Woonsocket mayor lets go of finance director

Woonsocket mayor lets go of finance director

Officials say replacement is coming from Taveras administration

WOONSOCKET – Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt on Thursday ended the city's relationship with a highly regarded finance director who has served under three city mayors. Officials close to her say his replacement will be coming soon from the administration of Providence Mayor Angel Taveras.

Finance Director Thomas Bruce served under former Mayor Susan Menard from 1996 to 2000. Bruce held the same position in Cumberland for years before returning to Woonsocket in 2010 under former Mayor Leo Fontaine.

Bruce said he learned of the decision at 3 p.m. on Thursday, April 17, when the mayor briefly stopped by his office to inform him it was his last day.

"For me, it was unexpected," Bruce told The Breeze on Friday.

The mayor, Bruce said, gave him no reason for the termination, saying only that she had decided to go in a different direction. Soon after, Administration Director Richard Kearns and City Solicitor Michael Marcello came to his office.

"They said it had nothing to do with performance, and that she's the mayor and you work at her pleasure," Bruce said. The men, Bruce said, assured him a good reference.

After the mayor's inauguration last December, Bruce's title was changed to "acting finance director," an indication that he technically held the job only in a temporary capacity, like many on Baldelli-Hunt's administrative team.

"She has every right by charter to have people work at her pleasure," Bruce said.

Still, he said, the decision came as a surprise. Bruce said for the past several weeks he's spent around five hours a week in budget meetings with Baldelli-Hunt.

"We completed all of the department budgets," he said.

The change had the approval of the Woonsocket Budget Commission - a five-member board made up of local and state officials that has the final say on the city's financial matters. According to Albert Brien, who serves on the board in his capacity as City Council president, the commission weighed in on the matter via a confidential, secure email vote.

The vote appears to have been more a backing of the woman at the city's helm than a reflection on the finance director.

"I think I've had a very good working relationship with the Budget Commission," Bruce said. "That's important to me because I want to make sure my conduct and performance were professional and appropriate."

Brien indicated he was surprised, "but not shocked" by the mayor's decision.

"I have detected over the past several months that there has been some disconnect between the mayor and the finance director," Brien said. "They were not always in sync."

Brien said that while he's unsure who the mayor has chosen to replace Bruce, he's heard the individual is coming from the Taveras administration.

Both personally and professionally, however, he said he will miss Bruce.

"Tom Bruce is not only an employee of the city, he was more than that," Brien said. "He was a friend and a very kind person."

For his part, Bruce said there was no problem or tension with the mayor that he was aware of, and he leaves the city with gratitude for many good years of employment.

"It's been a privilege to work for all three mayors and Woonsocket has been fortunate to have them," Bruce said. "There is a very good staff that is in finance, so I'm going to miss them."


Brien said that while he's unsure who the mayor has chosen to replace Bruce, he's heard the individual is coming from the Taveras administration. Really, he doesn't know??

Brien is not only the Council President, but he is a member of the Budget Commission that approved Mr. Bruce's termination. You'd think Mr. Brien would and should know who the replacement is going to be before approving such a significant move. But then again, that would mean the Budget Commission would actually do something.

Making an important decision like this via email, with no substantive discussion or notification as to whom the replacement will be just demonstrates the uselessness of a Budget Commission that has been hanging around, doing next to nothing, for almost two years.

Also, I have detected over the past several months that there has been some disconnect between the mayor and the Council President - it appears there is zero communication. This event just confirms the obvious.

Bring on the Receiver.

Mr. Bruce, without my knowing the actual facts of your termination, it may be a "blessing in disguise" for you. Your reputation and skills preceed you, and I'm sure your "availability" will be considered as a "lucky charm" for others.

Most people don't realize how hard you and John Ward have previously worked on our City's budget, especially since the beginning of the Budget Commission's oversight. You are to be commended for your commitment and dedication to our City.

Good Luck to you and in your future endeavors. Who knows what the future holds?

Just a "fun thought"---wouldn't it be something if you were hired by the State and came back as a Budget Commission member?

Tom -
Whether in Woonsocket or Cumberland, you were always available for, and patient with, reporters trying to understand the twists and turns of municipal finance. And we thank you for that.

....that people with common sense are not allowed to work in Woonsocket.

Too bad its politics as usual.

Baldelli-Hunt will hire some hack who knows crap and attempt her turn around plan.

I have to agree that Tom Bruce would make a great addition to the Budget Commission. Maybe the state leaders should look to Tom to chair the Central Coventry Fire District.

Tom Bruce is one of the finest Gentleman I have ever had the pleasure of knowing....and he is the absolute best there is in the State of Rhode Island in the position that he was in!

There is a time and place for politics and the rewarding those that helped you achieve the office you sought and won.

However, letting go an individual that as mentioned is the best at what he doing, especially in a financially strapped city such as Woonsocket, for no logical, sound or intelligent reason, proves what I have written on more then one occasion as to ms (Mayor) Baldelli....she has not a clue and is totally unqualified to be mayor....ANYWHERE!

I guess she thinks, what with having a Loan Shark in the family, those are the kinds of qualifications one needs to be involved in finance?

God help the good citizens of Woonsocket.....then, again, you elected her!

Tom Letourneau Sr.

Finally, Woonsocket has a Mayor that runs the City like a business and what happens, the diehard Republican Party of Woonsocket dumps on her. The Republican Party got the City in the mess it is in and the Democrats have to clean up the mess which was left by the two past administrations.

Mr. Baillargeon, you sound like our president. Why is it that the Liberals or Progressives---whatever one wants to call them---always blame their opponents for their failures? They also love to attack the "messenger" rather than the "message"?

You sure sound like Mr. Obama who has continued to blame President Bush for his past five-years of failures. To think that he has three more years to serve is quite scary! Your LIBERAL president has done such a good job that we are in a TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS deficit--and that's a FACT. It's too bad that the LIBERALS don't "practice what they preach" because if they did, they'd be focussing on pursuing POSITIVE accomplishments vs. the NEGATIVE ones!

Remember, Mr. Baillargeon, that "All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward." - Ellen Glasgow.

Lastly, I am an INDEPENDENT-----not a REPUBLICAN!

Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.

John F. Kennedy

Marc...you slept through that lesson? Before you, of all people, blame anybody for anything, you'd best be sure not to forget your own shortcomings.