Former Central Falls Mayor Charles Moreau pleaded guilty to corruption charges in federal court Sept. 19, only hours after submitting his resignation to the city. Moreau faces time in federal prison for a deal he arranged between the city and his personal friend, Michael Bouthilette, a contractor hired by Central Falls to board up foreclosed or abandoned buildings, according to a Sept. 19 Providence Journal article.
An investigation led by the Providence Journal in 2010 revealed Bouthilette received almost $2 million and numerous personal bonuses for the contracted services. At the time, Bouthilette was receiving over five times the going rate for similar services in cities across the state. In return, Bouthilette helped Moreau renovate his home in Lincoln for free.
The charges are based on Moreau’s evasion of competitive bidding practices and his creation of unnecessary projects in the city. Bouthilette will return around $400,000 to Central Falls for grants to “redress the harm caused by the defendant’s criminal conduct,” according to the plea deal.
Central Falls, Rhode Island’s smallest municipality, went bankrupt in 2011 with a $5 million structural deficit and $80 million in unfunded pension liabilities. Earlier this month, the state-appointed receiver for the city’s Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing unveiled an exit strategy that will cut some retirees’ pension plans by 55 percent. Local governance is expected to revert back to the mayor and city council as soon as January 2013.
City Councilman James Diossa announced his intentions to run for the vacant mayoral position yesterday. The mayoral primaries are slated for Oct. 23, followed by general elections Nov. 6, pending approval at a Board of Elections meeting today.