News

As the Stories Continue to Unfold This month: Major developments on a handful of our Hummel Report investigations.

Hummel ReportPlate-gate

In December we reported that the school superintendent in Portsmouth had been driving with an out-of-state license plate for more than a year, avoiding paying local property taxes – even though the school committee told Dr. Lynn Krizic last summer that she needed to switch out the Illinois vanity plates on her 2003 Saab and get registered in Rhode Island.
After we asked her about it, Krizic told us in a follow-up email several days later that because the car was jointly registered with her husband, who still lives in Illinois, she didn’t plan to register it in Rhode Island – something Krizic never mentioned in our interview. That didn’t fly with the police in Little Compton, where she lives. An officer stopped her on the way to work one day, issuing her a citation, and in February, after several trips to the Division of Motor Vehicles in Cranston, Krizic finally registered and got Rhode Island license plates – keeping a University of Illinois plate holder on her 2003 Saab.But the superintendent was still required to appear last month before a magistrate in traffic court, where she produced the registration.
The judge dismissed the charges, but she had to pay $35 in court costs. All of this 20 months after Krizic took the job in Rhode Island.

All Fired Up

Voters in Central Coventry told the leaders of their financially beleaguered fire district last month they’d had enough, overwhelmingly rejecting a budget that called for a tax increase of more than 35 percent.
A court-appointed special receiver said the next step would likely be liquidation of the fire district’s assets to pay off millions of dollars in debt that have accumulated over the past several years.“We’re in a crisis stage at this point,” said Receiver Richard Land, who has overseen the district since last fall. “I believe liquidation in some form is likely.” The vote was the culmination of what started out as a promising idea in 2006 to merge four fire districts. It was sold to voters at the time as a way to pool assets and save money. Instead, union contracts that guaranteed an increasing number of firefighters generous benefits – coupled with an initial $700,000 accounting error that was repeated three years in a row – put the fire district on fragile financial ground.
A Hummel Report investigation showed last summer that the district’s spending increased more than 60 percent in just five years. Federal money that paid for additional firefighters helped keep down tax increases, but the model proved to be unsustainable. And voters, angry that their tax bills had climbed steadily over the years, began to show up to district meetings that previously were sparsely attended. For hours on March 26, a steady stream of people – at one point the line snaked around Coventry High School as far as the eye could see -cast votes in two machines set up in the hallway just outside the auditorium. At 10:15 pm, shortly after the polls closed, the results were in: 1,357, or 74 percent, voted against the budget; 484 supported it.

Family Affair

Pawtucket’s fire marshal called it quits in December after we revealed that he had put his girlfriend’s daughter on his Blue Cross family plan. We asked Fire Marshal Steve Parent about it as he arrived for work in December. Parent, a 25-year veteran of the department, said the City gave him permission to add his girlfriend’s daughter to his Blue Cross family plan more than a year earlier because the couple planned to get married. They never did get married and he eventually took the girl off the plan 10 months later, after she cost the City nearly $3,000 in medical expenses. Parent’s explanation didn’t sit well with Mayor Donald Grebien, who ordered a police investigation.
While detectives decided no criminal charges were warranted, Parent reimbursed the City for the medical expenses, then decided to retire several weeks after our interview.

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The Final Chapter

The sentencing and imprisonment last month of former Central Falls Mayor Charles Moreau marked the final chapter of a Hummel Report investigation that began three years ago, prompting a state and federal investigation.
Moreau had been under state and federal investigation since our story in early 2010 revealed that he’d gotten a free furnace from a contractor. Moreau finally admitted his guilt in September. The former mayor reported to begin serving a two-year sentence in federal prison in Maryland earlier on March 4.

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