The following is a release from the Central Coventry Fire District:
Members of the Central Coventry Fire District are calling out Rep. Patricia Morgan (R – Coventry, West Warwick, Warwick) for wrongly using state funds for political campaigning.
The dispute revolves around a January 25th letter that Morgan sent to voters in Coventry regarding the February 11 Budget Meeting of the CCFD. Morgan sent the letter on state letterhead on the taxpayers’ dime. In the letter, Morgan advocates, as an option to passage of the budget, “to move the fire district through bankruptcy as quickly as possible”, and to utilize private contractors to provide emergency services.
“While members of the General Assembly can and should keep constituents informed, it is completely wrong to use taxpayer dollars to campaign for or against a budget. Representative Morgan should know better," said Jim Almagno, a CCFD firefighter and a Morgan constituent. "In addition to the factual inaccuracies in the letter, this really is no different than advocating for or against a political candidate."
CCFD firefighter and Morgan constituent David Gorman agreed saying, “Rep. Morgan is free to express her opinion but not with taxpayer funds. She should pay for political campaigning out of her campaign account, not with taxpayer money. We’re calling on Rep. Morgan to reimburse the state for this illegitimate use of taxpayer dollars.”
In addition to the alleged use of state funds, CCFD members dispute the claims made in the letter. There are no provisions, under State or Federal law, for fire districts to enter into bankruptcy proceedings. If the fire district went bankrupt, it would have to liquidate. This means selling off trucks, equipment, and other assets.
Coventry has to have fire service so bankruptcy would cost more in the long run. Plus, layoffs would trigger another $1 million liability by forcing taxpayers to reimburse the federal government under the terms of a SAFER Grant won by CCFD in 2010. Also, because it is a public entity, CCFD employees have not paid into unemployment insurance, so the district would be responsible for payment of those benefits on a dollar for dollar basis.
Almagno added, “Rep. Morgan has a consistent record of misstating facts. There have been no agreements set to provide mutual aid in the case of bankruptcy. She also stated that firefighters made 'minimal contract concessions', while the fact is that the concessions total over $513,000 for this current proposed budget alone, and between $1.5-2 million over the next two years. Coventry must provide fire service to our residents to protect public safety. What do I say to a family whose loved one got to the hospital too late because Patricia Morgan pushed the fire district under? This is completely irresponsible.”