A report commissioned by the City of Providence finds that then Mayor, now Congressman, David Cicilline is responsible for the fiscal mess, which has been the subject of numerous prior posts here. Most famously, Providence recently was forced to issue preemptive termination notices to every teacher in the Providence School District to provide the flexibility.
— “The Administration transferred funds from the Undesignated Surplus (Rainy-Day Fund) without approval of a majority vote of the City Council as required.”
— “The Administration did not provide financial information on a timely basis to the independent auditor, the City Council or the Internal Auditor.”
— “The Administration did not provide the City Council with monthly financial statements or with projections of year-end surpluses or deficits.”
— “The Administration prepared budgets based on unrealistic assumptions.”
— “The Administration was not transparent in its use of the City’s Capital Assets Account.”
— “Financial reports submitted to the State were inaccurate.”
— “The City Council’s checks-and-balances on the Administration were ineffective.”
Cicilline regularly attempts to blame prior finance problems, cuts in state aid, and general economic factors for the disaster Cicilline left behind. The report rejects such claims in the opening paragraphs, laying the blame directly at the feet of Cicilline (emphasis mine):
The national recession, the collapse of the housing market, and the unprecedented reduction in state aid had a dramatic impact on the financial health of the City of Providence. Between fiscal years 2008 and 2011 state aid was reduced by 19% or $49.6 million. The last fiscal year the City ended with balanced budget was 2008. In fiscal years 2009 through 2011, the City relied on non-recurring revenues (i.e. reserve funds and borrowings) to balance its budget. During the same period the City’s “Rainy-Day Fund” shrunk from $22.4 million to $2.0 million.
While factors and events beyond the City’s control contributed to Providence’s weakening financial condition, the prior Administration did not recommend the difficult choices necessary to avert a fiscal crisis. The Administration did not present a corrective action plan that could have minimized the pending financial melt-down that the City has experienced. Furthermore, the City’s financial challenges have been made more difficult to address because of a dysfunctional financial management system. A system where communication between the Administration and the City Council was problematic, where deadlines for providing information were missed, where an operating budget was enacted seven months after the fiscal year began, where requirements of the City Charter were ignored, where unrealistic budgetary assumptions were presented, and where effective monitoring of the Administration by the City Council was made difficult and was thus lacking.
During the campaign last fall, Cicilline misrepresented the financial condition of Providence, issuing press releases like this one:
“Fortunately, the strong fiscal health that Providence has maintained under Mayor Cicilline’s leadership made it possible to hold the line on taxes and still balance the City’s budget. That made a lot more sense than raising taxes in the middle of a painful recession.”
In typical Cicilline style, he continues to deny any wrongdoing or accept personal responsibility. And picking up on his campaign tactic from last fall, Cicilline has launched another tour of senior centers to scare the elderly over proposed changes to Medicare.
While Cicilline is obfuscating over his personal responsibility and scaring seniors, John Loughlin — who ran a solid but ultimately unsuccessful campaign against Cicilline last fall — is headed back to Iraq as part of his National Guard service.
The contrast between Cicilline and Loughlin could not be more stark, and I hope Loughlin mounts a challenge to Cicilline in 2012, in the event Cicilline refuses to do the right thing and refuses resign.
Update: Cicilline is throwing his staff under the bus:
Congressman David Cicilline says as mayor he never told anyone in his administration to bypass the City Council by transferring money out of Providence’s reserve funds without approval, as alleged in a report set for release this morning.
“I did not, nor would I ever direct anyone who worked for me, to bypass any required Council approval,” Cicilline said Tuesday during a half-hour interview with WPRI.com in his Pawtucket district office. Asked if that meant such an action – if taken – happened without his approval, he replied: “That is correct.”
Will David Cicilline (D-RI) Be At The News Conference About The Mess He Left Behind In Providence?
What Did Former Providence Mayor David Cicilline (D-RI) Know, And When Did He Know It?
In Rhode Island, Nothing Succeeds Like Failure