LETTERS

Mayor, Council turn a blind eye?

Posted 4/6/22

To the Editor,

Here we go again. Another major scandal could be brewing with the Warwick Fire Department.

Last night before the Warwick City Council Finance Committee, Warwick resident, Rob …

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LETTERS

Mayor, Council turn a blind eye?

Posted

To the Editor,

Here we go again. Another major scandal could be brewing with the Warwick Fire Department.

Last night before the Warwick City Council Finance Committee, Warwick resident, Rob Cote exposed a scheme by the Fire Department that would grant an undisclosed company thousands of dollars to administrator testing to firefighters seeking a promotion.

The importance to this testing can’t be overstated. Receiving a promotion in the department translates into hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional salary and pension benefits over the lifetime of the firefighter and spouse.

What makes this matter so troubling is that by not disclosing who the bidders are, representatives from the firms could very well be people who have direct connections to personal in the fire department who are going to take the test. We just don’t know!

The fact that Finance Chairman, Councilman Timothy Howe (401) 215-0632, Councilman Vincent Gebhart (401) 307-1284 and Councilman William Foley (401) 391-8777, never even thought of questioning the bid is also equally troubling, but commonplace.

With Councilman Howe accepting thousands of dollars in campaign contribution from the Warwick Firefighter Union, ignoring the improprieties of this bid demonstrate his “turning a blind eye”, when it comes to ensuring proper bid protocols are followed before his committee.

But this is to be expected from Mr. Howe. The previous firefighter contract was rushed through ratification using extraordinary political tactics, even though Mr. Howe and member of the council were warned by taxpayers that future problems would ensue because language was vague. Last month the City Finance Director notified the council that new language had to be negotiated in the future contact that will cost taxpayers potential millions of dollars.

Howe has dramatically changed finance committee rules so that individual items on the agenda, including bids such as this one, no longer receive the scrutiny like past finance committees. Unless a council member specifically requests that the bid item be pulled from the agenda for individual discussion, all items on the finance committee are packaged together and voted in their entirety.

Mr. Cote had to ask that this bid be discussed separately. His first question to Howe was, “Who are the vendors?” After a long pause, Howe was flabbergasted and referred the question to the chief.

The fire chief shockingly responded that, “they are confidential vendors to try to prevent tampering”. He goes on to state, “If one of the people [Warwick Firefighter] knew the vendor, they potentially could be given the test results”.

What? It’s hard to even comprehend an answer like that!

If any vendors had a conflict of interest with Warwick Fire Department personal, why would they even be allowed to bid? For an ethical firm, why would this be an issue? Shouldn’t the Warwick Fire Department have policies in place that would require the firm to disclose any tampering scheme to the city?

Wouldn’t the city instruct firefighters that a violation of this policy would lead to immediate termination?

Mr. Cote had to inform the finance committee why the bid is illegal. He stated that it is an open bid process, and the vendors must be identified.

Mr. Cote described the procedure the council uses to recuse themselves if any conflict exists with a bidder. The only way a council member could be aware of a conflict is that they need to know who the bidders are. Councilman Howe’s answer made no sense, and he didn’t seem concerned with the anonymous bid process.

Mr. Cote asks the chief one final question, “can you say to the council tonight and the members in the audience, that you know for a fact that any of these companies … none of the workers, none of the employees, none of the staff, have any relationship, either present, past, with the City of Warwick or the Warwick Fire Department”?

Howe would not allow the chief to answer that question. Why would he do that?

Thankfully Mr. Cote prepared for the finance meeting reviewing this bid. Otherwise, it would have sailed through the committee with no oversight, just like most bids are.

This stinks to high heaven!

What other backroom deals are being conducted like this in Warwick? This bid process puts a black eye on Warwick and shows a potential level of corruption not only between Warwick Firefighters and the bidders, but potential corruption from Mayor Picozzi and the Warwick City Council.

It begs the question, if receiving thousands of dollars in campaign contribution from the firefighter union has led these officials to turn a blind eye to this potential illegal process?

The bid is now being held until the next city council meeting. Residents should pay close attention to its outcome. Taxpayers should demand information regarding all bids awarded to an anonymous vendor.

The go-along-to-get-along back room deals by politicians and their special interest friends in Warwick, needs to stop now. Taxpayers can no longer afford it.

Please click on the link to hear the full testimony. https://youtu.be/ 8YPIgvLBb0c

Robert Cushman

Warwick

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  • THowe

    Letter to the Editor, April 14, 2022

    At the April 4, 2022 Finance Committee meeting, Robert Cote once again scripted another unfounded accusation at Mayor Picozzi's Administration, The Warwick Fire Department and the City Council Finance Committee. His accusation of "corrupt practices" concerning a firefighter promotion test bid was immediately joined by one term councilman Robert Cushman.

    Mr. Cushman states in his letter to the editor on 4/7/22, Beacon, "Mayor, Council turn a blind eye" and "The members of the Finance Committee never even thought of questioning the bid is troubling but commonplace." I must take a moment to remind Mr. Cushman of his past voting record on this practice. I have been told by past council members the practice of voting on unidentified vendors has been a common practice since 2002. Used routinely on uniformed promotional exams, this practice was very much commonplace while he served on the council. Mr. Cushman served one term on the council from 2007-2009 and voted in favor of un-identified bids at least a total of 6 times (Bids #2007-344A & #2007-344B, PCR 77-08 Amended). He voted in favor while on the Finance Committee and again at the full council vote. Mr. Cushman, "turned a blind eye" when he had his chance to change the practice.

    Mr. Cushman has gotten so used to showing outrage when instructed by Mr. Cote, he conveniently ignores his own past actions.

    As a member of the Finance Committee from 2017 to 2021, then chaired by Councilman Ladoucuer, we reviewed, voted on and approved unidentified bids presented to the committee. There was never an issue. Since 2007, Mr. Cote didn't see them as "problematic", and therefore, neither did Mr. Cushman.

    Moving forward, Mayor Picozzi has announced the administration will no longer present unidentified bids to the council. The Finance Committee will continue our diligence in reviewing the bids and we will continue to do so in a respectful, organized, professional manner.

    I write this letter because I am very proud of the work and attention to detail of this Finance Committee. Councilman Vinny Gebhart and Councilman Bill Foley have shown great detail to all bids and items that come before our committee and have conducted themselves and those who come before our committee in the most professional manner. Furthermore, the Picozzi administration and city directors have presented all bids with complete descriptions and explanations of expenditures. When the committee has questions, we do not wait and attack the presenters in the chambers, but call and give them an opportunity to explain, correct or withdraw. With respect. It's what the citizens of Warwick, including our families, deserve.

    Timothy Howe

    Warwick City Council, Ward 3

    Chairman: Finance

    Friday, April 15 Report this