That's a Wrap
This week as we wrap up 2010, The Hummel Report has new details on some of our investigations - and the fallout from what we've uncovered. Plus, Jim Hummel has a special tribute to one of the good guys in government, who persevered in a city under siege.
Hummel ``This week, we give you our quarterly update, with new information on some of investigations from the last several months, and in one case going back more than a year - to one of our very first Hummel Report stories.''
Mike Coogan lost his primary bid in September for a state senate seat in Fall River; but he's still dealing with the fallout from our investigation that found he was working as an unregistered contractor in Rhode Island - a violation of state law.
Coogan didn't show up to a hearing this month at the Rhode Island contractor's registration board and will now have to pay more than $18,000 for shoddy work at the Barrington home of John Angelo, who filed a complaint against him. Coogan will also face fines and a potential criminal investigation by the attorney general's office for not being registered.
Hummel: ``Another candidate in the September primary was West Warwick Town Councilman Angelo Padula, who we found with used car dealer plates on not only his truck, but vehicles driven by his mother and girlfriend. And that caught the registry's attention.''
Padula's junkyard is one of the oldest in the state, going back three generations. He told the state he sells more than 100 cars each year, entitling him to used car dealer plates.
The registry tells the Hummel Report Padula's license comes up for renewal at the end of the month and investigators will examine the affidavit he has to file verifying the sales. The DMV also tells us he added his mother and girlfriend to the list of people authorized to drive with the used car plates.
Padula, by the way, won re-election and is now the council's president.
Hummel: ``License plates seemed to be a common theme this fall, as we found a newly-elected town councilman in Exeter driving a $40,000 truck around town...with Vermont plates.''
Daniel Patterson told us he bought the $40,000 pickup truck in Rhode Island, but changed the registration to Vermont because he does business on farms in the Green Mountain State and local plates make it easier for him to deal with the farmers.
That may be, but not having it registered where he lives is a violation of Rhode Island law and lets him avoid paying more than $1,000 in local property tax, at a time when nearly everybody's bill has increased with the elimination of the car tax exemption.
Patterson refused to answer our follow up questions, but told a local paper after our story ran that even though he maintained he was doing nothing wrong he has moved the car up to Vermont, where he owns property, and is no longer keeping it in Rhode Island.
Hummel: ``2010 began with our investigation of allegations that Central Fall's mayor got a free furnace from a contractor. That led to state and federal investigations while the city, a few months later, bankruptcy. This month, a state-appointed receiver issued a sobering report on the future of Rhode Island's smallest city.''
Retired Judge Mark Pfeiffer said the city could not balance its budget, given its expenses and pension liabilities and recommended that Central Falls merge with Pawtucket, an idea met with mixed reaction. This fall Pfeiffer stripped the city council of its power, replacing it with a three-member panel of Mayor Charles Moreau's most vocal critics.
Meanwhile federal grand jury looking into Moreau's administration has convened and one city official has been subpoenaed to testify right after the new year.
Hummel: ``A year ago we told you about $9 million in federal stimulus money the Rhode Island Department of Transportation was spending to replace...road signs.
The project included all of Routes 10 and 37 and a portion of Route 95 near Providence. The stimulus was intended to give a jump start to the economy more than a year and a half ago with ``shovel ready'' projects.
DOT officials deemed the road sign replacement a good fit. But it has taken more than a year to complete the project, which is still not done. Signs at this staging areas are still waiting to go up. The DOT tells the Hummel Report the project is almost complete and should be finished, weather permitting, in the next 6 to 8 eight weeks.
Hummel: ``Finally most of the time we focus on what is wrong with government. This week we want to pay tribute to one of the people who is what public service should be about. Central Falls Fire Chief Rene Coutu, who died unexpectedly from prostate cancer on Dec.7th.''
We interviewed Coutu three months ago about expired inspection stickers on some of the department's vehicles.
Chief Coutu: `My fault, we didn't see the inspection stickers.''
He accepted full responsibility and vowed that it would not happen again. But that was no surprise coming from Coutu, who had been with the department nearly 40 years, the last 25 as chief. In a city that has been the poster child for corruption, Coutu stood out as one of the good guys - someone who was in it for all the right reasons and was working... until the day he died.
Hummel: ``It has been quite a year for us and much of what we exposed has come from your story ideas, which we hope continue in 2011. Join us back here next week as I'll have an interview with Lincoln Chafee as he's poised to take over as Rhode Island's next governor.''