PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Central Falls’ exit from municipal bankruptcy last fall was supposed to usher in a new era in Rhode Island’s smallest city, with a transition back to elected governance and the departure of the state-appointed receiver who has been in charge for years.
Neither has happened, and the two sides are stuck in a game of finger-pointing that will now play out in court-ordered mediation.
State Revenue Director Rosemary Booth Gallogly says the transition would be ‘‘much further along’’ if members of the City Council would attend a series of workshops put on by the receiver about the five-year fiscal recovery plan approved by a federal bankruptcy judge last year. She says the receivership won’t end until the council — which was relegated to advisory status after the state intervened in 2010 — demonstrates that it understands the plan and is ‘‘on board’’ with it.
But an attorney representing several of the councilors, including President William Benson Jr., says they’re not required to attend those sessions and that they have no control over the plan, anyway. They also say Gallogly could end the receivership at any time — if she really wanted to.
Lawrence Goldberg, who represents three of the council’s four members, filed a motion in Superior Court in December calling for the receiver to leave immediately.
‘‘The receiver is never going to leave until they are made to do so by someone in higher authority,’’ he said. ‘‘When I want to leave, I get my butt out of the chair, my feet start moving and I am gone. What good are they doing the city now, besides continuing to enrich themselves?’’
The receivership and municipal bankruptcy have cost over $3.8 million so far; Central Falls is expected to pay that money back to the state.
The two sides have been ordered into mediation by Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein. Former Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice Frank Williams has been assigned as the mediator. No sessions have yet been scheduled, according to Goldberg.
Benson and the former mayor, Charles Moreau, have sparred with the receiver almost since day one. Stripped of their duties, they challenged the receivership law in court but were unsuccessful.
Moreau resigned in September and pleaded guilty to a federal corruption charge. The new mayor, James Diossa, who had served on the City Council, was sworn in Jan. 1. The state restored his position to a full salary of about $71,000 (though he is voluntarily taking 10 percent less). Diossa did not respond to a message left for comment.
Gallogly says Diossa meets with the receiver, John McJennett III, every morning at City Hall and they have a good working relationship.
Still, the receiver is in charge.
The state is presently sifting through applications for a new administration and finance officer who will oversee Central Falls’ budget and finances for five years after the receivership is abolished, and make sure the city is following the bankruptcy plan. Gallogly’s office will provide a list of three names to Diossa, who will make the final decision. The finance officer will report to Diossa.
In the meantime, Gallogly said she’s hopeful the mediation between the receiver and the council will bear fruit.
‘‘The people in Central Falls should have elected leaders that are working together,’’ she said.
Goldberg, the councilors’ attorney, is less optimistic. He says it shouldn’t take mediation for the receivership to end.
‘‘It’s toying with the civil rights of the people of Central Falls,’’ he said.