Bristol senior center director faces felony charges in 'double-dipping' scandal

Maria Ursini accused of three crimes, including embezzlement

By Patrick Luce
Posted 8/23/17

The director of the Bristol Senior Center has been charged with embezzlement, among other crimes, as the town continues to investigate an alleged “double dipping” scheme in which …

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Bristol senior center director faces felony charges in 'double-dipping' scandal

Maria Ursini accused of three crimes, including embezzlement

Posted

The director of the Bristol Senior Center has been charged with embezzlement, among other crimes, as the town continues to investigate an alleged “double dipping” scheme in which she’s accused of padding her town income.

Maria Ursini, 52, of 40 Kingwood Road, was charged last week with embezzlement, obtaining money under false pretenses and filing a false document with a public official. The first two charges are felonies. Ms. Ursini turned herself in at police headquarters last week.

Town Administrator Steven Contente kicked off the investigation earlier this year when he cut the senior center director’s salary in half, saying she was “double dipping” by taking salary from a two substance abuse prevention grants for which the department applied last year.

Ms. Ursini, who did not return requests for comment this week, said earlier she was “absolutely not” double dipping and all income she received from the grants had been approved by the former town administrator. Still, she accepted the $20,000 salary reduction Mr. Contente imposed last month, prior to the charges.


After assuming office in town hall last December, Mr. Contente said he reviewed the salaries of all department heads — to which Ms. Ursini’s position had been elevated under former Administrator Tony Teixeira — when he learned that Ms. Ursini’s salary was being supplemented by two outside sources. Her town salary totaled $41,000 a year, but she was also earning $42,000 a year from a Drug Free Communities grant and $9,800 a year from a Substance Abuse Taskforce stipend.

“During the budget process, I was looking at salaries and found out she was, as I see it, double dipping,” Mr. Contente said. “Grant funds are supposed to supplant salary, not supplement it. How can you hold down two full-time jobs? It seems there are ethics violations there. It’s not the money; it’s the shiftiness.”

Mr. Contente said Wednesday that Ms. Ursini is “not being compensated by the town for her duties at Benjamin Church Senior Center.” She has not formally been fired, because she did not formally work for the town. The position, while funded by the town, is hired by the board of directors, to whom the director reports. Mr. Contente is trying to change that, filing legislation with the Town Council to establish a “coordinator of senior services” position who is appointed by the town administrator and reports to the director of Parks and Recreation. The council was expected to consider the proposal Wednesday night.

Ms. Ursini — who actually started her work for the town as a substance abuse coordinator before becoming senior center director — has said the accusations caught her by surprise because her predecessor, Mr. Teixeira, approved the duties and income that came with the Drug-Free Communities grant. Indeed, Mr. Teixeira signed the grant application, which was awarded last summer in the amount of $125,000 a year, $90,000 of which is set aside for personnel costs. Half of the salary goes to Ms. Ursini.

“I absolutely was not (double dipping),” Ms. Ursini said. “I didn’t do work for the grant while I was doing my work for the senior center. The drug free communities grant work is not one I have to sit at a desk 9-5. I’m here to work, to do my job and service my community. But I feel like the finger’s been pointed at me.”

The drug-free communities grant and Substance Abuse Taskforce stipend carry such duties as organizing educational programs in Bristol Warren schools, conducting surveys of students to learn drug and alcohol abuse patterns in area youth, and coordinating drug prevention seminars like one involving school, law enforcement and town officials at the Quinta Gamelin Center in January.

“I’m not here for the money. If this was about money, why would I work for the senior center for $41,000,” Ms. Ursini said, noting she used personal time for the town for any travel or training sessions associated with the grants. “I just do my job the best I can. It’s sad what’s been going on here the past couple months; every day’s been a challenge. I don’t feel I undermined anyone. This is all out in the public. I didn’t expect to get that call. But when he said this doesn’t look good, I said, OK, what can we do?”

Comments

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  • Honoré de Balzac

    Yoo hoo, TONY AVILA, yoo hoo!!!

    Come out, come out, wherever you are!!!

    Wednesday, August 23, 2017 Report this

  • Local Bargain Jerk

    Dear Mr. Luce:

    I'm curious. Did you attempt to contact Mr. Teixeira for his comments? If not, why not? After all his name is mentioned several times.

    If you dd contact him, did he decline to speak with you or did he say something that you didn't print for some reason?

    What gives?

    Wednesday, August 23, 2017 Report this

  • scorpio1029

    It's about time someone is looking into the salaries of town employees. They need to clean house.

    Wednesday, August 23, 2017 Report this

  • K2NH

    Clean up this Town Mr. Contente

    Go right up the chain. State Reps and all. The crooked will not sleep well tonight, nor should they.

    And those who look the other way and defend the scum should fall as well.

    Wednesday, August 23, 2017 Report this

  • Tavilas

    6th Amendment- “innocent until proven guilty”

    Thursday, August 24, 2017 Report this

  • Honoré de Balzac

    GUILTY IN THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION

    "filing a false document with a public official" - although technically a misdemeanor, it was an attempt to cover her tracks, trying to hide malfeasance. She knew, or at least suspected, that her actions were questionable.

    Even if found not guilty, which I doubt, she will certainly lose her town gig and hopefully, more importantly, her pension. Not to worry Tony, she can still live pretty comfortably on her husband's police pension (paid with the sweat of the Bristol taxpayer).

    Thursday, August 24, 2017 Report this

  • Tavilas

    BTW the town did pass the new ordinance with a 3 to 2 vote. And I do agree that our Town Administrator is doing a good job, he is doing what has to be done for the best of all.

    Thursday, August 24, 2017 Report this

  • scorpio1029

    It's nice to have friends in high places !!

    Thursday, August 24, 2017 Report this

  • K2NH

    Tony

    You are correct, "innocent until proven guilty", but aren't we all tired of this behavior?

    People work hard and sacrifice to pay tax-dollars and the idea that people in position of power manipulate the system for self benefit is a

    community killer. Our schools have some of the highest cocaine, opioid and marijuana use in the state, why can't we stop it?

    I wasn't able to attend last night and the video isn't posted yet, but I'm curious to who voted against the ordinance, and why?

    Thursday, August 24, 2017 Report this

  • Tavilas

    I agree with you and yes we have a huge drug problem that needs to seriously be addressed, starting with stricter laws by the state. Too many young lives lost and no support groups.

    As for the 2 who voted against it was Tyska and Sweany who wanted more time to review and get public input.

    Thursday, August 24, 2017 Report this

  • Honoré de Balzac

    "BTW the town did pass the new ordinance with a 3 to 2 vote." - Tony, what ordinance????

    "Our schools have some of the highest cocaine, opioid and marijuana use in the state." - Really K2??? Higher than Providence, Pawtucket, Newport and CF??? Please cite your source.

    "Too many young lives lost and no support groups." - Come on Tony! NO support groups? NONE?! Get off it.

    Thursday, August 24, 2017 Report this

  • K2NH

    Honore,

    We've been through this. Our schools are plagued by drugs, our children are targets for drug dealers. Our test scores are not where they should be. The Dean of Mt. Hope was arrested and fired just last year for Cocaine possession. Families are destroyed and the community suffers. Show me something that says otherwise.

    http://www.eastbayri.com/stories/advocates-will-battle-teen-drug-and-alcohol-use-with-625000-from-feds,31138?

    "Based on a survey administered in 2013 by the Rhode Island State Epidemiology and Outcomes Workgroup (the most recent data available from the state) Mt. Hope’s students rank at or near the top in the use of alcohol, marijuana and other substances of abuse. Students there rank first in the state in drug use, second in alcohol use, fourth in moderate alcohol use, second in marijuana use, first in cocaine use, and first in prescription drug use."

    Thursday, August 24, 2017 Report this

  • Honoré de Balzac

    K2 - HA HA LAUGHABLE!!!

    SELF DISCLOSED "SURVEY" BY THE STUDENTS

    WHAT A JOKE!

    About as scientific as Tony Avila's photos.

    You mean to tell me BW has a bigger DRINKING problem that BORRINGTON? FIRST in drug use!!

    I think YOU'VE been smoking the wacky-tobaccy.

    Thursday, August 24, 2017 Report this

  • K2NH

    Honore,

    I guess the RI State Epidemiology board is on drugs, in your amazing assessment. That's why the Federal Government awarded a substantial grant. It's all make believe I guess.

    Maybe we should take info from

    HONORE DE BALZAC before we listen to our students, our State and our Federal Government.

    Talk about a joke. I don't agree with Tony Avila on his pushing for real names on a speak out and I stated why. But he makes much more sense than you do on this subject. Something needs to be done and you are completely out of touch.

    Thursday, August 24, 2017 Report this

  • Tavilas

    This is the Ordinance #2017-10, Chapter 18, Parks and

    Recreation, Article II, Recreation Board, Section

    18-45, Employees (to create Coordinator of Senior

    Services position within Department of Parks and

    Recreation), public hearing and 2nd reading for

    adoption.

    I was wrong It was 4-1 Tyska against.

    Thursday, August 24, 2017 Report this

  • Mgferreira

    If anyone is so worry about drugs in our school system, dont blame the anyone else BUT that stupid school committe that you so kindly voted in. Especially Mr Bradshaw who promised me that he holds teachers in best regards. My ass. They all hate teachers, especially the middle school teachers, here's why. The support that those teachers had, and need were all taken away from that school. Those teachers have no backbone to back them up. They get threaten and practically spit on and nothing gets done. Drug problem! Oh yes, it's the worst for a small community like ours. More so then South Providence and many other cities in this state. So as far as the drug problem goes, please don't blame the ships captain, kind put the blame where it needs to be. THE ONE AND ONLY DELINQUENT SCHOOL COMMITTE that this school system has in place.

    Thursday, August 24, 2017 Report this

  • agalag689

    Poor Bristolians--your town is going to hell, and all you get are narrow-minded comments from your residents. What a shame.

    Friday, August 25, 2017 Report this

  • K2NH

    TY Tony Avila for the information in regards to the ordinance and vote count, good information and educated thoughts are refreshing in the speakout. After watching the video, Ms. Ursini aside, it seems like everyone at the meeting kind of wants the same thing, consistency and security for our seniors. Hopefully, the confusion can settle and anything that is lost in translation can be interpreted and put together in a way that helps ease worries.

    Big drug bust in Bristol yesterday. Kind of scary when you read about the amounts and the substances that were found.

    Samson, it would be nice if you could slow things down and just give facts. I have heard that the treatment of teachers by the students is unacceptable, and many parents and students have concerns. These are the types of things we as readers need to notified about.

    Friday, August 25, 2017 Report this

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