Fall River Mayor Coogan and his administration are not as transparent as they claim.
In January, the community discovered that the mayor’s office had allocated $3.2 million to BCEDC to administer grants to small businesses in Fall River that have been impacted by the COVID 19 pandemic. $250,000 of the $3.2 million will go directly into BCEDC’s coffers. On January 13, I asked specific questions of the mayor’s office regarding this ARPA expense. One of the questions, and the answer I received was:
“Question 3: Will the public be able to see which companies are receiving subsidies and for how much?
A list of all businesses receiving a grant will be communicated by JOBS to the Town of Fall River. The list of companies receiving grants will be a public record that can be requested by anyone.
Several months pass and the mayor holds a press conference announcing ARPA’s first allocation of funds. I then asked the mayor’s office for the respective public documents, which was then refused. I was referred to Ken Fiola’s office for records regarding companies that received ARPA funds. Ken Fiola’s office, BCEDC, is a private entity and is not subject to public records law.
I then submitted a formal public records request to the city, which also told me that the city had no record of which companies had received ARPA funds.
Therefore, the mayor’s office lied when it said BCEDC would report expenses, or that the city is hiding information from the public.
The second problem to be solved is that Mayor Coogan seeks “approval” of ARPA allocations not through an elected city council, but through his own secret ARPA committee.
This committee has no public meetings except for two public dog and pony show hearings. Members are handpicked by the mayor to serve on the committee. Some of the committee members themselves receive funding from ARPA.
My last question is why doesn’t the city council approve any of the ARPA appropriations? They must not give up their fight for transparency.
Mayor Coogan must immediately, and without hesitation, be completely honest and transparent with the public about these ARPA funds.