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A Hummel Report Investigation

Block Island Brouhaha

This week The Hummel Report goes on the road (actually, across the water) to Block Island, where we find that conflicts of interest involving public officials are not confined to the mainland. The island’s longtime harbormaster is facing an investigation by the Rhode Island Ethics Commission – accused of using his public position to try and line his own pockets. On this island where almost everybody really does know everybody, it’s difficult to get anyone to talk publicly – but one year-round resident has come forward to say: enough is enough. Hear what he has to say. And we go to the harbormaster’s boss, who has begun her own investigation.

SCRIPT

Block Island’s longtime harbormaster Christopher Willi resigned on Friday, three months after a Hummel Report investigation revealed allegations of conflict of interest. Willi had been accused of using his town position to line his own pockets and was suspended after a similar allegation four years ago. The Town Council held a pre-termination hearing a week ago, and met again with Willi behind closed doors before he submitted his resignation on Friday. Town Manager Nancy Dodge tells The Hummel Report that because he resigned, there will be no appeal, but she declined to say whether there was any financial settlement with the now-former harbormaster. That information will become available at the town council’s next meeting on Feb. 1. Willi still faces an investigation by the Rhode Island Ethics Commission into his conduct. Year-round resident Steve Miller filed the ethics complaint last fall, saying Willi violated town rules by allowing a charter captain to use the harbormaster’s own slip and take a cut of the profits.

To see the original Hummel Report story on Willi from Block Island, which ran October 29th, click here…

2.4.2010 Update

Former Block Island Harbormaster Christopher Willi will receive two months' severance pay and partial medical payments for 15 months, in return for not taking any legal action against the town of New Shoreham, Town Manager Nancy Dodge tells The Hummel Report.

Willi, who has been harbormaster for the better part of the last decade, resigned last month after the Town Council held a closed-door pre-termination hearing last month, and then another session to hammer out details. The Hummel Report first reported in October that a year-round resident had filed a complaint against Willi with the Rhode Island Ethics Commission alleging numerous conflicts of interest.

Steve Miller said Willi violated the town charter by allowing another person to use Willi's own boat slip in Old Harbor, and take a cut of the profits. That complaint is  still being investigated by the ethics commission.

The settlement amounts to $8,233.50 - two months of his $49,401 salary. The town, under the agreement will also pay 65 percent of Willi's medical benefits allowed to him under COBRA, with Willi picking up the remaining 35 percent. His resignation is effective Jan. 21st, according to Dodge.

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