First Responses to DiPalma Inquiry
The responses have begun to trickle in to my inquiry about the support that Sen. Louis DiPalma (D, Little Compton, Tiverton, Portsmouth, Middletown, Newport) has expressed for Senate Majority Leader Dominique Ruggerio’s hiring of a union pal’s son at a very high salary. So far, I’ve sent (or attempted to send) variations of the following note to members of Tiverton’s State House delegation and to town council members from each of the municipalities that DiPalma represents:
As a resident of Tiverton, I’ve taken a particular interest in statements that Senator Louis DiPalma has made with regard to Senate Majority Leader Dominique Ruggerio’s hiring of Stephen Iannazzi. Therefore, I am seeking comment from various organizations and elected officials from towns that Mr. DiPalma represents for publication on AnchorRising.com. (Absence of comment will also be noted.) When the content justifies, I will write a summary essay, which I will submit to every appropriate state and local publication.
If you haven’t come across this story, the short version is that Mr. Iannazzi is 25 years old and holds no college degree (with credits in “labor studies” from Rhode Island College), yet he makes nearly $90,000 as a “special assistant” in Mr. Ruggerio’s legislative office. Stephen is the son of Donald Iannazzi, a business manager for Local 1033 of the Laborers International Union affiliate, which employs Mr. Ruggerio’s son, Charles. Sen. Ruggerio also works for another arm of the Laborers International Union.
In response to an inquiry from Providence Journal columnist Edward Achorn, Senator DiPalma replied as follows:
“Since joining the RI Senate some 2 years ago, I have seen the leadership, with the Senate President at the helm, attract, nurture and retain top talent with extensive capability and capacity,” he wrote.
“With respect to Mr. Stephen Ianazzi [sic], I have interacted with him on a regular basis. Stephen has performed admirably on each of his assigned tasks. From the results he has produced . . . Stephen is qualified to serve in his current capacity. I look forward to his continued results-based performance providing real value to the R.I. Senate and all its members. He certainly has a bright future,” wrote Senator DiPalma.
My question to you, as an elected public official in a municipality that Sen. DiPalma represents is: Do you believe that such a suspicious hiring requires a more detailed justification?
At the time of my sending the question, the City of Newport’s Web site was completely down, and four of the email addresses that Little Compton provides for its council members bounced back.
The first response came from Middletown Town Councilor Antone Viveiros:
All I can do is wonder if Senator DiPalma , as a manager at Raytheon, would hire, then defend his hiring of someone with such qualification/experience, to his superiors, and pay him or her nearly $90,000, without having a job description or having advertized the position, or would refuse to explain the need for such a position, if it was corporate funds, instead of taxpayer funds?
Tiverton Town Councilor David Nelson, who is also president of the local good-government reform group, Tiverton Citizens for Change, was even more pointed:
The hiring was WRONG. No job description, fair posting, screening and interviewing of applicants, or any semblance of fairness. Since this is a publicly funded position, paid for by the taxpayers of RI, we deserve a fair and transparent approach. There are plenty of qualified persons who would do the job for less. Mr Stephen Iannazzi has not earned anywhere near the salary he’s been paid, and he does not deserve this, nor has he earned it. The cost of the fringe benefits per RI Department of Revenue is 58%. So with pension contribution, Social Security, health insurance, etc., the cost to the taxpayer for this position becomes $132,000. This is a scam, which in a transparent
society would be reversed.
Councilor Chris Semonelli, of Middletown, by contrast, appears to be ambivalent about the hiring:
I am not familiar with the individuals mentioned in the Providence Journal article, in your note below and the potential situation mentioned.
However, I am familiar with Senator Lou Di Palma and have the utmost admiration for his integrity, abilities and accomplishments to date.
Senator Di Palma has been instrumental in developing many efforts to help get our state out of a lot of its historical quagmires.
I have not only been personally impressed, I repeatedly hear from his constituents and colleagues that he has either helped them with his follow through efforts or developed laws to help those less fortunate in the State of Rhode Island as either a Senator or a Town Councilor .
You can see by his track record on record with the state that this is indeed the case.
I feel we are very luck to have the Senator representing the people of Rhode Island and hope that he continues to represent the Great State of Rhode Island for many years to come.
I also want to thank you for your research efforts we do need these ongoing efforts to keep all activities transparent in government and to protect its integrity .
Meanwhile, the president of Middletown’s Council, Arthur Weber, was even more ambivalent:
This is a senate issue, no other comments.
Given reductions in state aid to Rhode Island’s cities and towns, not to mention the effect that State House spending and policies have on every Rhode Islander, one would think that a council president could at least summon an expression of concern.
Next up will be a table of the responses and non-responses thus far, and I’ll be broadening the field of those whom I ask for comment.
So the next time Mr. Weber complains about the funding his town and its schools get, maybe we can remind him, “This is an Assembly issue.” Then get on with Middletown’s issues.
Councilman Semonelli churns out the standard RI Democratic pod politician response:
Avoid the issue, thank the inquirer, preach about public service, broadly defend those in the line of political succession, etc. Sanitized, wordy, inhuman.
All I see when I read this manufactured statement is the final scene of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) when we find out that the main character is one of “them” now:
The favor traders in The Party have gotten to him.
As Mr. Nelson points out $99,000 turns into $132,000 when the “burden” rate is factored in. RI’ers shoulder not only the ridiculous salary but the benefits as well. Not bad for a 25yr. old unqualified silver spooner. I’m sure he will be appointed to the committee to investigate future appointments such as these. Life in RI…ain’t it grand.