Avedisian and the crossing guards

The Warwick City Council might have done Mayor Scott Avedisian a favor by forcing his hand in the firing of the city's crossing guards. While the cause-and-effect is clear, it removes a bugaboo that had become a source for criticism and jibes with the current environment of austerity and diminished public funds.

Still, if Avedisian runs in the Republican primary for governor in 2010, we can count on Steve Laffey to remind us that it was the city council that precipitated this action.

Meanwhile, in another expression of the current moment, the ProJo's editorial board today comes down on Paul Doughty.

Mr. Doughty said that he saw nothing wrong in charging the taxpayers for no work done on their behalf. That’s just the way it works. Such arrogance and sense of entitlement is all too common in some public-employee union chiefs in Rhode Island.

The case raises several issues the public should pursue:

• Did Mr. Doughty break any laws, such as those involving fraud, in collecting paychecks while failing to show up for work for three years? Did his supervisors break any laws or regulations in failing to keep an eye on this practice? The union contract lets the president take time off for union business, but it does not specify how much. Can he demonstrate that he was, in fact, working on union business every hour of that time? Can anyone prove that he was not?

• Mayor Cicilline is ultimately responsible for making sure Providence taxpayers get their money’s worth. Is he on top of this problem?

• Was Mr. Doughty, in fact, eligible for expensive overtime if he was not working for the public during the time he claimed to be doing union business?

• Why do those who supposedly represent the citizens — in this case, former Mayor Vincent Cianci, before he went to jail for running City Hall as a criminal conspiracy — negotiate contracts that force taxpayers to pay for union activity that often directly conflicts with taxpayers’ own interests? That practice must be stopped, not only in public safety, but also in public education.

• The public must be kept better informed about what is being negotiated in contracts. To that end, all public-employee union contracts, by law, should be posted on the Internet and made readily accessible to citizens. Meanwhile, citizens have a duty, too: to study those contracts closely to learn just what the taxpayers are funding, and demand that contracts serve the public’s interest.

As things now stand, Rhode Island pays an inordinate amount for fire protection, while dealing with great difficulties in affording local services and facing massive state deficits. The arrogant behavior exemplified by Mr. Doughty, in collecting his paycheck while providing little of value to the taxpayers, needs to be squeezed out of the system.

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