ProCAP and How Yours Truly Went For An Unexpected Ride on the Government’s Pass-The-Buck Merry-Go-Round
yesterday at ProCAP: the Executive Director has been fired suspended, followed in short order by  the firing of the organization’s COO and attorney.
On Wednesday, what we knew was that ProCAP vendors were not being paid, personal loans had been made to the director and some staff members, hundreds of thousands of tax dollars were unaccounted for and that the organization’s Executive Director and the COO had held a shredding party behind locked doors on Tuesday.
Alarmed in particular by that last item, which appeared to be an attempt to destroy evidence of wrong-doing, and not yet having the benefit of the highly reassuring explanation subsequently provided by ProCAP’s COO – “We shred all the time” – I decided to make some calls to the people responsible for funding ProCAP with our tax dollars.
My questions were pretty straight-forward.
1.) In light of the document shredding, what had been done to secure ProCAP’s computer hard drives?
2.) What was happening to ProCAP’s checking account(s)? Had the signatories been changed so that the questionable expenditures could not continue?
3.) What was being done to protect taxpayer dollars in light of the revelations of questionable expenditures and unpaid vendors?
– I started at Mayor Taveras’ office, leaving a message with one of his press people requesting that someone call me about the ProCAP situation. (No one had called me back as of the end of the day Wednesday.)
– Next was a call to the Governor’s office, where a press person named Lindsey (sp?) didn’t even let me get through all of my questions before saying that she would ask someone who was familiar with the situation to call me.
– Someone from the Governor’s office called me back fairly quickly and directed me to the state’s Energy Resource office – apparently, the arm of government which is responsible for actually disbursing tax dollars to ProCAP and other organizations.
– When I called the Energy Resource office, I got voice mail and left a message. In short order, a woman from that office called me back and informed me that my questions had to be directed to the Director of Administration.
– On, telephonically, to the office of the Director of Administration, where I spoke to someone named Janice. Janice directed me away from the state and to the city, advising me that I needed to speak to Michael Solomon, President of the Providence City Council and ProCAP’s Chairman. (Wheee! It’s a good thing this ride has straps!)
– After leaving a message, I received a call in due course from Michael Solomon’s Chief of Staff, who cheerfully offered to talk to me off the record. I declined, which is where both the conversation and the ride came to an abrupt halt for now. (Regrettably, I cannot furnish the name of Mr. Solomon’s Chief of Staff for this post. I asked for it but he refused to provide it after it became clear that “off the record” would not be a pre-condition to a discussion about the expenditure of tax dollars.)
Now, the answer to my first question came a day later via a Turn to Ten report
Bentley says the U.S. attorney has taken materials from ProCAP’s offices, including his computer’s hard drive.
… which simultaneously provided the good news that the US Attorney has now taken an interest in the situation. My second question – what’s happening with the ProCAP checking accounts? – so far remains unanswered.
The larger point, however, is this. What procedures are in place to protect tax dollars when it becomes clear that financial mismanagement or worse might be occurring at an organization partially or wholly sponsored by tax payers?
Judging from this case, if there are any, they aren’t terribly impressive. Rather than reacting with hands-on concern, the various government agencies which funnel tax dollars to such an organization treated the whole thing like a hot potato. So much of government spending is on autopilot. It appears that procedures need to be implemented to disengage the governor (this kind, not that one) so that the flow of tax dollars to a questionable situation can be quickly choked off.