Hummel! Overpriced School Repairs – Mayor Board-Up Strikes Again

This week’s Hummel Report [h/t WPRO’s John Depetro] returns to the scene of a prior potential crime to discover that Mayor Charles Moreau has had a heavy hand in choosing the vendors for repairs to Central Falls schools

[Superintendent Fran] Gallo quickly found out, though, Mayor Moreau held the checkbook, and was calling all of the shots, with virtually no input from a Facilities Committee made up of representatives from both the city and the school department

with a very predictable result for the work awarded on the Captain Hunt Elementary School.

Despite that, the company kept working well into the fall and the price of the original bid more than doubled. The original bid was $587,000. With more than $620,000 in change orders, the total came to $1.2 million. The building had the entire brick exterior on one side replaced, extensive roof work and a brand new ceiling and lights in the cafeteria.

The company was Iron Construction and – surprise! -it turns out that the “president played a major role in the mayor’s re-election campaign”. (No indication so far that the mayor received a discounted furnace or other discounted items for his personal abode in connection with this matter.)
Some questions:
– In a state where the unemployment rate among building contractors is far higher than the state average of 12%+, how did the city receive only one bid for this work? Or did the mayor deliberately wait until the last minute to make these repairs so that he could once again invoke his “emergency” powers?
– Is it even legal for a vendor to change the specs of an awarded contract to the extent that he gets paid double the original tender?
– Did the Mayor sign off on those changes?
Presumably, this becomes yet another matter for the RI State Police to look into as the RI Attorney General has made it clear that, when it comes to this particular friend public official, “recusal” means “I ain’t looking at it no matter how bad the accusation or how persuasive the evidence”.

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11 years ago

This is unbelievable. A no bid contract, the cost doubled by the contractor (apparently for work not recommended by an engineer), additional costs incurred due to renting another school space – what is the real cost of this sweetheart deal that the mayor bestowed upon his supporter?
Question: did the mayor want to get the city into receivership because it presents more opportunity to cover up this kind of waste, or worse, of taxpayer money?
It’s time for the State to move to take over Central Falls. AUDIT, AUDIT, FORENSIC AUDIT. Forget the RISP and the AG’s office – nothing has happened with the $1.2 Million “board up” gift from the mayor and that’s been known for months and months. The feds or prosecutors and investigators from outside Rhode Island need to get on this. Who is involved, how much money has been given away to supporters of the mayor, expose the conflicts and kickbacks.
More questions on the choice to file for receivership instead of working within the existing law and process for a city in trouble. When were lawyers first consulted about the receivership? Who was consulted? Doesn’t Central Falls have their own city attorney? Where is the city attorney in all of this? How much Central Falls taxpayer money has already been spent in connection with the receivership? Who has been paid and how much? Have contracts for legal fees been signed by the mayor? Is the receiver spending city money now? How much? Who is making sure that this receivership isn’t just another gift from the mayor using taxpayer dollars? What authority would a receiver have to investigate illegal contracts and illegal payments? Could a receiver unknowingly destroy evidence or impeded a criminal investigation?

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