PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Providence City Council has given $171,000 in taxpayer-funded grants to 96 organizations since the 2006-07 fiscal year, according to a report released by the city’s internal auditor last week.
The council passed a resolution asking internal auditor Matt Clarkin to review every grant it has awarded over 10 years following the May arrest of Councilman Kevin Jackson, who prosecutors say embezzled $127,000 from a youth track-and-field team that was partially funded by the city.
Clarkin’s review shows that 96 different organizations received 139 donations during the 10-year period. He said 71% of the organizations responded to his inquiries, while 6% did not respond. Letters to the rest of the organizations were returned due to invalid mailing addresses.
In his outreach to each organization, Clarkin asked for a description and documentation for how the grants were used and whether any member of the City Council or their families were employees or board members of the organization at the time the grant was awarded.
In three cases, organizations acknowledged some affiliation with the council.
The Roger Williams Day Care Center Summer Camp for Kids told Clarkin then-Councilwoman Balbina Young was the organization’s executive director when it received a $500 grant from the council in 2009. Young, a Democrat, retired in 2010.
The Silver Lake Community Center, which has received $17,500 in grants over the last decade, acknowledged that Vincent Igliozzi serves as its volunteer executive director. Igliozzi is the father of Councilman John Igliozzi. In another instance, the Friends of Providence Animal Care Control Center said Councilman Nick Narducci is an unpaid board member. That organization received a $200 donation in 2015.
Clarkin did not review the grants issued to the Providence Cobras, the youth sports team founded by Councilman Jackson, “due to current legal proceedings concerning grant funds,” according to the report. Separate records released by the city show the team received $67,000 in city donations between 2005 and 2016, including $23,000 in grants from the council.
The council grants have historically come from two separate contingency accounts controlled by the president of the council and the Finance Committee chairman. Aside from grants, the funds cover basic expenditures like food and coffee for meetings or award ceremonies. The mayor’s office has a separate contingency account that also provides grants to organizations.
In 2013, the City Council froze two city contingency accounts after a Target 12 investigation revealed they were used to award thousands of dollars to organizations with little oversight and no application process. The council leadership at the time said it planned to craft formal guidelines for the grants, but the policy has never been finalized.