“Obviously we are in the midst of a lawsuit with the bondholders at the Wyatt, and there is, hanging over any board appointment … the fact that the City is embroiled in the middle of that…”
The Central Falls City Council voted to approve the nomination of James Lombardi III to the Chair of the Central Falls Detention Facility Corporation (CFDFC) Board, which oversees operations at the Wyatt Detention Facility, a for-profit prison that controversially is under contract to house Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees under President Donald Trump‘s zero-tolerance border policy.
Lombardi has extensive experience as a long time treasurer for the City of Providence and the head of the North Smithfield School Committee. He is CPA, former IRS agent and an attorney. Here is Lombardi’s resume. He will be replacing immigration lawyer Joseph Molina Flynn, who stepped down months ago. Nominations to the CFDFC Board are made by Central Falls Mayor James Diossa.
When it was realized that the Wyatt would be housing ICE detainees, Mayor Diossa and several members of the City Council, including Council President Maria Rivera, and Councilors Franklin Solano, Jessica Vega and Jonathan Acosta, publicly called for the closure of the Wyatt, noting that the for-profit prison has not made its required payments to the City for a decade.
Another issue was the human and social costs of detaining people who have committed no crime, other than entering the United States searching for safety, in a City that is made up mostly by immigrants.
However, when CFDFC Chair Molina Flynn moved to cancel the contract with the United States Marshall Service to hold ICE detainees, the bondholders, people who invested money in the private, for-profit prison, sued the Mayor, members of the CFDFC Board, and the members of the City Council for $130M.
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When it was time to discuss the nomination, Central Falls City Councilor Jonathan Acosta (Ward 1) expressed surprise that there was no one present on behalf of the Mayor “to explain the rationale for this appointment.”
City Solicitor Matthew Jerzyk explained that the Mayor’s Chief of Staff, Joshua Giraldo, was ill and could not be present. Jerzyk then provided a history of Mayor Diossa’s prior nominations and Lombardi’s qualifications.
“Most of your remarks are about fiscal responsibility,” said Acosta. “But they don’t give us much of an insight to this individual’s perspective on criminal justice [or] community oversight of a supposed criminal justice facility. So do you have o can you speak to this person’s particular philosophy about the way this facility is operating in our city, about its relationship to our community, and about [Lombardi’s] experience with that?”
“Obviously we are in the midst of a lawsuit with the bondholders at the Wyatt,” answered Jerzyk carefully, “and there is, hanging over any board appointment … the fact that the City is embroiled in the middle of that. The center of that dispute has been this intersection of where are the powers of the board vis-à-vis the bondholders. In the Mayor’s judgement he has decided to appoint… a chairman who he believes can competently, adequately look at that intersection of very complex interests and do what’s right.”
City Councilor Franklin Solano said that Lombardi’s background seemed “extensive” and “great” and enthusiastically supported the nomination.
Council President Maria Rivera and Councilors Robert Ferri, Hugo Figueroa and Solano for to approve the nomination. Councilors Jessica Vega and Acosta voted “present” meaning they neither approved nor denied the nomination. Council Vice President Agostinho Silva who nominally sits on the CFDFC Board, recused himself.
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