Cicilline's taxing matters

Disinterested observers reading Mike Stanton's Sunday piece today on axed Providence tax collector Robert Ceprano might draw the conclusion that Ceprano -- as David Cicilline's critics maintain -- was a convenient scapegoat/distraction from John Cicilline's $75K check/victim of politics.

Ceprano bristles at the mayor’s comments that the tax collector’s office lacked necessary procedures and safeguards. Prignano, his former boss, says that Ceprano produced the office’s first written standards.

“We created the first written policies and procedures in that office,” said Ceprano. “My approach was that everybody had to play by the same rules.”

Ceprano, a Providence native, brought a long pedigree in law enforcement and the military to City Hall.

A retired Army lieutenant colonel, Ceprano served on active duty from 1968 to 1971, earning a Bronze Star in Vietnam, and then served with the Army Reserve and National Guard from 1971 to 1996. After leaving active service, he worked from 1972 to 1998 as a special agent for the IRS in Providence, serving as the lead agent in investigations of narcotics trafficking, organized crime and political corruption.

Meanwhile, in a "special message" communicated last night via the mayor's e-mail list, in advance of Stanton's story, Cicilline is sticking to his message that Ceprano's downfall was a matter of lackluster performance:

Finance Director Miller initiated a process to bring the Tax Collector’s office from a level of mediocrity to a level of excellence. This began with a discussion of the deficiencies that Mr. Miller had outlined and his request that a plan be developed to correct them. The Tax Collector repeatedly refused to create the plan or initiate the improvements.
After roughly nine months of working with the Tax Collector to make these improvements, Director Miller saw no improvement in the operations of that office.  The Tax Collector's failure to act was clearly leading to disciplinary procedures against him, so Director Miller sought to pursue an outcome that might avoid termination. In July and August of 2008, several options were discussed:

-- Continue as Tax Collector while complying with all the stated expectations, understanding that if expectations were not met then termination would proceed.
-- Because the Tax Collector had difficulty meeting the expectations of the Finance Department, perhaps another City department would be more suitable. Reassignment t the Police Department was discussed.
-- The Tax Collector could choose to resign. He was interested in this option and a discussion of the conditions regarding this option ensued.

Finally, last September, the Tax Collector agreed to resign. On September 15th, 2008 Director Miller formally asked for his resignation by email. 

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