who put them in place and couldn’t avoid being familiar with this detail. Kristin did inform me that the Mayor himself could not answer my question because is presently away at the US Conference of Mayors in DC. Why the City Solicitor, who presumably assisted the Mayor in establishing the emergency board-up powers, is also attending this event is not clear.
I also reached the Central Falls Building Official, Todd Olbrych, and asked him the same question: how long were these emergency powers in effect? After two “no comments”, he abruptly terminated our conversation.
By the time the Mayor had lifted the emergency powers, the company of the “close friend and campaign contributor to Mayor Charles Moreau” had boarded up over 200 buildings. This turned out to be, in Hummel’s words, the “lion’s share” of foreclosed buildings. Interestingly, then, while everyone at City Hall is studiously refusing to ‘fess up to the duration of the state of “emergency”, we know that, at a minimum, it was long enough to allow a close friend of the Mayor to vacuum up most of the high priced work.
Hummel reports today that the RI State Police have visited Central Falls City Hall to check into various details of this matter, including the strange billing arrangement for the Mayor’s new furnace. Possibly they can also establish the duration of the “emergency” and whether the Mayor was more entranced with exerting power than he was by the definition of “emergency” or with preventing a “legal” mugging of property owners that he purportedly represents.