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Letter: Watchdogs Support BCWA Critics

Letter to the Editor from Margaret Kane, Operation Clean Government, and Harry Staley, RI Statewide Coalition

In the November 16, 2011 edition of the East Bay newspapers, the front page contained a story about the Bristol County Water Authority’s (BCWA) Chairman John Jannitto and their outside attorney, Sandra Mack, gathering information about four residents (the “East Bay Four”) who have been critical of BCWA.

Thankfully, in that same edition, the editorial column is strongly critical of Chairman Jannitto and Attorney Mack for their unjustified actions against the East Bay Four. Operation Clean Government (OCG) and the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition (RISC) endorse the concept that it is reprehensible for any official to attempt to muzzle any private citizen trying to shine light on the questionable management practices of BCWA.

Incidentally, OCG and RISC have been in the forefront in the campaign to reform BCWA, and both should be included on any list of organizations credited with taking a concerned and critical look at BCWA.

For more than a year, Gary Morse has been a spokesperson for OCG and RISC. Mr. Morse has supported this collaborative effort to review project spending at BCWA. The OCG and RISC investigation found numerous problems with millions in state funds directed into BCWA projects. We are still greatly concerned that, there has been no qualified audit of project spending since 1993. We are also concerned that there may be instances of spending that do not comply with statutory requirements.

In 2010, the Tri-Town Council of Bristol, Warren, and Barrington – which is responsible for BCWA oversight – watered down the B&E Consulting Performance Audit by eliminating financial matters from the audit. OCG and RISC requested that the RI Water Resources Board (RIWRB) initiate a first-ever audit of project spending. In March 2011, the RIWRB voted unanimously to complete a legal review to ensure projects were being funded in full compliance with the law. That audit is not yet completed.

OCG and RISC believe that many issues remain unresolved at BCWA, including the reconciliation of millions of state dollars in project spending. We believe that BCWA's use of resources to investigate those who seek to bring transparency and foster open government is a disservice to all.

Silencing debate while a cloud of controversy still hangs over BCWA creates the distinct impression that there remains something to hide. We hope that Rhode Island taxpayers will join and support us and the East Bay Four in continued scrutiny of BCWA, especially in the face of these unwarranted scare tactics from certain BCWA representatives.

Margaret Kane, Operation Clean Government, and Harry Staley, RI Statewide Coalition

Mike M November 21, 2011 at 06:31 PM
I think it is ridiculous that the BCWA would attempt to file a lawsuit against individuals who are rate payers who demand to know how they are spending, and why it hasn't been publicly released since 1993. BCWA isn't protecting rate payers by pursuing a case against these four people, they are just making themselves look stupid. They also say that it wont cost ratepayers any money, that's BS! They are obviously spending time to call different places to find out information on what these people said, and obviously someone is being paid to do this, yet its not costing us anything? It already cost us plenty when they resisted to release information and this whole situation exploded, and now they want to sue rate payers? I am glad there are laws against this and obviously the greedy lawyers aren't aware of it yet, but the whole BCWA is shady and likely hiding something. There is no excuse for us to pay the third highest water rates in the state, with only TWO ISLANDS ahead of us! The whole authority is running rampant with conspiracy and scandals and it needs to stop, get new people in there ASAP!
Gary Morse November 21, 2011 at 09:12 PM
Until BCWA completes an independent audit of the $ millions in project spending under the 1993 Bristol County Water Supply Act, they will remain under their own self created cloud of controversy. It is unfortunate that they had an opportunity to lift the controversy and throw open the books when B&E arrived to do the "performance audit" (not a financial audit as demanded by their attorney Sandra Mack). Let's hope they don't use the same controversial choices when selecting a new Executive Director.
marina peterson November 21, 2011 at 10:15 PM
Thank you to Operation Clean Government and Rhode Island Statewide Coalition for their letter of support! There has been progress at the BCWA but it is only the beginning. The most important thing for the ratepayers to watch at this point is how the three town councils react to this intimidation! Will they stand up and support their constituents right to question? Or will they continue to support things the way they are? Will they ask for Chairman Jannitto to step down? Will they insist on an RFP for legal council? It's up to them to insist on the changes that are necessary. For residents to be vilified for months by their town councils for asking very important questions was bad enough. But to now have a Board of Directors collecting data and threatening to sue the "East Bay Four" is way over the top.
Manifold Witness November 21, 2011 at 11:16 PM
Thanks to OCG & RISC for supporting the East Bay Four. The Tri-Town Council & the full BCWA Board have not weighed in on Mack & Jannitto’s actions yet: Per BCWA minutes, Professor Matsumoto asked to go into illegal executive session of the full Board on October 12, 2011 to "consider possible litigation against three individuals.” (Morse, Peterson & "the Blacks".) Mr. Klepper reminded Mr. Matsumoto that the item was not on the agenda so there could be no executive session. So Mack & Jannitto sent out their October 19, 2011 probing letter without Board approval. (Jannitto said that Mack was not involved. But that wasn’t true. Then Mack & Jannitto were caught.) A BCWA subcommittee agenda had an illegal notice for an executive session for November 2, 2011. Mack & all the board members present went into that illegal subcommittee executive session. Mack told the public to leave the vicinity. If any votes were taken in that illegal executive session they’re null & void anyway. No decision by the Board there. Then on November 10, 2011 the Board had the illegal notice on the full board agenda but they didn't go into executive session. Still no decision by the full Board. What the Tri-Town Council & the full BCWA Board will do now remains to be seen.This may be a frolic by Mack & Jannitto. Mack should be fired. Jannitto should resign or be removed. The jury’s still out on Matsumoto.
Gary Morse November 22, 2011 at 12:54 PM
Since the May / June time frame, the Tri Town Council's have asked the BCWA Board to deliver the list of unfinished capital projects at BCWA. In any normal business, that would be a document tied to the company business plan and thus able to be provided in a couple of days. But this is BCWA. In all this time, the Board has failed to provide that important document. What is the reason it cannot be delivered? Is there embarrassing news the board is trying to cover up? Is the search for a new Executive Director tied in some way to finding someone sufficiently skilled in continuing this practice? Is this why BCWA attorney Sandra Mack was hired to do the "inside job" of vetting the resumes? The list of unanswered questions keeps calling into question the transparency at BCWA. If ever there was a need for full transparency, it is now during the search for a new Executive Director. Unfortunately, this is not how it is being carried out.
Manifold Witness November 22, 2011 at 06:15 PM
Mack is a partner at Cameron & Mittleman. They must be very proud.
Bristol County Anonymous November 22, 2011 at 10:25 PM
Thanks OCG and RISC for your support. Mr. Jannitto, please provide the “unfinished capital projects listing” (requested by the Barrington TC’s July 5 directive) Why do you need months to provide what should be an easy to prepare report and explanation? Please take a “time-out” from your petty, nonsensical “investigation”, and… …take a look at some the reports that are in that stack of responses to your “probing letter: The “PARE report” found that BCWA needs to maintain a water main replacement program, because of an old leaky water main system, including asbestos material. BCWA’s 2007 “Clean Water Infrastructure Replacement Plan” filed with the RI Dept. of Health, included a $2.4M “Five-year water main replacement Program”. But as you know, the water main replacement project stalled out, due to lack of funding (BCWA Board minutes; B&E report). Other RI towns obtained “stimulus” funding for their water main replacement projects. But BCWA management said applying for stimulus funding involved “too much red tape” (BCWA minutes). And BCWA failed to comply with RI statutory requirements to address funding needs to appropriately maintain & replace infrastructure. (B&E report) But, $475 per hour was paid to Mrs. Mack. The BCWA problems can no longer be ignored, and need to be addressed. Time for the Barrington Town Council to follow-up on the July 5 directives.
Manifold Witness November 22, 2011 at 10:28 PM
"Sandy" Mack's bio over at the Cameron & Mittleman website says that she is a partner and she represents RI Resource Recovery. Hmmm.... does that pass the sniff test?
Bristol County Anonymous November 22, 2011 at 10:42 PM
Rather than wasting BCWA resources on trying to slap the EB4, it’s too bad that Jannitto & Mack didn’t devote the same level of effort toward getting stimulus money like other RI water districts did. BCWA could have obtained funding to address the important water main replacement project referred to in my earlier “comment”. June Swallow, RIDOH said the following (excerpt from recent article): “Aging water infrastructure can pose risks to public and environmental health. June Swallow, a drinking water infrastructure expert at the Rhode Island Department of Health explains that breaks, leaks, worn spots and holes can introduce pathogens from soil into drinking water mains (the reason for “boil-water” alerts during main breaks). Those pathogens generally disappear after repair, but there is a possibility, Swallow says, of them “finding a home” in biofilm, or slime, that sometimes exists inside a main. Even when pipes do not break, they can develop tuberculation, corrosive buildup resembling barnacles, caused by a chemical reaction between treated drinking water and metal pipe. According to the EPA, bacteria growth in tubercles can cause health problems. Swallow says that tuberculation is not the most pressing issue in water mains – the issue is that so many mains are “reaching the end of their useful life” simultaneously, creating an epidemic of failure.” http://www.metcalfinstitute.org/dl/whats_on_tap.pdf
Manifold Witness November 23, 2011 at 01:52 AM
BCWA has miles of old transmission pipes that can pose risks to public & environmental health & contain pathogens, biofilm. slime, tuberculation, & corrosive buildup resembling barnacles, caused by a chemical reaction between treated drinking water and metal pipe.
Gary Morse November 23, 2011 at 01:36 PM
Manifold - Is this a Wizard of Oz moment? Oh my!
Bristol County Anonymous November 23, 2011 at 02:16 PM
Warren Town Council…. Please ask Mr. Jannitto to resign. His outrageous unauthorized “probing” letter, accompanying lies, and petty desire for “retribution” against the public he is supposed to be working for, constitutes “cause” for his removal. And during his “watch”, BCWA has spiraled into a financial and operational mess. - Infrastructure has fallen apart due to lack of funding. - Shad scam. - Pretend Warren treatment plant. - Unmitigated pollution. - “Matrix of Options” (now pending), ONLY after public commentary / requests. - Inadequate redundant / emergency water supply (for years). - Non-compliance with laws requiring Infrastructure Replacement Plans / funding. - Lack of transparency & honesty. Mr. Jannitto has shown that he does not have the integrity & ability to properly oversee the Water Authority, and find solutions for all the water system problems. Please ask Mr. Jannitto to resign.
Jack Baillargeron November 23, 2011 at 07:33 PM
Don't forget the ignorance in Labor negoiation on the Union Contract "Bristol", Can't really blae the Union on that give away that will cost for years and years to come,like my father use to say, "when someone offers you money, put it your pocket before they put back in theirs". ;-}
Onwatch November 28, 2011 at 09:01 PM
You have to watch where the taxpayer money is going all of the time. In Exeter, a main road in dangerous condition was supposed to have been fixed this past spring. It wasn't. But a long stretch of 95, which wasn't nearly as bad, was fixed. We have to start being our own financial watchdogs, as the souring economy begins to expose the every-man-for-himself characters. We can't sit back any longer and simply trust people to work with rate payers' and taxpayers' money behind closed doors. It will take forever to clean up this state, but we have to start somewhere, and now! I hope citizens in other communities will take a lesson from your brave work and start to attend meetings and ask questions. Someday those you are questioning may even feel shame for their greedy, elitist behavior.
marina peterson November 28, 2011 at 09:10 PM
Thank you Onwatch, for your support!

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