Submitted by Jon Brien
I hope this finds you safe and well. Please allow me to begin by crediting you regarding recent civil unrest (or the potential thereof), a job well done.
I wanted to reach out to you with questions regarding the COVID detail that took place on the weekend of May 30th, specifically, the detail that was in place in front of Christopher's Restaurant. However, I would like to first go back a few months.
You may recall that on 02/10/20 the City Council held a Work Session with the two of you present regarding "Public Safety". Approximately 36 minutes (it is still available on Facebook should you need to refresh your recollection) into that meeting I addressed the fact, and asked for justification, of the Day Shift Supervisor being assigned to City Hall. More specifically, I addressed the fact that he has been assigned to City Hall / the Mayor's office, wherein he has ended up effectively serving as chauffeur, publicist, social media coordinator, and administrative aide. These activities have either resulted in overtime paid for with taxpayer funds, served to benefit the re-election campaign of the current mayor, or both. I would further note that on 12/13/19 a Special Order was disseminated for the availability of a City Hall Security/Liaison position. This position included the specific duty of being "Responsible for the security of City Hall and the Departments within" That said, it was communicated at that Work Session that the Day Shift Supervisor was assigned to the Mayor's office under the guise of providing "Security", clearly a redundancy in light of the Special Order. Further complicating the issue is that City Hall has been in a lock down since the City Council approved of the Executive Order that closed City Hall to the public 3 months ago. Since March 17th has it been a public safety issue for the Day Shift Supervisor to spend his time in a chauffeur, publicist, social media coordinator, and administrative aide capacity for the Mayor? Considering that the public cannot enter the building, the assignment presumably continues so that the roles of chauffeur, publicist, social media coordinator, and administrative aide can continue to be fulfilled. Clearly, security is not a concern for a locked City Hall.
I would also add that on Sunday, June 21, my wife and I personally witnessed the Day Shift Supervisor, in full uniform and with a public safety vehicle, taking photographs of City workers at the island in front of the train depot as he watched them watering the flowers. He was then witnessed by SEVERAL city residents at the Bernon street rotary taking photographs of these same City workers as they watered the flowers, in uniform and with a public safety vehicle. Those very same photographs were then posted on the Facebook page of the current mayor, Lisa Baldelli Hunt, by 10:11 AM, when the Day Shift Supervisor was still on duty. I specifically spoke of this very type of activity at that work session, to no avail. My question is simple, how is it in any way a proper use of public safety and taxpayer resources that a Day Shift Supervisor is effectively acting as a publicist and social media coordinator for the current mayor. Clearly this is being used as material for a re-election campaign, paid for by the taxpayers of Woonsocket. This is, without question, a violation of the intermingling of taxpayer funds utilized for a political campaign. At worst, it is illegal, at best, it is totally unethical and devoid of integrity.
Finally, On Saturday, May 30th, I observed a cruiser and the Day Shift Supervisor effectively serving as a crossing guard for patrons and waitstaff of Christopher's Restaurant. My understanding is that this is a COVID-19 detail wherein the WPD enforces the Governor's Executive Orders and handles calls for COVID related issues. My query is how does such detail, presumably paid for with Federal dollars, comply with the restrictions of use set forth by the Federal government if the detail is used to serve as a crossing guard for just ONE city business? Exactly what funds are being used to cover the crossing guard detail for one business in this city and would such activity be considered a permitted use of such funds? I would note that Kay's restaurant, operating on the MUCH busier Cass Ave., has waitstaff crossing the street much more frequently. Were they given the opportunity to have a crossing guard? Was any other City business with outdoor dining given the opportunity? How is one business determined to be more important than all of the others operating in the City?
Are you aware of the optics created by posting the Mayor's chauffeur, publicist, social media coordinator, and administrative aide in front of one business on Main St. and the stir it naturally has caused based on the fact that it's being paid for by taxpayer dollars/federal funds? It does seem a little suspect that there has not been another officer who has performed these tasks, so I question how these assignments are determined. Do all officers have the chance to partake of these same overtime opportunities as that of the Day Shift Supervisor ?
These questions require answers and I anxiously await your response.
Jon D. Brien
Woonsocket City Council.