Solomon hires financial advisor

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Mayor Joseph Solomon insists that the problems facing Warwick aren’t insurmountable, but he also showed on Wednesday that he isn’t averse to accepting help in solving those problems either.

He announced Wednesday that he would be bringing in Michael D’Amico, principal of D’Amico Consulting, to act as an executive assistant/consultant to his administration. The position was included in the FY2020 budget at a cost of $50,000.

“Michael brings a wealth of experience assisting municipalities, particularly in the areas of finances, contract and labor disputes and education,” Solomon said through a release. “I know, working cooperatively with me, Chief of Staff Bill DePasquale and other key members of my cabinet, Michael will be instrumental in our ongoing efforts to address issues of concern in these areas.”

During an interview on Wednesday, Solomon indicated that DePasquale was “overwhelmed” in delineating the many priorities identified in the city – things that Solomon said included ongoing arbitration with the fire department, negotiations with the school department, infrastructure needs within the city’s sewer and water authorities and maintenance of other city facilities.

“Let me put it this way, there is a lot to deal with on a daily basis,” Solomon said. “And when you come in in the morning, every day is a new adventure. When I have the opportunity to have qualified, quality help available, and they are willing to help, I take it and I go forward with it, because it’s only going to make the community better.”

According to the release, D’Amico has managed his own consulting firm for the past five years. He most recently served as a consultant to the town of East Greenwich, negotiating five labor contracts in six months that resulted in “anticipated savings of $3 million over the next five years.” The release states he was responsible for preparing both the East Greenwich school department and town budgets for FY2020.

In Coventry, D’Amico consulted and overcome a $2 million shortfall within the Coventry School District while simultaneously “reinstating key programs such as math and reading specialists, middle school sports and other clubs,” the release notes.

Further back in his history, D’Amico was director of administration to former Providence Mayor Angel Tavares, where he helped save “in excess of $150 million in collective bargaining agreements and cost control measures,” per the release. Prior to working for municipalities, D’Amico had an extensive career in the private sector.

D’Amico earned a Bachelor of Science degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA in finance from Villanova University. Solomon said that D’Amico has already been included in at least one city meeting to get caught up in financial details and would be active moving forward.

Updates on city issues

As mentioned above, between skyrocketing employee costs and looming city deficits, a continuing $7.7 million deficit within the school department that has threatened the very core of education in the city and at-risk infrastructure throughout the city – financial issues have framed every aspect of Solomon’s first term in office. He provided updates on some of those issues on Wednesday.

Solomon said that negotiations with the school department remain ongoing, despite an issue last week where the two sides traded press releases that indicated mediation efforts had hit a significant snag.

“We’ve been communicating,” he said. “I’ll just leave it at that.” He said that conversation had happened “less than 24 hours ago,” meaning it happened on Tuesday, and that the topics included school sports and other programs.

On the city’s FY18 audit that was due in December and has since received four extensions, now due July 23, Solomon reiterated that auditing firm BlumShapiro has the necessary documents and should be able to make that deadline. He also reiterated his belief that the audit will reveal Warwick’s financial condition as healthier than some in the city believe.

“The numbers coming in, Warwick is going to survive. We’re not looking at receivership or anything else of that nature,” he said.

When asked about his level of certainty and if it was the result of Solomon already seeing the audited numbers, he said, “On a daily basis I’m privy to what every businessman would be privy to in their own business – your income statement, expenses, revenue versus expenses and things of that nature…I’ve been keeping my finger on the pulse since I took office and there was no finance department. Really that was my being baptized by fire. I was able to put that fire out.”

He said that, while things may not necessarily be fixed overnight, he was “confident” that things are improving in the city.

“I’m confident that things – it’s never ‘okay,’ but that things are better,” he said. “I’m confident that things will get even better in the upcoming year. Let’s just say that we’ve been able to take control of the vehicle that’s going to drive us in the right direction.”

The addition of D’Amico, he said, will help move things in that direction as well.

“There are a lot of issues on the table and a lot of things in the works – a lot of important due diligence that has to be made,” he said. “I saw that he shared similar values and was very good with the numbers, which, that’s important. He’s very level headed and calm with his presentation. Having both him and Bill DePasquale before me, I saw a great team in place and it’s a team I wanted to work for the citizens of this city.”

Comments

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justanidiot

spends moneys you donts have to have someone tells you that the previous council president should have pade attention

Thursday, July 11
had enough

There is something fishy with the audit. It does not take 13 months for an audit to be completed because of vacation schedules. An auditors first objective when beginning an audit is to have it completed as close to the 6/30/18 date as possible. The auditor is responsible for reporting anything that occurs between start of the audit period, in this case 7/1/17 and the date they issue the audit. No auditor want to be responsible for a 25 month audit window. The only explanation for this delay is they are having difficulties obtaining the audit evidence required to sign off on the audit.

Secondly, just because the auditors eventually give a clean opinion that does not mean everything is good. That just means they were able to satisfy themselves that the statements fairly represent the City of Warwick financial position. The cause of the delay can be found in the Letter to Management. Every audit comes with a Letter to Management, this is where the auditor spells out all of the difficulties encountered while conducting the audit.

If you want to know all of the problems uncovered during the audit, you need the Letter to Management. My guess is the auditors could not rely on the accounting records produced by the city and had to do a lot of additional work to figure out what the city finances really were

Thursday, July 11
Hillsgrove Hal

justanidiot, I've seen more than a few people on this website who'd say that to the mayor for free.

Also, can the mayor not go an entire interview without his woe-is-me garbage?

"My trial by fire" -- you know who's going through a real trial by fire? The taxpayers who just got two huge tax hikes on his watch.

He was the council president -- a position he wanted because he ran for it multiple times -- when the former mayor left. That means Solomon knew he'd get the mayor's job if it ever became vacant.

And then he ran for mayor last fall -- no one forced him to do that.

It's pretty dumb to complain about a situation if you consciously put yourself into it.

Thursday, July 11
Hillsgrove Hal

had enough, BlumShapiro did last year's audit, too, so I agree with you that the issue must be on the city side.

As the mayor is quick to remind everyone, the former finance director left shortly after Avedisian did.

That lack of a department head very likely meant that the daily and weekly financial records were not overseen by anyone, and that the auditor needed all this time to actually collect and organize them.

I also wonder what ever happened to RIPEC? Weren't they supposed to help the mayor handle the city's finances last spring?

In the end, I think you are also right to say that, however Solomon may try to spin it, the audit will raise major concerns about the city's financial condition.

Thursday, July 11
Get Real

Hey Joe....

You said " that things are better". Who are you kidding ? Go ask the taxpayers who are seeing their taxes increase by 15, 20 and 30%.

They would tell you Joe that they have never seen taxes go up that high. You own the Avedisian train wreck so live with it.

Take the $ 50K that you are using to hire D'Amico and hire Flanders instead.

The taxpayers can no longer afford the unions in the city. Go into receivership and start over with new union contracts.

Thursday, July 11
Stinkfinger

I'm just wondering where the mayors license plate has gone. The plate 20000 is still not on the mayors car. So why is an undercover detective plate SR 368 on his car. Is he going to places that he should not be going to where the plate 20000 would be recognized? I guess Joe likes to think he is Barney Fife and put the lights on and blast the air horn.

Thursday, July 11
not in warwick

I find it hard to believe that our mayor solomon would actually use an undercover license plate and also cut through traffic using some kind of siren/horn and flashing lights. that's third world generalisimo stuff right there. must be just a rumor.

Saturday, July 13
Stinkfinger

Go to city hall and see for yourself. The black Ford Taurus will be in the parking lot SR 368. He also removed the sign that indicated reserved parking mayor only. He doesnt want to be recognized when he is going to places that he clearly should not be.

Saturday, July 13
wwkvoter

Just throwing this out there... is it possible he didnt want a "special mayor parking spot" and an ostentatious suv and thought it was more "regular" to drive an old taurus city car with whatever plate is on it?

I mean, if you know the plate and car type and color then how could he possibly hide his locations any better with that than the suv?

I'm not happy about a lot of what solomon has done so far (and as council president) that's costing us dearly now, but lets save our criticism for policy and provables...

Saturday, July 13
PaulHuff

I heard (from a very good source) that the mayor had to be spoken to about his use of lights and siren on his vehicle. I also heard he likes to get on the PD's radio and bother them about inconsequential things.

Like a kid with a new toy.

5 days ago
wwkvoter

Ok I just asked my senior citizen friend with a scanner if he ever heard the mayor on the police channel and he said no.

BTW this financial consultant went to Wharton. Dummies do not get into Wharton, and they dont graduate from Wharton. This might just be a helpful move.

5 days ago
Warwick taxpayer

Mr solomon can use all the cliches in the world.but its disingenuous to claim you are putting out a fire that you cant say you didnt know about.do you think we are that stupid?

4 days ago
Fed up

wwkvoter,

The mayor has never had a SUV. EVER. Know the facts please.

4 days ago
Cat

I think that the other Beacon commentor Jimmy was very correct when he said the audit is complete and Solomon doesn't want it to come out. If I were Blum Shipiro, I would be pretty pissed that my name was being dragged through the mud or I would be rethinking my vacation policy. Just saying.

4 days ago
Hillsgrove Hal

I am also highly suspicious of this delay in releasing the audit. To Cat's point, it's very likely that the audit will disprove the mayor's claims about the city's financial health, and he doesn't want that to come out.

Specifically, I think this audit will show that, contrary to Solomon's repeated protests, he was just as responsible as Avedisian for the current financial mess. It could also show that the $24 million surplus reported three years ago was raided by Solomon and the council to paper over the irresponsible budgets they passed.

What Solomon may not understand -- despite 20 years in Warwick government -- is that an audit is meant to be an objective report on the city's finances, not a political tool that he can use to keep distracting people from his own bad decisions.

4 days ago
Fed up

The audit is actually secondary to the 5 year projection which tells the bigger picture. The council pays $60K to YKSM to produce a 5 year fiscal projection based upon the actual historical city documents at the time (actuarial reports, budget, pension obligations, etc..) The report is complete and indicates that if the city DOES NOT fund the OPEB obligation, with a maximum tax increase each year for 5 years the city shows a 52.8 million dollar deficit. If the city funds the minimum OPEB contribution the city is in the hole 130.7 million.

On July 12th Merolla brings this data to Solomon, Ladoceur, Depasquale and is ordered to bury the report 4 days before ratification of 2 union contracts which add millions in raises and OPEB costs. These 2 contracts were negotiated by Avedisian and his staff, one of which was Depasquale. Depasquale on July 16 takes the stand and testifies that there is plenty of money for the raises, the workers deserve the raises, blah blah blah. The council ratifies the raises now we're told that there is no money.

If the council had seen the report they would not have voted to ratify and the contracts would have had to go back to Solomon to renegotiate. He would not have been able to justify the raises and the unions would have taken a stalemate position and fought against Solomon's campaign. So Solomon ordered financial information to be with held so that he could get elected and instantly have his pension go from $4000 annually to $50,000.

Thats what I call a lying scumbag piece of garbage that needs to be put in the trash.

Now, last night Merolla promises another 5 year projection and a public meeting to discuss it with the taxpayers. He lied before, he buried documents, he will lie again and he cannot be trusted. Time to boot them all out.

4 days ago
Jimmy

Where is the Fire Department Audit ordered by Council Pres Merolla in February of 2018. A YEAR AND A HALF AND NOTHING...... taxpayers paid for this audit Where is it?

3 days ago
Jimmy

And yes he wasn’t Pres then Solomon was but they both ordered it. Where is it?

3 days ago