October 25, 2009

Send the State to the Dump and Rebuild

Justin Katz

Some explanation may lie with the crappy discount coffee that I bought in a pinch at CVS, Friday night. I'd forgotten to pick up my usual brew on the way home, and because the cold snap and the replacement of heavy winter socks in my work-clothes dresser bring the threat of rapid defeat in my battle against athlete's foot, I was headed to the pharmacy, anyway. Difficulty walking comes at a steep price, for a carpenter, so financial considerations no longer justify forgoing the weapon of prescription cream, as I have for some months. In other words, since I was splurging for medicine, I thought to compensate by scrimping on addiction.

A mild bug may also be to blame, but inasmuch as I've no other symptoms of illness, the bad-tasting coffee certainly comes under suspicion for my feeling of mild disorientation — as if I'd spent the previous night drinking alcohol in an amount just shy of that which produces a hangover.

Some explanation must also derive from this week's payment of the bills, or (more accurately) non-payment of the bills. It looks like some additional conveniences, such as cell-phone Internet access, will have to give way, this week, blog-efforts notwithstanding. The mortgage payment hovers just out of reach, and the fact that it's missed the arbitrary deadline means that roughly three hours of my hard-earned pay will evaporate in fees again this month. Fortunately, I've a jar full of pennies from which to draw resources for a stamp to send an obligatory auto insurance payment.

Which all contributes to my utter lack of sympathy for anybody associated with the story of Nathan Hannon, who, by Mike Stanton's telling in the Providence Journal, is another dirt-bag who's been bilking the state by not doing the work that he'd claimed to be doing as (get this) a $45,000-per-year "education coordinator" for the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation. He was a teacher at the dump, who appears to have taken credit for off-site educational presentations that never happened:

Of 27 instances in which Hannon filed paperwork for mileage reimbursement, The Journal could only confirm three trips: he went to the Blackstone Valley Charter School in June and West Warwick High School in July and dropped off educational materials to a woman affiliated with the South Providence Youth Ministries in June.

But he didn't go to the South Providence Youth Ministries for presentations in July and August, as he reported, officials there say. Those were among at least 17 appointments that people say didn't happen. At the remaining seven places, two could not be reached and the others said they could not confirm or did not recall his visiting.

What Hannon might have done to accumulate the mileage for which he submitted reimbursement claims is an open question. Perhaps his significant other, "former [RI] senator and top Senate aide who is now a Rhode Island traffic-court judge" David Cruise has some idea. (According to the judiciary's Web site, by the way, Cruise's actual title is "administrative magistrate," which means that his path to a six-figure job in the judiciary was different than that taken by a judge; then– Chief Justice Frank "Chiefy" Williams nominated the lifelong political actor to the court, and the Senate confirmed him.) Perhaps Senate Majority Leader Daniel Connors — who walked a mile and a half to the home of Hannon and Cruise after crashing his brother's car in the middle of the night after a fundraiser, back in 2004 — could make inquiry now that his schedule is clear of the string-pulling that he appears to have been doing behind the scenes to ensure that Hannon is eligible for unemployment payments.

What is less and less in question is whether it's worthwhile for residents to continue supporting a government structure that makes of the state a playground for political insiders. Somehow, our discount-brand representatives leave the rest of us feeling disoriented and hung over while they pass around the cup of patronage.

When the state gets around to hiring another garbage education director, we can ask him or her whether it's possible to recycle that which is thoroughly rotten, but it seems to me that we should just throw the government in the trash and start from scratch.

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There is zero question as to the outrage from the citizens in this state concerned the incestuous relationships between unions, appointees, the court system hire-thy-friend-and-neighbors and now the apparent special counsel to the sin halls or our state.

Citizens are becoming educated and sickened by stories like the Hannon intervention by none other that the top leadership of the General Assembly.

I know from personal chatter with the elderly that they are increasingly aware of the Obama administration because of the threat to Medicare dollars to fund Obamacare.

But it all means squat if we just sit hear, read blogs and don't show up at the statehouse to give testimony or contact our state rep. and senator.
When momentum meets resistance, push harder.

Posted by: Roland at October 25, 2009 3:54 PM

After my initial, gads-not-another-patronage-horror-story-out-of-Smith-Hill reaction, the question that jumped out at me was, is this yet another benefit, albeit not openly posted in the HR office, that accrues to state employment? That in addition to the good salary, very good health care coverage and excellent pension, if they actually find cause to fire you, you get to just roll over into unemployment benefits?

In marked contrast to the private sector, of course, where you'd immediately be revving up your resume and hitting the help wanted ads.

Posted by: Monique at October 25, 2009 4:45 PM

Seems like an open-and-shut case, but why didn't the state go through with it?
But then again, if you're going to deny someone unemployment benefits, you better be acting above board...which I know from a case involving my former boss, is not always done. Somebody at corporate from out of state wanted her out, trumping up means to deny her unemployment, and everyone in our building (both union AND management) was outraged - luckily, the board ruled in her favor (and she had no political ties, either). But it also meant nobody from the union wanted to ascend into open management positions after seeing how shoddily managers were treated.
Maybe, just maybe, there was something in the dismissal that was less than above board.

Posted by: rhody at October 25, 2009 6:43 PM

It must be nice to think that way rhody. This smells, but it's probably management's fault? The real disgrace in this story is Sen. Dan Connors. The way his accident was handled was disgraceful. Today's story confirms the claim that Connors is an unethical official who shouldn't be representing Cumberland and Lincoln. Hopefully the voters will recognize this.

How about the underreported story that Rep. Ray Sullivan changed his plea from not-guilty to no contest, in his drunk driving case. He stated he "needed to accept the responsibility" but only after the judge ruled the breathalyzer results could be submitted as evidence. Rep. Sullivan registered more than twice the legal limit, despite claiming he only had two beers. Rep. Sullivan put all those on the road in danger, but particularly the young lady who was his passenger.

Neither deserves to remain in the GA.

Posted by: mikeinri at October 25, 2009 8:44 PM

What is the new story about Connors? The "non-drunken" crash, as stated in the story, was 5 years ago. What really made it interesting for me was after the crash, I went in to the police station, asked for a copy of the police report and was immediately asked, "Who are you, do you represent Connors?" Clearly a trick question, as they all know Dan, his brother is a dispatcher there. I just offered "No." As I was handed the report, I was told, "There's nothing strange in there, everything was straightforward". Hmm. Sounds a little guilty to me when that needs to be offered up. And yes, Connors needs to be canned. He's an embarrassment to this whole state, never mind just Cumberland/Lincoln.

As for Sullivan, that is total election-fodder. Proof that he's no leader. A real leader steps up and accepts and admits his mistakes. A "no contest" is like shrugging your shoulders at the judge. What's so hard about saying you're guilty. You did it. You were stinkin' drunk. Anything else is a slap in the face to the police. What an embarrassment.

Posted by: Patrick at October 25, 2009 9:24 PM

Sullivan fessed up to his actions. Good.
The cops threatening his girlfriend? That. my friend, is witness intimidation of the worst kind.

Posted by: rhody at October 26, 2009 12:10 AM

Pleading no contest is fessing up? I'd think pleading guilty is fessing up. To plead not guilty is like saying "Hey judge, do what you want, I'm not saying anything either way. Maybe a did it, maybe I didn't."

DWI is a mistake that people make all the time and isn't something for the firing squad. I get that. But if you want to be a state leader, step up and admit your mistake. This whole situation had "weasel" written all over it.

I'm sure Obama would be proud of his field leader.

Posted by: Patrick at October 26, 2009 11:56 AM

Lastly, what I don't understand after another reading of the article is it's pretty binary, you get unemployment comp if you're let go by no fault of your own. If Hannon was let go by no fault of his own, what grounds does he have for being unemployed? If there are none, why isn't he suing? If there are any grounds, why is he getting unemployment compensation?

Posted by: Patrick at October 26, 2009 12:48 PM
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