Smithfield allegations come to a head

Smithfield allegations come to a head

SMITHFIELD – Town officials were forced to defend their reputations at a June 6 meeting.

Residents were concerned about an ethics investigation involving Councilor Maxine Cavanagh, an ethics complaint against solicitor Edmund Alves, and issues with the Zoning Board of Review.

Conversation about the issues was sparked by an agenda item addressing several appointments and reappointments to the Zoning Board of Review.

Michael Pinelli, an alternate for the board, was interviewed prior to the meeting during a closed-door session. Pinelli, who was an appointee for a year, was left off the board after a 3-2 vote, with councilors Alberto LaGreca, Maxine Cavanagh, and Paul Santucci voting against his reappointment.

He received unanimous council approval last year.

Councilor Suzy Alba, who questioned their decision, said that Pinelli “has served honorably” and “has the expertise” needed for the position.

Local businessman Jackson Despres raised concerns about the council’s decision, to which Santucci said, “You directly told me, did you not, that we keep putting the same people on there and we want fresh faces.”

Despres noted that longtime Zoning Board members Antonio Fonseca and James Busam were still reappointed.

In his prepared statement, Despres suggested that Pinelli’s situation can be attributed to the fact that he voted against reappointing Fonseca as chairman.

Fonseca is a longtime member of the Zoning Board, is part of the town’s Republican Party, and is owner of local business Packaging and More.

Fonseca’s business entered into contracts with the town of Smithfield to supply paper products from the early 2000s until 2016.

On December 23, 2015, his company was at the center of a complaint filed with the Rhode Island Ethics Commission alleging that Packaging and More received those contracts without competitive bidding.

Though the Ethics Commission didn’t find probable cause for a violation, an investigation was conducted.

An investigative report details a 2010 review of contracts undertaken by Finance Director Randy Rossi in which he discovered that the vendor Union Paper Company could provide rates lower than those in effect with Packaging and More.

It was not until October of 2015 that Rossi posted a request for quotations for janitorial supplies on the town’s website.

Despres shared all of this information with the public at the June 6 meeting. Reactions from those present were mixed.

“I almost think they should embargo the film of this show so that the three people who applied for town manager don’t see it; you might lose your candidates,” resident Donald Burn said.

Joe O’Connor said that if what Despres said about the council’s reasoning for Pinelli’s departure is true, it would be “deplorable.”

Former Town Council member Richard Poirier spoke in support of solicitor Alves and described Despres’ statement as a “venomous attack.”

“The level of venom spewing against individuals who are public servants in this town, it’s disgusting,” he said.

Poirier is the subject of pending housing violations, a case Alves oversees. In a letter to Municipal Court Judge William Poore, Despres claims that Alves has a potential conflict of interest in prosecuting Poirier, considering appointments that took place during Poirier’s tenure on the council.

“There seems to be a concerted effort by one developer and his ill informed supporters to discredit our dedicated and able solicitor,” said Poirier.

Comments

Town leaders can call it whatever they want? But it seems the three leaders mentioned here must have done something serious enough to warrant an investigation, or there wouldn't be one??
As far as one businessman being ill informed?? This one has been a businessman in the town for many many years, and his father before him! And yes it does make a difference!! Jackson Despres may be set in his ways, BUT ONE THING IS CERTIAN THE MAN DOESN'T LIE! The problem is the people in town just can't believe that their heroic leaders could be doing wrong!!