ARLENE VIOLET – It’s the Rhode Island Way

ARLENE VIOLET – It’s the Rhode Island Way

Bill Belichick fans know that the “Patriot Way” is a term to describe the team-first culture of the New England Patriots. The “Rhode Island Way,” regrettably, is the way that political business is done in this state without concern for taxpayers. The two things that seem only to matter are that some politicians take care of their friends and the friends take care of them.

As you read this, you are still paying for the 38 Studios fiasco. If Smith Hill continues on its present pursuit to give a 20-year, no-bid contract to IGT-Twin River, you will lose $2.5 billion in lost opportunity, $520 million in general fund contributions, $130 million in retailer commissions and $1.7 billion in prizes, according to a gaming consultant. The consultant was paid $165,000 which included his return flight to Rhode Island and expenses to testify about his findings to the General Assembly. He wasn’t called as a witness.

Gov. Gina Raimondo and Democrat legislators are poised to reward a chief campaign contributor to their races and her colleague at the Democratic National Committee who also was the IGT former chairman. They have more loyalty to fund his company stock than to you or the small businesses which sell lottery products despite their rhetoric about helping them.

Pensioners could be hurt again

Now, another injustice may happen to the pensioners of the St. Joseph Pension Fund. The participants first were betrayed by Bishop Thomas Tobin, who stopped making necessary pension contributions to the retirement fund. He then mugged them anew by selling the hospitals without a properly funded pension, which he and the purchaser knew was underfunded. Thereafter, the retirement fund petitioned for a receivership and sought a 40 percent cut of everyone’s pension from nurses to housekeepers.

Before the pensioners knew of the dire situation of the underfunded pension, the purchaser exchanged its nonprofit status by selling the hospitals to a for-profit entity. Then-Attorney General Peter Kilmartin allowed the sale and apparently didn’t protect the assets of each hospital since the new investors paid themselves about $500 million in bonuses and operating fees, imperiling the financial stability of its 17 hospitals including those in Rhode Island. Now, two of those investors want to buy out the third partner and set up another for-profit entity to own the hospitals. At a hearing before the Health Services Council advising the R.I. Department of Health on such a transfer, the proposed new, for-profit owners painted a rosy picture of its “commitment” to the community. The representations were not verified and the monitor who was supposed to oversee the initial for-profit sale as of July 2020 couldn’t verify essential information about the owners’ “finances.” Nobody on the council asked about the alarming monitor report or the opposition to the change, including, fortunately, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio.

The concern, of course, is that more assets will be drained out of the hospitals into the pockets of these venture capitalists, thereby defeating the class action lawsuit on behalf of the pension participants seeking to secure funds for the pension.

I don’t receive a penny since I am a pro bono attorney for the elderly retirees on limited incomes, but unless the present attorney general stops this shell game, the pensioners may get beaten anew.

Violet is an attorney and former state attorney general.