Ousted Central Falls Mayor Defends Job

By Phillip Martin

Feb. 24, 2011

A Rhode Island mayor is waiting for the state's Supreme Court to tell him if he can have his job back.

Central Fall's former Mayor Charles D. Moreau is hoping the state Supreme Court will give him his job back after he was removed from office by a state-appointed receiver last summer.

Central Falls' Mayor Charles D. Moreau was dismissed last summer by a state-appointed receiver, who is looking into the financial crisis that has gripped Rhode Island's smallest city.

Moreau, a four-term Democrat, says he was ousted from his job illegally after Central Fall’s debt was downgraded to junk status. The mayor had actually supported receivership as an option, but says he had no idea that would mean he would be removed from office and his salary cut from $72,000 per year to $26,000 per year. He appealed to the Rhode Island Supreme Court earlier this month.

Moreau argued the whole situation is unconstitutional. "The state police show up at my house at seven in the morning and strip me of my vehicle my cell phone the keys to my office. They changed the lock to my office," Moreau said.

State authorities and the receiver, retired Judge Mark Pfeiffer, argue that Central finances are more than just in arrears. They point to what they describe as an insurmountable deficit of $5 million and retirees benefit obligations exceeding $80 million.   

At the same time, Mayor Moreau is also being investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s office for hiring a childhood friend to board up 200 abandoned buildings in that hardscrabble community. His friend got $2 million for the job — but the Mayor defends the contract.  

Bridge in Central Fall, Blackstone River. (H.C. Williams/Flickr)

"There are national fire prevention standards that need to be met. And he met them and he built according to his contract. That’s just the way it was he won the contract. I have no control over that if he bid too much," Moreau said. "It’s basically an industry standard that he’s charging," Moreau said.

The Rhode Island U.S. Attorney’s office views it quite differently, and the investigation is proceeding against Mayor Moreau.

Meanwhile, Moreau says he is looking forward to a state Supreme Court decision in the coming days or weeks that will determine if he will again be allowed to sit in the office that he has occupied for four terms. 

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