Letter to the Editor
June 16, 2017
As a longtime resident of Smithfield, I am writing this letter in response to recent stories that have appeared in the Valley Breeze over the last few weeks. It is quite encouraging that several Smithfield residents have come forward to expose political corruption under the current leadership of the Smithfield Town Council.
As a tax payer, I am absolutely outraged that Council President Santucci’s tenure on the Town Council has been marked by ethical scandals that the Council President has failed to address. Mr. Santucci’s decision to appoint Attorney Alves as solicitor at his very first council meeting when Mr. Alves law partner is first cousins with Councilwoman Maxine Cavanagh’s husband defies all logic. Mr. Santucci was warned of the relationship prior to his vote and voted to support Mr. Alves anyway. Ms. Cavanagh has never denied the relationship. It is also quite ironic that Mr. Alves’ wife, Linda Alves, and Maxine Cavanagh’s first cousin-in-law and Mr. Alves law partner, Joseph V. Cavanagh, Jr., each made maximum $1,000 contributions to the Smithfield Republican Party several days before the general election in 2016. Mr. Alves is now the subject of a complaint before the Rhode Island State Ethics Commission, the very Commission he represents, for overbilling the Commission pursuant to the terms and conditions of his state contract. Ms. Cavanagh is also the subject of a complaint before the Rhode Island Ethics Commission for voting to award a $400,000 legal contract to her husband’s cousin’s law firm which Mr. Santucci and Councilman Alberto LaGreca voted to support.
Mr. Santucci had the perfect opportunity to again address another ethical scandal several weeks ago. It was brought to his attention that his solicitor, Mr. Alves, was prosecuting former Vice President of the Town Council, Richard Poirier, for zoning and housing violations with respect to the deplorable condition of Mr. Poirier’s property. Mr. Poirier had a role in appointing Mr. Alves as solicitor on multiple occasions during his tenure on the Republican Vice President of the Smithfield Town Council resulting in the generation of well over a million dollars in legal fees to Mr. Alves firm. Once made aware of this blatant conflict of interest, Mr. Santucci said he would take this issue under advisement. Mr. Santucci has, to this day failed to take the bull by the horns and address this issue. He continues to have Mr. Alves prosecute Mr. Poirier despite the obvious conflict of interest.
Lastly, a matter involving municipal bid steering and rigging was brought to the attention of Mr. Santucci at last week’s council meeting. This issue involves the family business of Zoning Board member Antonio Fonseca who just so happens to be a significant financial contributor to the Smithfield Republican Party. Santucci was advised that long term zoning board member Antonio Fonseca’s company, Packaging and More, Inc., received exclusive paper product contracts from the Town for Smithfield for well over a decade without competitive bidding all the while Mr. Fonseca sat as a member of the Town Zoning Board. The one time the Town solicited outside bids that happened to be lower than the prices of Mr. Fonseca’s company, Mr. Fonseca’s company mysteriously ended up with a copy of the competitive bid so that Mr. Fonseca’s son could cross out the competitive bidder’s prices and lower Packaging and More’s prices in order to be awarded the municipal contract. This conduct is outrageous and requires an independent investigation. As with the other issues mentioned in this letter, when it was brought to Council President Santucci’s attention he sat on the council stage in stone cold silence.
The taxpayers of Smithfield deserve better than the failed leadership of Council President Santucci and his “support the party line colleagues”. This group of individuals has done nothing but bring negative publicity to the Town of Smithfield.
Only when political corruption is eliminated from municipal government in the Town of Smithfield will the Town be able to expand its economic base so that the taxpayers won’t continue to get walloped with a 4. 5 percent residential tax increase as is the case this year.
Kenneth V. Orabona