— Hopkinton —

April 19, 2009

Revenue-Driven Quota, or Union Stranglehold Workaround?

Justin Katz

A busy week moved this Hopkinton tidbit to the bottom of the pile, but the multiple angles make it of broader interest:

If you drive through Hopkinton, keep this in mind: The officers you see are each required to write 20 traffic tickets per month, "more or less," under a new Police Department policy.

Excuses, like being busy doing something else, or having taken vacation days, "are not acceptable," Lt. Daniel C. Baruti said in a March 3 internal e-mail that spells out the policy.

Drivers who think they have been ticketed unfairly often suspect that they were cited because of a police quota rather than their driving. The police almost universally deny that quotas exist.

The e-mail says, in bold, italic type, "Do not forward this e-mail."

Baruti tried to put a business-as-usual face on the controversy, with the emphasis on "business" by presenting law enforcement in terms of money-making:

Baruti and the other local officials said that the policy is a management tool intended to make the police more productive. Although it has drawn some criticism, Baruti said, the policy is legal and that they have no intention of abandoning it. ...

The e-mail said that officers who don't meet the quota — an average of one ticket for every shift worked — will have to fill out daily activity sheets to account for what they have done during their shifts. Baruti acknowledged that officers would rather not have to do that.

Baruti's e-mail said that the department's "production level" has fallen and that the town manager and some members of the Town Council "are very dissatisfied with our numbers." He said he thinks a decline in the department's ticket production reflects a lack of motivation.

Baruti wrote that he plans to send the officers' statistics to the Town Council, so members can "see for themselves who is producing and who is not." DiLibero said the council hasn't acted on the issue, which he considers an administrative matter.

Police Chief John Scuncio, by contrast, fires the union flare:

Scuncio, on the other hand, said the policy is aimed at a single officer who does practically no work. One example of his lack of effort, the chief said, is that month after month, the officer writes no tickets at all. The chief said the officer's inactivity "really creates problems" because new officers "see this guy doing nothing." He didn't identify the officer, saying he didn't want to single the officer out. ...

He said he's reluctant to try to discipline the officer because of the difficulty under the legal and contractual protections provided to Rhode Island police.

Maybe I'm getting tired of games in my ornery middle age, or maybe my incredulity results from daily experience with the demands and strains that exist in the private sector, but I'm inclined to offer solutions to both justifications for this policy, no matter which is the actual one: Make all officers fill out daily activity sheets, regardless of their "productivity," and stop negotiating contracts that make it difficult to discipline egregiously "unproductive" employees.

Seems like every time the public discovers an objectionable policy or practice in the government sphere, it's excused with reference to the deeper problems that it's supposedly attempting to solve. Well, let's do away with the deeper problems, even if it annoys big contributors, people in the family-and-friends camp, and special interests.

April 7, 2009

Chariho District Votes Today

Carroll Andrew Morse

Charlestown, Richmond and Hopkinton are holding a referendum today on the school budget for Chariho District. From Andrew Martin of the Chariho Times

Voters will have the final say all-day April 7 on the proposed $53.3 million Chariho Regional School District budget for fiscal year 2009-10.

The budget represents a small increase over the current fiscal year, which stands at $53.1 million. But, after revenue, the member towns’ contribution actually sees a decrease for the upcoming fiscal year.

The current 2008-09 fiscal year’s total member towns’ contribution is $49.5 million. This coming year’s budget proposal calls for $49.3 million – a decrease of $210,798.

A few sources familiar with the situation have told me that they expect the vote to be close.

January 3, 2009

Chariho Fiefdom Temporarily Suspended

Justin Katz

Apparently powerful players on local school committees can't just subvert the will of voters without providing the public any warning that they intend to do so:

Superior Court Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson has ordered the Chariho Regional School Committee to reinstate William Felkner until it properly votes on whether to allow him to serve on the school board while seated as a member of the Hopkinton Town Council.

Thompson enjoined the school board from enforcing its Nov. 18 decision, based on a finding by Chariho Solicitor Jon M. Anderson, that when Felkner took the oath of office as a Town Council member the evening before, he in effect gave up his seat on the School Committee.

Although the Nov. 18 school board meeting was properly advertised, there was no public notice that the board was considering a vote on whether Felkner could continue to serve.

Assuming that public light doesn't cause Chariho School District lawyer Jon Anderson — and whoever's prodding him — to recede into their hovels to scheme for another day, manipulating the system by other means, it would behoove Rhode Islanders interested in fair dealings and sane reforms to attend any duly advertised meeting at which the dabblers in conspiracy may attempt, again, to deny voters' right to elect whom they like for local offices.


As a side note: Doesn't the Providence Journal have anybody on staff who could provide some sense of where the relevant law actually stands when it comes to simultaneously holding the two particular offices to which Bill has been elected? I'd gladly do the research, if I had time, but it seems to me that such contributions to news stories represent an area in which a state-level newspaper would be well positioned to provide an added value worth paying for.