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Spotlight on the Statehouse: Nov. 12, 2015

Rhode Island government gets low grade for integrity

The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that seeks to use investigative journalism to expose abuses of power, gave Rhode Island a “D+” in its 2015 State Integrity Investigation. But despite the low mark, the Ocean State was still fifth best in the nation, as only three states scored higher than a “D+”, according to the group’s website.

The relatively high ranking “speaks more to greater problems elsewhere than a tailwind of progress in the Ocean State,” according to the investigative report.

Corruption in state politics is not a recent development in Rhode Island. “There’s corruption in the city of Providence today, yesterday and it’ll probably be there tomorrow. … Anybody who doesn’t think it exists is crazy,” said former Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci during a 2011 lecture at Brown.

Cianci had his first mayoral term cut short when he resigned after pleading guilty to assault charges. His second stint concluded with a racketeering conviction that ultimately led to five years in federal prison, The Herald previously reported.

More recently, former Speaker of the House Gordon Fox was found guilty of corruption and was sentenced to three years in federal prison.

Violence downtown has raised also questions about the integrity of the Providence Board of Licenses, The Herald reported Nov. 5.

Former state representative and former Providence City Councilman Leon Tejada pleaded guilty Monday to tax and wire fraud charges,  withholding more than $50,000 from the federal government, the Providence Journal reported.

Veterans Day destruction

Though a variety of parades, celebrations and ceremonies — some of which will continue through Nov. 21 — marked Veterans Day in Rhode Island and nationwide, the holiday was marred by the destruction of graves in Pleasant Hill Cemetery in West Bridgewater, Massachussetts, WPRI reported Monday.

“This is the fourth time since 2012 that we’ve had vandalism,” said Lauren Delaney, caretaker of the cemetery, according to WPRI. “And 95 percent of the stones hit have been veterans.”

According to the article, workers found several pushed over headstones, broken pottery pieces and broken decorative flags Sunday.

“It’s just disgraceful,” said Lt. Victor Flaherty of the West Bridgewater Police Department, adding that people with tips should contact the police, WPRI reported.

Paying for last year’s snow … just in time for this year’s winter

Rhode Island was awarded an additional $2.37 million Tuesday from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help reimburse the state’s Department of Transportation for expenses incurred during a severe winter storm Jan. 26-28, according to a press release.

The storm was declared a major disaster by President Obama April 3. The federal reimbursements now sum over $6.4 million, according to the press release. In all, these funds cover 75 percent of all eligible expenses incurred during the storm.

“This emergency allocation of more than $2.3 million will significantly help our state in improving infrastructure and recovering funds spent on unforeseen repairs necessitated by severe winter weather,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., in the release.

Though the University will not receive any federal reimbursement money, it, too, faced higher costs this past winter: The $625,000 spent by the University marked a $190,000 increase from the previous year’s budget, which was already significantly higher than the $275,000 annual average over the previous seven years, The Herald reported in April.


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