Complaints fly amid Warren contract probe

housingauthority

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Carol Anne Costa

State and federal investigators are reportedly looking into the hiring last fall of the Warren Housing Authority’s executive director, after four members of the agency’s five-member board of commissioners raised concerns that she was given a contract improperly written and signed without their knowledge.

Meanwhile, three of those members are themselves being investigated by the State Attorney General at the behest of another board member, who alleges that they willfully broke state law by meeting improperly in bringing their concerns to the town manager and town council.

The issue dates back nearly a year.

Carol Anne Costa, a former head of the Johnston Housing Authority and the Scituate Democratic Town Committee, was hired last September after the retirement of former executive director Claire Martins, who served as executive director for more than 30 years.

While the commission voted at the time to choose her as the new executive director, four members complained that soon after, board chairman Frank Mansi signed a contract with Ms. Costa that had not been reviewed by them, as commission by-laws require. The new contract included a $10,000 raise, bringing her salary to $65,000, plus additional benefits not given to the previous director.

Read Ms. Costa’s contract here

The contract was signed by Ms. Costa and Mr. Mansi on Wednesday, Sept. 18, and witnessed by Ralph Pari, a housing authority consultant. Soon after, commissioners Alfred DeAngelis, Robert Remy, Jeanne Cotta and Ray Rabideau started asking questions, first verbally. By February, the four had signed a memo asking why they did not have a say in the contract’s construction, and asking that it be voided:

“The board feels that due process was not property served as not one of the members of the board (apart from Mr. Mansi) was able to see, comment and most importantly vote on any terms in the contract,” the four wrote in the memo dated Thursday, Feb. 27.

“The contract was never made available to us and was improperly signed by the chairman (Mr. Mansi) without being evaluated through proper procedures. The board seeks to have this contract voided and reworked.”

Documents from the following months show that while they asked questions, they received few answers. The board stopped holding regular meetings after February, though monthly meetings are required under the by-laws, and by July board members wrote that they were having trouble communicating with Mr. Mansi or William Conley, the housing authority’s attorney.

Enter William Ryan

Warren Town Council member Cathie Tattrie swears in William "Billy" Ryan in June.

Warren Town Council member Cathie Tattrie swears in William “Billy” Ryan in June.

On Tuesday, June 10, a new player who did not share the trio’s concerns, and would later challenge them legally, entered the picture.
William “Billy” Ryan, a retired Warren police officer and former head of the Warren Democratic Town Committee, was appointed to the board of commissioners by a split vote of the Warren Town Council, upon the resignation of Mr. Rabideau. Council president Chris Stanley, a Republican, and Democratic councilors David Frerichs and Cathie Tattrie voted for him, while independents Joseph DePasquale and Scott Lial voted against. Also applying for the post were Louis Rego, a developer, and William Kemp, a retired contractor.

When town councilors asked Mr. Ryan why he wanted to serve, he said he had met with and been “impressed” by the new executive director.

“There’s a lot of things we’ve been working out,” he said. “When I sat down with the director, she explained it to me and I jumped right at it. She asked me if I would be interested in (serving) and I said ‘Yeah.’”

On Wednesday, July 16, Mr. DeAngelis, Mr. Remy and Ms. Cotta delivered a letter to Warren Town Manager Thomas Gordon and Mr. Stanley, in which they asked for an investigation of the hiring, noted irregularities with financial reporting inside the federal and state-funded authority, questioned the authority’s treatment of union contract negotiations and raised other concerns, including their knowledge of closed door meetings between Ms. Costa, Mr. Ryan and Mr. Pari.

Read commissioners’ letter to Thomas Gordon and Warren Town Council here

“We have not had a meeting for the past four months,” they wrote. “We strongly feel that the direction of the current Chairman and Director is self serving and sell preserving. We have tried to manage this internally but have repeatedly met with resistance and refusals. We have come to feel powerless and respectfully request your assistance.”

Mr. Gordon said this week that he would not comment. However, Mr. Stanley explained that since the housing authority is funded by state and federal agencies, including the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, “investigation is out of our purview.” However, he said, the letter was forwarded to town solicitor Anthony DeSisto, who in turn contacted “the appropriate state and federal agencies.”

“From what I understand there are state folks and federal folks who are looking at it,” Mr. Stanley said, declining to cite those agencies involved.

Open meetings complaint

The letter had one unintended consequence: Mr. Ryan filed an open meetings act complaint.

The Rhode Island Open Meetings Act states that any majority or “quorum” of a public board meeting in private constitutes a violation of the law. Soon after the trio’s letter to Gordon and Stanley was sent, Mr. Ryan filed a formal complaint against the Warren Housing Authority with the state attorney general, alleging that commissioners DeAngelis, Remy and Cotta met in private to draft and sign the letter and thus, violated the law.

“On July 17, 2014 I had the opportunity to question Commissioner Cotta, and she admitted to me that all three met together in Andreozzi Hall (at the Housing Authority’s Kickemuit Village on Libby Lane) to sign the letter and they agreed to send to the Town Council President,” Mr. Ryan wrote in his complaint. “This is how I along with the Commission Chair, Frank Mansi discovered these secret meetings. This admission I contend is concrete evidence of a willful act to violate the open meetings law.”

This week, Mr. Ryan said he can’t speak about Ms. Costa’s contract as he was not on the board when the document was signed. But he believes she is doing a fine job. He said he filed the complaint against his fellow commissioners “to stand up for her.”

“I think she’s doing a fantastic job,” he said. “She has foresight when everyone else in this town has hindsight. If (the complaint) doesn’t go, it doesn’t go. But I feel I did what I had to do for her and the 300 people that live down there” at Kickemuit Village.

Read William Ryan’s complaint to the Attorney General here

Ms. Costa declined to comment this week, saying the matter is in the hands of the authority’s legal counsel.

Investigations continue

Mr. Conley is scheduled to meet with the three commissioners this coming Monday, Aug. 18, to prepare responses to Mr. Ryan’s complaint. And a commission meeting has been called for Thursday, Aug. 26, after one scheduled for last Thursday, Aug. 5 — the first since February — ended with no discussion. That meeting had been called to discuss “the job performance of and the employment contract for the executive director,” but Mr. Mansi said it was called improperly and did not conform to posting requirements. Therefore, it was adjourned, he said.

While Mr. Remy could not be reached and Ms. Cotta declined to comment, Mr. DeAngelis said Thursday that in seeking answers about the contract, he and his fellow commissioners acted in the best interest of the town and authority. They were not willfully trying to violate state law in writing the letter, he said, but wrote it after feeling they had no other recourse.

“Everything I wrote was the gospel truth,” he said. “I don’t lie. The only thing we’re fighting is her contract. We tried to do everything for the right reason, and for the law. Why they’re fighting us I have no idea.”

Next: The union representing Warren Housing Authority employees professes “no confidence” in authority management.

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9 Comments

  1. joeborges110 said:

    Classic photo op with Ms. Tattrie swearing in the grim Mr. Ryan. You can tell her fingerprints are all over this! And shame on the council for not selecting better qualified people to guide the future of senior living in Warren. What were you thinking Mr Stanley….only about re-election?

  2. John Tats said:

    @ joeborges110 you must be one of the folks that received some sort of graft from the maintenance crew, I hope your fingerprints are all over the Authorities missing property. Perhaps you should have run for the post so you can correct all their problems, but gathering from your attitude and assumptions you might not be able to handle much.

  3. joeborges110 said:

    Mr. Tats, do enlighten us with what YOU know of the missing property. That part was left out completely in the above story, so I wasn’t aware of that aspect of the investigation. But not that you have let that cat out of the bag….tells us about the CAT! And who was left holding the bag? Or will Mrs Tats be explaining it all at the debate?

  4. SSDD said:

    According to this article, it seems to me that the only thing “missing” is 80% of the Boards signatures on that ridiculous contract. I have known Mr Mansi since I came to Warren 42 years ago but even in speaking with him he “forgets” that he constitutes one fifth of the board and feels that he IS the board. It’s too bad. I remember when this was all brought to town some 30 years ago and there is no doubt that Mr Mansi was instrumental and should be very proud of what he has accomplished. Time for him to bow out gracefully. Please spare us the smoke screens. It is time to move on and make Warren a better place. A good start would be to make it “Tatt-Free”

  5. John Tats said:

    I’m not running for council, you may ask anyone anything you want. I purposely threw that out there to see if this wonderful media outlet will pick up on it and actually do some reporting for a change, but you joeborges110 follow this news outlet and are brainwashed with this belief that there is always some conspiracy going on, I find it comical. This is whats wrong with Warren. Mr. Mansi like the other board members has devoted a large amount of time to the Village. All the Board members are elderly, but the chairman of that board has the authority to act upon many aspects of the operation as he see’s fit. That was established in that way by their bylaws. If outsiders want to see it differently then they should speak to their respective representatives. @SSDD if you feel Warren would be better off Tatt free then your gonna need to work real hard because I and my family have no intention on going anywhere anytime soon. I’m rather confident our family has contributed more to this community by accident than you have intentionally. No cats outta the bag here, you want to find out whats going on just go ask someone employed there.

  6. Iknow Alot said:

    This has got Democrat stench written all over it! Let’s see, Mr Mansi hires a search consultant Mr Ralph Pari to hire Carol Anne Costa (head of the Democratic committee in Scituate) and who appears to enjoy the stage with Ms. Raimondo (Democratic candidate for governor) http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=LL7btyNdQYTTdUXic1qCtImQ and yes joeborges110 this the same Mr. Ralph Pari http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1899&dat=19850815&id=XJBGAAAAIBAJ&sjid=vPMMAAAAIBAJ&pg=2590,1840456 who was charged and plead nolo in the Rhode Island Housing, Mortgage and Finance Corporation scandal! Way to go Mr. Mansi for hiring a convicted felon involved in a scandal to search and select a suitable director for Warren’s elderly .

    Then Mr. Mansi signs a contract without his four other board members seeing or voting on it? And yes Mr. Tattrie if you read the first paragraph of “the contract” it reads and I quote “by and between the Warren Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, a public body politic….” It does not state ANYWHERE, between Frank Mansi or Chairman or whatever you want to call him. Again witnessed by Mr. Pari???

    Then what happens? Mr. Rabideau is promised a job for his daughter at the Housing Authority, if he just resigns from the board to open up a position for who? Yup you guessed it, Mr. Ryan head of Warren Democratic Committee. See a pattern here?

    And yes SSDD you hit the nail on the head. They got caught and are now trying to put up “smoke screens” to divert the attention and in an attempt to use scare tactics to the employees there. Mr. Ryan, nice try with the complaint to the Attorney General, the only secret meetings going on behind closed doors at the Housing Authority are the ones involving YOU, Mr. Mansi, Ms. Costa, Ms. Tattrie and Mr. Pari. I’m sure however there will be missing videos blamed on others, including the threats and harassment.

    Yes Mr. Mansi, you should bow out and the rest should be bounced out. Mr. Stanley, shame on you, you hold the controlling vote on the council but once again chose to go with the popular choice and then throw it at the feet of the solicitor when it starts to go south (always passing the buck!)

    Well there it is in black and white and in video. It appears some small town Democrats have their own little agenda in an attempt to make it to the big stage but caught with their hands in the cookie jar. I do hope there is Federal intervention here, this town needs a shake up. I correct that statement, this town needs a makeover. And they are all Democrats, I’m shocked!
    Stay Tuned. More to come.

  7. Citizen Jane said:

    Not usually one to respond to this kind of article but so many of these names are well known to me, I feel like I have to say something. I’m trying to be real open minded but here’s what keeps tripping me up:
    The letter sent to the Town Council appears to be a last ditch effort by these commissioners to be heard. It seems they reach out to the Town Council for help. If I’m reading the facts correctly, what other choice did they have? That aside, in that letter, it asks Chris Stanley to contact ALL of the board members when investigating but it only said he speaks to Bill Ryan. That seems odd and a little suspect if that’s true. Which brings me to the part of the story I’m having the toughest time with – Mr Ryan contacting the Attorney General. I admit to forming an opinion about all of this when I read the line where Bill Ryan says he contacted the Attorney General to “protect her”. Bill Ryan, when faced with the concerns of his fellow commissioners, chooses to “stand up for her” (newly hired exec director) instead of standing up for an investigation into the truth and integrity of the commission he swore to serve. That’s puzzling and rather telling. I am going to watch how this plays out but I don’t mind telling you I hope those three commissioners win this one! Takes bravado to yell “foul play”. Shame on Chris Stanley, Tom Gordon and Tony DeSisto and everyone else those three commissioners turned to for help.

  8. John Tats said:

    Well once again a response of mine was removed because
    A: I either caught someone in a lie like (Iknow Alot).
    B: I may have called out someone for hiding behind a sudo on-line name that’s accusing me of doing something they can’t substantiate.
    C: The story is written based upon information given to them by just one person probably (Iknow Alot).
    or
    D; the fact that (Iknow Alot) is employed there and is probably the person in question that is at the root of the entire problem. Since I am unable to identify whom I’m being accused by, I challenge you and this media outlet to substantiate all the claims you have written. I know for a fact you can’t. While I’m sure you would love to think there are secret meetings going on, the fact is it doesn’t exist. Your problem is you watch to much TV and think in your mind there are all kinds of conspiracies going on, this is usually the actions of a guilty person to deflect attention from themselves. Quite honestly I appreciate the fact you think I have so much drag here in little O’l Warren but to be straightforward I could care less about what happens at the Village it really doesn’t effect my life if the place runs smoothly or not, nor do I have any control over what happens there, if I did someone probably would have already lost their job. The only thing I admit to is not taking any crap from people that do this Town wrong. The fact that you mention Democratic stench is hilarious since all the Board members are Democrats, some related to employees. It’s the Pot calling the Kettle Black!

    • Ted HayesTed Hayes said:

      Thanks John. I’m unaware of any of your posts having been taken down.
      Just one request for clarification, though. You write “I challenge you and this media outlet to substantiate all the claims you have written. I know for a fact you can’t.” Could you be specific which passages in the stories written on this subject can’t be substantiated? I would appreciate and welcome being able to go over the parts of the story that you find objectionable, point by point. Thanks for contributing.

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