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