10 News Conference Wingmen, Episode 27 (Central Coventry Fire District)


This week on NBC 10 Wingmen Bob Plain and I talked about the controversy over the Central Coventry Fire District.  It went in a different direction than I’d anticipated, so I hadn’t reviewed the long history of the controversy in as much detail as I should have, but there are two important points to make.

The first is that it’s important to remember, given context, that the start of the issue wasn’t an audit requested by the firefighters.  It was actually a consolidation of multiple smaller fire districts, which was supposed to save money.  It didn’t, which is what caused taxpayers to mobilize.

The second is that Bob was simply incorrect to attribute the budget problems to an audit and to credit the firefighters with requesting it.  As my April 2012 liveblog of an abysmally run meeting of the fire district shows, the initial discovery of the budget problems came from taxpayer Leo Blais (whom, it’s worth emphasizing) Board President Girard Bouchard continually shut down, even grabbing the microphone from him:

Blais is explaining that the budget is a fiction. “Any way you add it up, it’s $1.2 million in the hole today.”

He says they’re “pretending” several budget related items. The chief began arguing with him, but the crowd shouted at him that he didn’t have the floor.

Bouchard called Blais out of order and grabbed the microphone from his hand. Much audience consternation. “If he can’t speak, you can’t!” …

Bouchard called the vote, but then he allowed another question: “What’s going to happen” if Blais is right and the taxes don’t come in as projected?

Bouchard: We’ll address that when it happens.

So, in summary, consolidation made the district more expensive, increased the likelihood of clerical errors (with a big one resulting), and made the process more opaque and difficult for the people to investigate.  Even so, it was interested local taxpayers who unearthed the problem and demanded that it be solved.  Now we have the state changing the rules of the game in order to protect a smaller unit of government from accountability to the people.

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  • Dan

    Dishonest Bob serves up another whopper. Sirens were going off in my head when he asserted the union discovered the budget problem and brought it for public discussion (yeah, right – that has happened NEVER), but I lacked the means to do the legwork to disprove him in this case.

  • Guest

    Public sector unions need to be outlawed. As for Bob, why does he lie to protect an organization that is ripping off the people?

  • ronald nagel

    the union took over control of the district and ran it into the ground . lies , lies , and more lies from unions . their form of concessions are just talking points . the concessions go back to business as usual after one year . the old board rolled over and played dead for the union and handed them the keys to the treasure chest . now they hate the new board because they want to take back control to the tax payers . this is a local district and should be controlled by the district tax payers and not an appointed person who is not a district member . we voted many times and they do not like or accept our votes so they run to the courts to force what ever they want on us . we are not TOWN fire dept . and the state should stay out of our business .