Denice and Gosselin Call for Town Audit Committee

“Audit Committee will improve our standing in the bond markets and reduce the risk of fraud and mismanagement.”

(West Warwick, RI) Nick Denice, a Certified Fraud Examiner and Pension Board Member, and Town Councilman David Gosselin are calling for the Town Council to establish a Town Audit Committee.

Each year, West Warwick is required by state law to conduct an audit to ensure that the Town’s financial statements adequately reflect its financial position.  This process involves hiring an independent accounting firm to come in to the town and test the town’s processes with respect to compiling financial information, preventing waste and fraud, and using correct accounting policies and principles.

“The purpose of this committee will be to oversee the work of the Independent Auditors and assist the Town Council and School Committee in their oversight of the integrity of the Town’s financial statements and the Town’s system of internal controls and compliance,” states Denice.  “Once the audit report is issued, the audit committee will follow up with Town management to ensure that any deficiencies in the Town’s processes are corrected moving forward.”  The Audit Committee is responsible for keeping the Town focusing on identifying and mitigating risks, collaborating with the auditors on the Town’s risk assessment, ensuring accountability and compliance, and establishing a governance structure with respect to the expenditure of public funds.

Since the accounting reforms in the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act, passed to remedy accounting scandals such as Enron, many cities and towns have followed the lead of the private sector.  Denice notes that North Providence, North Kingstown, Middletown, and Cranston have adopted the measure.  The proposed ordinance for West Warwick is based upon North Kingstown’s Committee.  The Committee will consist of financial experts with professional designations such as Certified Public Accountants and Certified Fraud Examiners.

The ordinance, introduced by Town Councilman David Gosselin, has been developed in collaboration with Auditor General Dennis Hoyle, former Auditor General Ernest Almonte, the former Chief of the RI Bureau of Audits, the former North Kingstown Audit Committee Chairman, and the RI Society of Certified Public Accountants.

Gosselin and Denice note that “this ordinance will show the bond markets that West Warwick is concerned about improving our financial controls to prevent waste, fraud, and mismanagement.  This is a pure good government move that will ensure that taxpayer money is used efficiently in tough economic times.  It will provide oversight in an area that has been overlooked for far too long”

The ordinance will receive a first reading at the Town Council meeting this Tuesday, August 7th.

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Letter: Why I’m Running for State Representative

Dear Editor:

A few years ago I watched former Comptroller General David Walker’s documentary I.O.U.S.A. examining the ballooning federal budget deficit, which Walker argued, was exacerbated by shortcomings in saving, trade, and leadership.  I was shocked at the breadth of the problem that excessive debt was having on the local, state, and national level.

I decided to get involved at the local level. As a lifelong resident of West Warwick, I could not sit idly by while the town’s debts brought us to the edge of bankruptcy. The idea of massive cuts in public safety and education along with massive property tax hikes seemed too much to bear. Using my business and legal background— including a Masters Degree in Accounting, my experiences in law school, and my qualifications as a Certified Fraud Examiner—I decided to help.  Over the last two years, I have served as a member of the West Warwick Pension Board where we are tackling municipal pension reform. We saved the town $40,000 in this year alone by putting our professional services out to bid.

If elected, I would be the only accountant and Fraud Examiner in the General Assembly. Having worked in the largest public accounting firm in the world on Fortune 500 clients, I have the experience to examine the state’s $8 billion budget with a fine tooth comb to root out waste, fraud, and abuse. This is a perspective sorely needed on Smith Hill.

I will focus on true economic development, urging us to reform the Economic Development Corporation to be a one-stop shop for businesses to get access to financial experts. The EDC must get out of the banking and venture capital business. I will push for an independent state audit committee, like those required by law in the private sector, to take a close look at the state’s controls against fraud and look for ways to make government more accountable and efficient.

Most importantly, I will work towards streamlining regulations and simplifying a tax code that chokes job creation so that small businesses can create jobs. This is imperative to reverse the brain drain out of our state.

We need fresh faces at the state house to advocate for the generation that will be saddled with these debts.  Not career politicians who have been a part of the problem for years. With your help this November, we can elect public officials that will exercise leadership in these tough economic times and turn our state’s economy around.

Learn more about me at www.nickdenice.com.

Nicholas Denice is the Democratic candidate for State Representative in District 26, encompassing West Warwick, Coventry and Warwick.

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Organization awards local scholarship: Nicholas Denice of West Warwick earns award from Italian American Foundation

By Lauren Knight, lknight@ricentral.com, January 10, 2012

WEST WARWICK- The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) announced the scholarship recipients for their Frank J. Corsaro scholarships, and for one of its two awards, a West Warwick resident was selected.

The national awards are designated for two years of study, one for legal and one for medical school, according to Gina Ghilardi, the communications and media manager at NIAF. Nicholas Denice, of West Warwick, received the Frank J. Corsaro Legal Scholarship.

“He is pursuing a dual degree, one in law and the other is a master’s in professional accountancy,” said Ghilardi. She explained that Denice was selected because “they were impressed by the dual degree. He has a high GPA with a lot of volunteer work and he is also a member of a couple honor societies and clubs.”

The NIAF awards a total of 84 scholarships across the country. In order to receive a scholarship, the applicant must either be of Italian heritage or study Italian, according to Ghilardi. The Foundation takes into account the academic achievement, extra curricular activities and recommendations of each student.

Denice earned his bachelor and master degrees in accounting at Bryant University. He is currently enrolled in his first year at Roger Williams University School of Law. He explained that this summer he will take the test to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Upon completion of law school, Denice stated that he hopes to pursue a career primarily in business law.

“I [will] try to get a position with a medium-sized law firm in the state that has good practice in corporate law,” said Denice.

Denice explained that in 2011, he also received scholarships from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Rhode Island Society of Certified Public Accountants, the Rhode Island Bar Association, and the Rhode Island Certified Fraud Examiner.

Denice currently serves as a member of the West Warwick Pension Board. He is also active in the community with St. Mary’s Church, university activities and volunteering with the state’s tax assistance program for low income residents to file tax returns.

The NIAF scholarship program has awarded $10 million in scholarships and grants since its inception 37 years ago, according to the news release. Since, it has grown from providing four students with $250 each to approximately 100 scholarships per year that range from $2,000 to $10,000.

Recipients range from students in the humanities, medicine, business, engineering, music, Italian language and culture and other specialized fields.

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Pension Board member: Town needs help: Nicholas Denice says West Warwick must hire pension consultant to avoid insolvency

By Jeremiah Ryan, kceditor@ricentral.com, May 7, 2012

WEST WARWICK- Pension Board Member Nicholas Denice, who has served as Vice Chairman of the West Warwick Pension Board, recently called for the town to hire a Pension Consultant to study one of the most underfunded pension plans in the state.

West Warwick, currently one of the state’s four municipalities mentioned specifically in Governor Lincoln Chafee’s municipal pension reform plan, counts unfunded pension liability among its chief concerns as it approaches its annual financial town meeting next month.

“Pension reform is necessary to secure the future of our town,” Denice told the Times. “Taxpayers deserve certainty as to the tax levy. Current employees and retirees should know that they will have retirement security as they have dutifully paid into the system for years. If the town does nothing, this plan will run out of money within a few years,” he warned, “and West Warwick will suffer the same fate as the currently bankrupted Central Falls.”

Denice proposed the town hiring an expert to develop a plan to move forward as a means to produce feasible solutions to the growing problem. Citing that the Pension Board has made changes over the last year- hiring a new actuary, new attorney, and has rebalanced its investment portfolio, Denice Counted these as actions that have improved both the quality of services in town and also estimated them to save $40,000 in this year alone.

“We need to reinvest these savings into developing a plan going forward,” he added. “Since April of last year, I have been trying to convince the Pension Board to hire a consultant. In fact, a proposal by former Auditor General Ernie Almonte, the foremost expert in pensions in the state, was rejected by the Board last April,” he continued, “a decision that has delayed the necessary changes being made for over year. I will continue to push for hiring a consultant but the public needs to get involved and hold the Pension Board and Town Council accountable for opposing this good government initiative.”

West Warwick has been classified in Chafee’s municipal reform plan as one of the Ocean State’s financially distressed communities. The town’s pension fund is only 26% funded and has nearly $100 million in unfunded liabilities. Even if the town increased property taxes by the maximum amount by law, he said, it would still not be able to meet its annual required contribution.

In fact, Denice explained, with a $5 million burn rate (pension payouts exceeding contributions and market gains) per year, the fund will likely have to convert completely to cash within three years. These liabilities do not even include the OPEB (post retirement medical expenses) where the town has additional liabilities in excess of $130 million.

“Our bond rating was recently downgraded, increasing the cost of our debt and recently the Pension Board learned the School Department has not made its required payment to the pension plan, although the payments were budgeted by the School Committee, for the last 13 years,” Denice added.

Denice said that he hopes that tomorrow’s upcoming meeting with the state’s current Auditor General, Dennis Hoyle, to discuss the financial condition of the town will get the ball rolling. The joint meeting of the Town Council, School Committee, and Pension Board will be held at the high school auditorium on Tuesday at 5 p.m. and is open to the general public.

“We need to bring in skilled professionals to run the numbers and develop scenarios to least have the framework to design changes to make the system sustainable,” he finished. “Then comes the hard work of bringing all the stakeholders together to make the tough decisions needed to save our Town from bankruptcy.”

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Red flag raised on pensions: ‘This is Titanic ready to sink,’ state official tells local leaders, imploring them to solve funding problem soon

By Tom Mooney, Journal Staff Writer, May 9, 2012

WEST WARWICK- State officials delivered a stern message to town leaders Tuesday: Stop squabbling among yourselves and start exploring ways to resolve your municipal pension crisis or West Warwick will go bankrupt and its local retirement plan could run dry in five years.

“I’m asking that everyone work as a team- bury the hatchets,” Rosemary Booth Gallogly, the state director of revenue, told member of the Town Council, School Committee and local pension board assembled on the town’s high school stage. “Otherwise this is a Titanic ready to sink.”

State officials called for the special joint meeting over concern that local leaders- wrangling in litigation over school funding and budget cuts- appeared reluctant to acknowledge the severity of their pension problem, said Auditor General Dennis Hoyle. Or worse: they had already surrendered under its staggering weight and were now expecting either state oversight or bankruptcy.

Neither would be the panacea, Gallogly warned: “If I come in, I don’t care about middle school sports or a senior center,” she said. “All I care about is getting the fiscal house in order.”

Pension board member Nicholas A. Denice, speaking directly to the council and committee members, said: “There seems to be a lot of people just waiting around for the state to bail them out.” He suggested the town hire a pension expert to come up with some workable suggestions.

West Warwick’s municipal pension plan is only 26-percent funded. Last year it paid out $6.3 million while taking in about $1.3 million in contributions. Its unfunded pension liability is nearly $100 million, making it one of the worst in the state.

And, as Gallogly pointed out, that debt doesn’t include another $89.9 million local taxpayers already owe for retired workers’ free health care.

“I can’t stress enough…you have to be the leaders to solve this problem,” said Gallogly. “You are the people who have to fix this. I beg you.”

Gallogly also serves as chairwoman of the state’s Locally Administered Pension Plan Study Commission, formed last year as part of the state pension overhaul to help communities deal with the burgeoning costs of pensions. In that capacity, she has worked closely with Central Falls, which entered bankruptcy and whose retirees now receive about half of their original retirement benefits.

The experience was the worst of her career, she told the local leaders. “I see many similarities” in West Warwick. “I don’t want to go through that again.” Unless things change: “It’s not going to be long before you are in the same position.”

But Town Council President Angelo A. Padula said before the meeting that the town had only one significant option: hope the General Assembly gives communities the power to suspend retirees’ annual cost-of-living raises, which were promised in union contracts.

“It will give us the power, otherwise municipalities are gone,” he said. “We can’t sustain what is in front of us. We need to stop the COLAs, cut the pensions back to realistic numbers.”

On stage, Padula sounded almost fatalistic: “We can’t even kid ourselves,” he said. “It’s unsustainable” without rolling back benefits.

Gallogly urged him to try, suggesting that town leaders work to negotiate with town unions.

Under the new state pension overhaul, communities have until November to present plans to fix their pension systems or risk losing more state aid.

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Denice heading to Italy thanks to scholarship: Member of West Warwick Pension Board also outstanding law student

By Kendra Leigh Miller, Southern RI Newspapers, May 29, 2012

WEST WARWICK: A first-year law student is getting the opportunity of a lifetime. Nicholas Denice, a student at Roger Williams University, is heading to Italy for a three-week tour of heritage, history, and cultural experiences.

The 10-day tour program called the Ambassador Peter F. Secchia Voyage of Discovery Program, is sponsored by the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF). This all-expense paid trip for Italian-American students covers trip airfare between Italy and America and 10 days of programs. Denice leaves May 28.

The tour is open nationwide to anyone 18-23 years old and acceptance is based on an application process. Participants need to be enrolled in a college or university for the semester preceding the trip and they must be of Italian heritage.

Denice was actually checking to see the status of a scholarship he applied for when he noticed information for the trip.

“My heritage is very important to me, so being selected for this trip means so much,” he said. “The day I found out I was selected I was really stressed over a 12-page paper I had to write. I felt horrible but when I saw in my email I was accepted, it made writing a paper a bit more bearable.”

Three months ago he received that email and has been planning for the trip ever since.

It is officially a 10-day tour but if students wish to stay longer, they can on their own time. Denice has decided to extend his trip to three weeks.

Over 400 people apply, but only 10 percent are selected. They come from a cross section of backgrounds.

The program, now in its 11th year, combines education with sightseeing. Denice will have the opportunity to tour the University of Bologna, the University of La Sapienza, the Torre Prendiparte buildings, and Palazzo Monte Ciorio, the seat of the Italian Chamber of Deputies.

Students will also visit the catacombs of St. Callixtus with the reception hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministero degli Affari Eseri.

“This is the best itinerary they’ve had in a while,” Denice said. “I wouldn’t have thought of doing some of these things if I’d been going there by myself. It’s going to be an incredible experience.”
He said the purpose of the trip is for those selected to become cultural ambassadors, and for him to come back and share what he learned through his experience and share the culture with others in America.

“It’s so important to know your ancestry and be able to bridge that,” Denice said.

Joseph Del Raso, NIAF president, said the Voyage of Discovery Program further strengthens Italian American students’ understanding of their rich heritage and the many contributions Italy is making to the world. The Foundation’s program gives participants an opportunity to explore and understand the land of their ancestors while learning about modern-day Italy and creating a greater awareness of Italy as a global leader.

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Nick on “State of the State”

Nick recently appeared on Operation Clean Government‘s “State of the State” to discuss Governor Chafee’s proposed abolition of the RI Bureau of Audits.  The Bureau is an incredibly effective government watchdog providing key internal auditing functions for the executive branch.  In fact, the Bureau recently saved the state over $9 million in recovered funds from a fraud at RI Resource Recovery.

Before this show aired, Governor Chafee backed off the proposal to eliminate the department and instead reduced its budget by half for this year.  While this is not an optimal solution, Nick’s advocacy helped to keep this vital department from being eliminated.  If elected, Nick will put in a bill to increase the Bureau’s budget to increase accountability and transparency in state government.

Nick, a Certified Fraud Examiner, appeared on “State of the State” with H. Chris Der Vartanian, the former Chief Auditor for RI, and the show was moderated by Dick August, the Chairman of the North Kingstown Audit Committee.

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Nick Wins First Year Moot Court Competition

Nick recently came out tops in the Roger Williams Law First Year Moot Court Competition.  Besting his 70+ competitors, Nick successfully argued “the merits of a cutting edge issue—whether the First Amendment prohibited school officials from sanctioning students debating a school-related issue on Facebook.”

See the RWU Law Spotlight here

Moot Court Competition
The Finals Panel

Moot Court Competition
Nick Denice, Moot Court Board Chair Will Wray, and Samantha Clarke

Moot Court Competition
Moot Court Board

 

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Nick Coaches Tax Team to National Finals

Bryant is one of five finalists in nationwide competition sponsored by PwC

The Bryant team submitted a tape of their presentation to the PwC office in Washington, DC, and on Monday, they got the good news that they were a finalist.

The winning Bryant team includes: Courtney Bernard ’13 (Uxbridge, MA), Dan Cournoyer ’12 (Jefferson, MA), Ryan Hansen ’13 (Peabody, MA), Cornelia Li ’10, ’12 MPAc (Wuhan, China), and Anthony Nader ’12 (Milton, MA). Nick Denice ’11 (West, Warwick, RI), a past xTAX participant and PwC intern, served as an ambassador and coach for the winning team.

The team now travels to Washington, DC, at the end of January to compete against Brigham Young University, University of California – Berkeley, the University of Houston, and the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. The top team will win the xTAX Hamilton Award, named after Alexander Hamilton, the first secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

It is the first time since 2005 that Bryant is competing in the national competition. Members of the 2005 team include three current PwC employees, Ryan Daley ’08; Emily Giannini ’07, ’08 MPAc; and Ryan Scadding ’07, ’08 MPAc.

Read this Bryant Spotlight here

 

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Nick Appointed to Pension Board, 1/25/10

This Bryant Spotlight article reported Nick’s appointment to the West Warwick Pension Board in January 2011.  Nick describes how he was prompted into public service by David Walker’s documentary I.O.U.S.A. that described the effects of ballooning debt on the quality of life in our country and local communities.

Read the Bryant story here

“This is a unique opportunity because the pension board is really the nexus of finance and government, and I have a strong interest in both,” says Denice. “I look forward to trying to help the town become more fiscally sound, and the government more open, accountable, and responsible.”

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