More From Rhode Island’s “Business Voices”: RI Hospitality’s Worforce Board Funding Stream


In January, I highlighted the sentiment of a representative of the “business community” sitting on the legislative commission to study the repeal of the sales tax — a representative of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce — that it would be “a crime to threaten” the government’s sales tax revenue stream.  Well, last week, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity released a report detailing how the state could find $225 million without its being so much as a misdemeanor.

It only took until Monday of this week for another of the commission’s business-community voices, Dale Venturini, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Hospitality Association, to speak up in support of government spending.  Writing in the Providence Journal alongside Heather Singleton, a senior vice president running the association’s Education Foundation, Venturini insists:

On behalf of the fourth largest industry and the 64,000-plus employees in the food service, lodging and tourism industries in Rhode Island, we’d like to say that the Rhode Island Hospitality Association and its Education Foundation are troubled by the April 2 Commentary piece by Mike Stenhouse and David Williams (“Chafee lards his budget with $225 million in waste”). The piece implies that the Governors Workforce Board should be eliminated and that “there is little indication that the board provides any value to workers, businesses, or taxpayers. …

The investment that the Governors Workforce Board makes in our residents is much deeper than Messrs. Stenhouse and Williams suggest. As a workforce system, we are providing a future not only for the Rhode Islanders who need employment training and a career path but also for their children.”

According to RIOpenGov’s state vendor payments module, one of the ways in which the Governor’s Workforce Board helps create employment is by providing a steady stream of revenue for the Rhode Island Hospitality Education Foundation:  $192,109 in 2013, $133,986 in 2012, $128,621 in 2011, and $148,444 in 2010.  (That’s as far back as the data goes.)

The foundation’s latest 990 form puts its total revenue in 2012 at $367,904, so one-third or more of all of its money came from the government board that Venturini and Singleton see as so critical.  (If I’m not mistaken, the 990 form shows calendar year revenue, while the state vendor payments report the fiscal year. It’s therefore likely that the much larger grant shown in 2013 is partly counted in the 990’s 2012 revenue, which would help to explain its $67,567 increase from the previous year.)

The 990 form doesn’t detail how much of the Hospitality Education Foundation’s $240,625 in pay, benefits, and payroll taxes are attributable to Singleton.  It does indicate that Venturini’s $201,728 salary was paid by the association, not the foundation, with an additional $18,346 in “other compensation,” which she described to me as fringe benefits, not separate compensation for her 10 hours per week with the foundation.

In their op-ed, Venturini and Singleton offer testimony from an unnamed participant in their organization’s training, as well as from Mark Gervais, “general manager of the Hotel Viking.”  They don’t mention, though, that Gervais is on the executive committee of the Hospitality Association.

Nobody should doubt the challenge that Rhode Islanders face in forcing their government to get out of the way and start helping, rather than hindering, the state’s turnaround.  It is made all the more difficult when those who might be expected to assist in the effort are interwoven with the web of mutually supportive interests that block the necessary government reforms.

  • Russ

    LOL, you folks have a problem with other organization's sources of funding? Who pays your bills since you obviously find the issue of who backs an organization so significant (well, at least where everyone else is concerned)?

    • justinkatz

      You really are descending to the point of being a troll. Here's a group that's publicly advocating for a government program that directly supplies a large portion of its funding… without mentioning that fact. The funding is directly relevant in a way that vague allegations about an organization's funding, intended to explain vague reasons for disliking that organization, are not.

      • Russ

        "Here's a group that's publicly advocating for a government program that directly supplies a large portion of its funding… without mentioning that fact."

        Yes, would be much easier if they simply kept that secret to avoid the criticism, eh?

        As for trolling, my personally take is it's fair game to bring up if you're going to criticize other groups based on the source of their funding. Aren't we supposed to believe that's irrelevant? Why shouldn't we give Venturini the same benefit of the doubt you demand yourself?

        • justinkatz

          I have never said that funding is entirely irrelevant. I’ve said that it’s not of primary relevance; that is, that it is or is not relevant based on circumstances.

          I know you don’t come here to engage in good-faith conversation, but it might be worth my laying this out, anyway: If the question is whether somebody’s argument is offered sincerely and without ulterior motives, such that it should be addressed with counter-arguments rather than dismissed, then the fact that the person making it has always made it, with or without funding, suggests that funding is irrelevant. In fact, alleging conflicts of interest is explicitly ad hominem.

          If, however, the question is whether a group speaking on behalf of a much larger group declares that a specific government expenditure is working wonders, it is absolutely relevant that the government program covers roughly two-thirds of the smaller group’s payroll annually.

          • Russ

            "I know you don't come here to engage in good-faith conversation…"

            What's interesting for me is that you assume anyone who disagrees with you to be arguing from "bad faith" but express shock that anyone might assume the same about you.

            "it is absolutely relevant that the government program covers roughly two-thirds of the smaller group's payroll annually."

            That is, unless the sources covering payroll are kept secret in which case we shouldn't bring it up, right?

  • Why am I totally unsurprised by these revelations?

  • Dan

    Russ – Who pays you and how much? Hypocrite.