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Citizens question auditor qualifications

A citizens group that regularly attends City Council meetings and has made a practice of commenting on operations of the Warwick Sewer Authority and the city’s “legacy costs” in terms of pension and other post-retirement employee expenses, has launched a new campaign questioning the qualifications of Council Auditor Catherine King Avila.

The group plans to disseminate flyers this weekend in the wards of Camille Vella-Wilkinson, Ward 2, who chairs the council’s Finance Committee, and Donna Travis, Ward 6, who is council president.

“We’re not giving up on this,” said Roger Durand, a member of the group. “This is the kind of thing we attend council meetings for.”

Durand said when the city posted the 19-hour position paying $30,450 a year, job specifications required that applicants possess a bachelor’s degree from a four-year college with specialization in accounting or business administration, with a CPA or MBA preferred, and at least six years of related work experience or training.

But Durand says according to information obtained from the city’s Personnel Director Jane Jordan by group member John Kennedy, King Avila is not a certified public accountant and does not have a master’s in business administration.

The flyer that will be dropped door-to-door in the two wards asks, “How is Councilwoman Vella-Wilkinson looking out for your tax dollars?” It goes on to say that according to the information obtained by Kennedy, the auditor “has none of the experience that was required.”

Vella-Wilkinson, who has a law degree and a master’s in labor relations, defended the selection of King Avila, who she said has lived up to expectations.

Going into the process, Vella-Wilkinson said, there were few applications for the opening, and the decision was made to also look at applications for the full-time auditor’s position being filled by the city administration.

She said she reviewed about 80 applications, narrowing the field to six finalists. Using the Internet for research, she then established five core competencies on which the candidates would be judged with a rating from 0 to 5, with 5 being the highest.

She said all the candidates were asked the same questions and the three conducting the interviews independently rated the candidates without any discussion between them.

Vella-Wilkinson said she, Travis and Theresa Cehelsky of the personnel department all picked King Avila as the preferred candidate.

Asked why King Avila had not been disqualified on the basis that she failed to meet criteria listing the in-job posting, Vella-Wilkinson said she was docked points for not having that experience, but that she scored higher in other areas.

“You’re hiring an individual, not a résumé,” she said.

Travis said King Avila “came in with a lot of information, she really seemed like she knew what she was doing.”

One of the six finalists was Roy Dempsey, a retired auditor from the Department of Defense. Dempsey is a regular at council meetings and has been involved with leafleting on issues espoused by Durand, Kennedy, former Councilman Robert Cushman and Robert Cote.

According to Vella-Wilkinson, Dempsey was ranked third of the five candidates eventually interviewed.

“We scored her [King Avila] unanimously as number one and their candidate as number three,” Vella-Wilkinson said.

King Avila’s qualifications and selection have raised questions from council members. As the auditor would be working with the full council, Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur said Tuesday, “I think we should have had interviews with the top candidates.” Ladouceur wants to see copies of the résumés of the 80 job applicants and the names of the six finalists.

“I’m absolutely looking into this. How did this come down?” he asks.

“I’m waiting to cast my verdict,” said Ward 4 Councilman Joseph Solomon.

He said he has asked King Avila to perform several tasks and he is waiting to see whether she does her due diligence.


Comments
11 comments on this item

I guess I missed the meeting where this group was handing out membership cards. What the name of the group? Do I owe any dues? When is the next strategy meeting? Thank Warwick Beacon editor John Howell for making me a new member of this so called group. Am I the leader?

Maybe I can get the group members to call Mr. Howell as I have sent him a press release and correspondences that have been ignored and tell the Beacon staff to take a look at the 50 page analysis of Warwick debt I produced a few weeks ago along with a copy of the video testimony at the RI Municipal Pension Commission on the impact of this debt and unsustainable increase in legacy cost on all other areas of the Warwick budget.

I also did send the report to every member of the city council but my understanding is that, even though I have been compiling data on the city budget and pensions for ten years, been a member of the Warwick school committee, a member of the city council, a member of the Finance committee, have a Master's Degree in Business Administration from Bryant University along with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and by profession am a Business Analyst, my report was forwarded to the new city council auditor who does not possess any of these qualifications, to verify my analysis.

Does anyone have the same suspicion I do that Council President Travis and Finance Chairwoman Wilkinson along with Mayor Avedisian and his staff will do everything possible to dismiss these facts because they really do realize how bad the financial situation is in the city and how taxpayers will bear a huge price with future massive tax increases? Could they be trying to hide these facts as long as possible?

Copy links into your browser to view my report and summary page:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6P1sIPd4PTdNldpbzZ6MzlRZ1U/edit?usp=sharing

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6P1sIPd4PTdaG1oVlBUbzQ4WVE/edit?usp=sharing

How do you HONESTLY think she got the job: She is a friend or relative of "somebody". Typical RI.

If Vella-Wilkinson council president or is it Donna Travis ? Vella-Wilkinson certainly acts like it. Didn't Vella-wilkinson introduce the resolution allowing people to have chickens in their yard.

Vella is all show and no substance.

A citizens group that does nothing but Monday morning quarterback and has yet to come up with a single idea on how to actually fix any of the problems that face this city. Now THAT'S all show and no substance!

I have a few solutions. The first being why don't we reduce city government? The state made it's employees trim pensions, contribute more annually to health insurance and froze pay. What has the city of Warwick done to meaningfully reduce benefits to it's employees? What has Warwick done to lower it's workforce? The mayors budget has an increase in overtime for police and firefighters while continuing to raise property taxes. When the schools say they don't have enough money, the mayor says cut costs, however when the city side of the budget inflates he blames it on people challenging their home assessments? What a joke! Another solution...hire qualified people to perform the work of the taxpayers. I'm sorry but if somebody is making over $30,000 a year for 19 hours of work a week can we please make sure they're qualified! Spare me the "they scored points in other areas"...those points were likely scored in the "reference" column based on a friend of a friend. Also I'm not sure how it's playing"Monday morning quarterback" for anyone to question this hiring. The language in the original job posting itself disqualifies her from being considered. That's just a fact. Ward 5 Resident if you are happy with the condition of this city than I don't know what planet you're living on. The school committee, WSA, the mayors office, DPW are failing the people of this city. People like you who defend this stupidity are exactly what's wrong with Warwick today!!!

So I understand this latest drama coming from the usual city whiners. So Mr Dumpsey didn't get the job so he and his little band of miserable men are going to throw a hissy fit and make an issue of it. It states Mr Dumpsey is retired, who in their right mind would want to work with or deal with an elderly, miserable, hateful, down right mean, and nasty man on a regular basis? They hired the right person.... move on...

@warwickguy. Tks for the glowing endorsement; but. the name is Dempsey.

Sincerely Yours,

The Elderly, Miserable, Hateful, Down Right Mean and Nasty Man

Warwickguy maybe Mr. Dempsey shouldn't have been given the job either. You can't tell me that out of the 80 applicants, none of them had more experience than the person to whom the job was given. It is just another example of Warwick not doing what' s in the best interest of it's taxpayers. The same thing was done when hiring a new superintendent of schools. No outside applications were looked at, no interviews granted. The school dept just hired Dr. D'Agostino. How does that serve the students of Warwick? Jobs should be given to the most experienced/qualified person. PERIOD!!! The fact that you defend this practice says a lot more about you than it does Mr. Dempsey. Name calling? Who is the miserable, hateful, down right mean and nasty person now? You need to grow up and stop believing everything you're told. Once again i will state it's people like you who take everything "as-is" and struggle to form an opinion on their own that has us in the mess we're in. Keep defending these practices Warwickguy, and you'll being doing it year after year as your taxes go up and the people continue to leave.

Roy Dempsey would have been the best person for this auditor job. We are not looking for lap dog auditors - but rather watch dog auditors. The selection committee walked away from a great opportunity.

Thank=god I walk away from this 10-12yrs ago when nobody went . When linc was in office.==

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