Rhode Island government corruption
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Providence, RI The Rhode Island Supreme Court recently delivered its decision in the case of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees v. Office of the Governor, ordering the release of information relating to private contractors. The decision centered on the 2006 "Government Oversight and Fiscal Accountability Review Act", which stated “using private contractors to provide public services normally provided by public employees does not always promote the public interest. To ensure that citizens of this state receive high quality public services at low costs … the legislature finds it necessary to ensure that access to public information guaranteed by the access to public records act is not in any way hindered by the fact that public services are provided by private contractors.”
The former North Kingstown high school athletic director Keith Kenyon resigned earlier in the year, suddenly, WPRI reported.
The audit into the spending shows that the student activities account received almost $400,000 a year since 2003. However, not all of that money paied for student activities.
For example, the audit revealed Kenyon paid a large cell phone bill with student activities account money. The audit also showed that of the $21,000 once raised by a fundraiser for the school's hockey program, only $4,200 actually went to the program. The other $17,000 went to a private company.
Kenyon has not commented on the audit.
Shortly after taking office in 2003 Carcieri hired niece Stephanie Accaputo to work in his constituent affairs office. Since the violation has come to light, Accaputo has resigned her position.
Dianne Leyden, prosecutor for the Ethics Commission, said that the hiring was a clear violation of the ethics rules, but is content with the outcome.
The bill, expected to face a vote today, would specifically protect those officers involved in deadly force incidents that resulted in killing. It would amend the Open Records Law, which currently mandates the release of police incident reports, exempting the officers involved in deadly force episodes from this requirement.
Rep. Kenneth A. Vaudreuil, a Democrat from Central Falls, introduced the bill at the request of Central Falls police. Both current and retired police officers are cosponsors on the bill.
A last-minute amendment in the bill, passed with a 46-22 vote, that eliminated the requirement for police narrative reports on arrests to be open to the public was in addition to two other unexpected amendments in the Rhode Island House.
"The changes that were made are very troubling and all the groups that have been working on this bill are going to sit down and discuss the ramifications of those amendments," said Steven Brown, executive director of the Rhode Island Affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union. The RIAACLU was one of several advocacy groups that supported the legislation.
"But I’d emphasize that the attorney general has held for some time that the initial narrative reports are in fact a public record," said Brown. "The House vote to the contrary today is a major step backward in the scope of the statute."
Barbara Meagher, president of ACCESS/RI, said lawmakers "need to be braver and let the public know more about what the government is doing."
Rep. Edith H. Ajello, D-Providence, was the prime sponsor of bill H 51360. He asked for a delay before being sent to the Senate for a vote because the bill can still be amended as long as it remains in the House.
The new site watches the stimulus funds coming into the state for a variety of projects and provides a forum for people to express support or opposition to the projects. The site is a "wiki," allowing users to contribute and edit to the descriptions of projects and forums and OSPRI called for taxpayer involvement.
"We've created this website to not only track how the stimulus funds are being spent, but to serve as an online town hall meeting for the entire state," said Bill Felkner, President of OSPRI. "The taxpayers now have a way to make their opinions heard and show their support or opposition by 'voting' for or against these projects. Now we need your vote!"
Following the launch of this site, OSPRI now plans to inform numerous state and local elected officials of the new website. The non-profit wants to encourage them to watch the feedback and comments that constituents post.
"Our goal is bring the voters and the elected officials together," Felkner said. "Lobbyists should not control our government, we, the people, should control our government. It's time for officials to stop listening with their wallets and start listening with their ears."
"The school district is refusing to release its legal bills despite the fact they are paid with taxpayer money and normally considered public records.
The town routinely makes its legal bills public, but the school attorney denied a request from Bill McCombe to turn over the school legal bills, saying to do so would violate attorney/client privilege."
"A group of activists is pushing Rhode Island to join a handful of other states that allow adopted children to get access to their birth certificates.
The Rhode Island Adoption Coalition for Equality will hold its first public meeting Saturday at 1 p.m. at Lachapelle Funeral Home, 643 Main Street, Pawtucket.
Members are trying to build support for legislation before the General Assembly that would let adults who were adopted as children get copies of their original birth certificates."
"A judge has ordered Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri to turn over documents describing the state’s chain-of-command when the governor is away.
Superior Court Judge Patricia Hurst ruled Tuesday that Carcieri must provide her with documents sought by the American Civil Liberties Union in an open records lawsuit. Carcieri’s attorney has said some of those documents are exempt from disclosure.
After reviewing the documents, Hurst will decide what can be made public."
"Applications to be a judge in Rhode Island are piling up. Wedged into a corner of a third-floor state office are the brown folders containing at least five years’ worth of them, resembling a homework-stuffed high school locker.
The files hold resumés, financial and other disclosures, and letters of support from influential people. And more are coming. Seven vacancies, from Family Court to Supreme Court chief justice, face the commission that recommends finalists to Governor Carcieri."
"Westerly town officials have rejected a newspaper’s request for records related to an internal police investigation of a detective who recently resigned.
The Sun newspaper of Westerly sought all records, reports and statements made during the Westerly Police Department’s investigation of Detective Darren Fiore.
But town solicitor Steven Hartford denied a request, saying the records were not covered by the state’s Access to Public Records Act."
"Taking away the promise of 3-percent annual pension hikes for retired state workers and public school teachers could save taxpayers as much as $78.6 million next year, according to a just-completed financial analysis of one of Governor Carcieri’s pension-cutting proposals.
Making all but the most senior employees wait until age 65 before they can start drawing a pension could shave another $156.9 million off the annual pension bill paid by state and local taxpayers."
"A civil liberties group is accusing the North Smithfield police department of violating the state's open records law by refusing to turn over an arrest report that it says should have been public.
The state affiliate of the Rhode Island American Civil Liberties Union sued the department Thursday in Providence Superior Court."
"The Carcieri administration is refusing to disclose the number of unused vacation and sick days it awarded recent state retirees who, in some cases, walked out the door with severance checks averaging $10,500, but running as high as the $129,158 paid to former Rhode Island College president John Nazarian.
In total, taxpayers paid $16.5 million in severance payments to the 1,521 state workers and college employees who retired in the five months before the price of health coverage for new state retirees went up on Oct. 1."
"A Rhode Island Superior Court judge yesterday ordered the Carcieri administration to turn over contracts and other records pertaining to its privatization efforts to the union that represents state workers.
Judge Netti C. Vogel said a state law passed last year, over Governor Carcieri’s veto, gives Council 94, American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, “a clear legal right … to access the specific public records that they sought from [administration officials].”"
"The Transparency Train, produced by the Ocean State Policy Research Institute, and the Money Trail, a project of the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition Foundation, are part of a growing number of specialty Web sites across the nation that shine the light on government in a way that was not possible before the advent of the Internet."
"Taping Town Council and School Committee meetings and leaving the videocassette at the library for residents to take out has long been done as a courtesy to residents.
But that arrangement is changing in the wake of a brief exchange at a recent council meeting.
For the short term, the tapes will no longer be going to the library. And when they return, they will be in the form of DVDs."
"The Rhode Island Affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union is suing Governor Carcieri for a “knowing and willful” violation of the Access to Public Records Act for refusing to turn over any documents that spell out how the governor will establish the chain of command in his absence during an emergency."
"The Judicial Nominating Commission cannot, as a blanket rule, prohibit the public from seeing letters that it receives regarding finalists for state judgeships, Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch’s office said yesterday."
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