Mayor, receiver battle for control of Central Falls

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The battle for control of Central Falls played out Monday in Superior Court.

A receiver appointed to run the city more than a year ago stripped the elected government of all power, but those elected officials are fighting back.

Central Falls’ government started it off when it declared the city bankrupt. State lawmakers responded by passing a law creating a state-appointed receiver to take over operations of the city.

The law stripped Mayor Charles Moreau of power, but it allows him to give advice to receiver Robert Flanders.

Moreau claims Flanders is not letting him contribute.

“It’s at the mere discretion of the receiver to invoke the authority of the mayor’s advisory capacity or the council’s advisory capacity or to not. But that does not, as this court has said, mounted to an actual removal or stripping of the power in its entirety,” said John Mancini, Moreau’s lawyer.

The City Council has been barred from meeting or making any decisions.

“This is like advice from a mother-in-law. You might not want to hear it. You might not follow it. But by virtue of the position which she holds, you’ve got to shut up and listen to it,” said Larry Goldberg, the City Council’s lawyer.

The receiver is suing, saying the elected officials are trying to spend money and make appointments in violation of the state law.

“It would be chaos at the Central Falls Housing Authority and, more generally, it would be chaos if we allowed the mayor and the City Council to — in a very public manner — say we don’t believe the statute is constitutional, and we’re not going to abide by it,” said Theodore Orson, lawyer for the state receiver.

Judge Michael Silverstein ordered both sides to submit briefs in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, Flanders said Monday the state budget proposal passed by the House Finance Committee last week stripped Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s $6.7 million that was intended to keep Central Falls afloat. He’s asking retirees in Central Falls to make major givebacks in their benefits.

If they don’t, Flanders said Central Falls could file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy before the summer ends. 

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