City Council calls for transparency, mandates monthly reports

City Council calls for transparency, mandates monthly reports

WOONSOCKET – In a move described as an effort to enhance government transparency, members of the City Council on Monday voted to require monthly reports from the administration on happenings in city government.

Councilor John Ward proposed the measure, which he said would make the administration “more accessible to the council and public at large.” He said he proposed it after hearing repeated calls for greater transparency from citizens and other individuals running for office.

“Too often, I hear complaints from citizens that they have requested information from the city, and the response has been slow to come,” he said. “This includes members of the City Council as well.”

The ordinance requires city directors to send monthly reports on activities in their departments, including Finance, Public Works, Public Safety, Planning, Personnel, Human Services, the city clerk’s office and the Woonsocket Harris Public Library. Later in the meeting, councilors also voted to add a “monthly paid bills” section to the council agenda, ensuring the council receives a listing of all bills paid in a given month.

The move follows a long string of complaints by Ward and other councilors that their requests for information were not receiving responses in a timely fashion from members of Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt’s administration. Baldelli-Hunt responded to that accusation on Monday, saying city employees “are extremely busy and they’re very aggressive in moving the city forward and making progress.”

“As you know, this administration is extremely transparent and we’re very clear about what we do, and sometimes we’re told that we share too much of that,” she said.

Baldelli-Hunt said departments were already short-staffed and raised concerns the measure would create more tasks for employees.

“For them to be tracking every single thing that they’re doing, you’d be spending a lot of time each day tracking that and putting it into a report,” she said.

She also expressed concern the reports could reveal confidential dealings on potential development projects.

“If it’s pertinent matters that are relating to the city that the council should be aware of, we do that anyway,” she said. “To start making reports on things that could be considered not a pertinent matter, I think there’s a line that needs to be drawn.”

Ward said the reports were not meant to be a listing of day-to-day activities but compared them to reports he submits in his job as finance director of the town of Lincoln. In Lincoln, he said, department heads are required to submit monthly reports that often include statistical information or a summary of activities.

He added the reports would eliminate the need to require members of the administration, including the mayor, to attend City Council meetings, a power he said the council has but has rarely enforced.

“There’s an authority there that we’ve rarely forced, and I wouldn’t want to force,” he said.

The measure had the support of other councilors, passing by a 7-0 vote. Councilor David Soucy, who’s sometimes broken ranks with other councilors, said he supported the measure and added “legal expenses” to the list of requested reports.

Baldelli-Hunt agreed to the measure but said she wanted to have a conversation to discuss how the presentations would be made. Ward also agreed to further discussion on the new requirement.

Comments

Public trust in government, at (ALL) levels is at the lowest it has ever been in my opinion... The ONLY way (some) trust and faith in government and (politicians) is through complete openness through oversight ...