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The Eyewitness News Investigators
City still owed over a million bucks for police details
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The city of Providence is owed more than a million bucks in back bills... Money taxpayers fronted to local businesses. Why haven't the debts been paid? It's been going on for years in Providence.

Police officers work on their own time for extra money that comes not from the city, but from the private businesses that hire them. But now it turns out the city is on the hook after all, at least temporarily.

You see them everywhere -outside construction projects, festivals, major arenas like the Dunking donuts center and assorted other places.

They're off-duty police officers serving what are known as police details. In providence, the police officers are paid by the city after they do the work, and then the businesses pay the city back. But some business don't always pay back right away.

Two city councilors say the city is owed more than a million dollars in back payments. An Eyewitness News investigation shows the city's payment plan may be "But then the chase is on to get the money. It's like a cash advance. The city's putting up the money first. What we want to see is the money placed on deposit and then drawn down from an account."

An audit reveals dozens of businesses owe the city nearly 1.4 million dollars in fees for police details. Here's a sample of the debts. Utilities, $140,459. Colleges, $51,223. Festivals, $55,923. The state of Rhode island, $71,486. Other departments within the city, $504,833. All money owed back to the city. Money taxpayers fronted these companies.

"You say the chase is on. What, catch me if you can? well, it's 30, 60, 90 days. There's a million dollars owed on police details. Most of it is over 90 days. That's unacceptable to us."

Councilmen Terrence Hassett and John Igliozzi now want to force companies to pay for police details in advance, not afterwards as they do now - with no penalties for late payments. Leaving taxpayers temporarily holding the bag. But the city's finance director, Alex Prignano, sees no need to fix a system he believes isn't broken.

"A million four sounds like a lot of money but in the overall context of this account, there's always a receivable in that area. It's constantly rolling."

Alex Prignano argues the city eventually will be able to collect almost all of the money it is owed. He believes a "pay up front" plan would be unfair.

"We try not to be punishing to these businesses and stuff who need these things. You say you try not to be punishing, but I'm wondering, and the taxpayers may be wondering, whether these businesses are getting free ride? they're not getting a free ride."

"We have delinquent business owners in here who owe the city of Providence money as far back as 1999. This is unacceptable."

The city councilors argue the current system amounts to a free loan program. They're fighting to change it because they believe no city, never mind a city in financial trouble, should be handing out free loans.

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