Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee appointed a new receiver for fiscally troubled Central Falls on Monday. Chafee, who took office last month, appointed former state Supreme Court Justice Robert Flanders Jr. to replace retired Judge Mark Pfeiffer.
Pfeiffer was appointed in July for a six-month term to take over the finances of the city after the state enacted a new law for dealing with distressed municipalities.
“I have known and respected Justice Flanders for a long time, and have come to value his insight and advice,” Chafee said in a news release. “His judgment, his varied and extensive experience in government, law and education, and his dedication to the people of Rhode Island make him well suited for the position of Central Falls Receiver.”
Pfeiffer, who indicated he wished to return to his private arbitration practice, agreed last month to stay on for an additional 30 days and will overlap with Flanders for two weeks, said Chafee spokesman Mike Trainor.
Flanders earned his undergraduate degree at Brown University in 1971 and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1974. He worked as a lawyer for Paul, Weiss, Rifkin, Wharton & Garrison LLP in New York and for Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge LLP in Rhode Island where he became a partner and chairman of the firm’s litigation department. He was elected to the Town Council of Barrington, R.I., and became the town solicitor for Glocester, R.I., and general counsel to the Rhode Island Solid Waste Management Corp.
He became one of five justices on the Rhode Island Supreme Court in 1996 and served for eight years before returning to private law practice as a partner in the law firm of Hinckley, Allen & Snyder LLP.
Flanders will “make recommendations for any further steps the state may have to take as it continues to address the financial situation in Central Falls,” Trainor said. “That situation remains critical and the state has the fiduciary obligation to preserve the integrity of city services.”
Pfeiffer had recommended that Central Falls be annexed by neighboring Pawtucket or pursue the “regionalization” of services, such as fire and police, with a neighboring municipality, possibly under a new government structure with a professional municipal manager. Trainor said the regionalization approach was being pursued after Pawtucket’s mayor objected to the potential annexation.
Central Falls went into judicial-appointed receivership in May 2010 after Mayor Charles Moreau and the City Council petitioned the court and said the city was insolvent. This action prompted Moody’s Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s to downgrade the city’s debt to junk. Fearing that the receivership precedent could lead to more downgrades and spook investors, state lawmakers in June enacted a law that retroactively prohibited judicial receivership and created a new system for the state to intervene in distressed municipalities’ finances.
Moreau and most of the City Council last year lost a legal challenge seeking to overturn the new law. Oral arguments in an appeal of the ruling to the state’s highest court will be heard Tuesday.