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PROVIDENCE â€” Central Falls' new mayor will be sworn in on New Year's Day â€” but it's not yet clear what power he'll wield in a city that remains under the control of a state-appointed receiver.
City Councilman James Diossa is expected to be sworn in at a ceremony at Central Falls High School on Tuesday evening. But he inherits the keys to a city that hasn't been governed by its local leaders since the state took it over in 2010.
Diossa, 27, handily defeated former Police Chief Joseph Moran in a special election this month to serve out the remainder of the term of Charles Moreau, who resigned in September and pleaded guilty to a federal corruption charge. Diossa will be the city's first Hispanic mayor.
The mayor and city council in Rhode Island's smallest city were relegated to advisory status after the state took over in 2010. Central Falls went through a municipal bankruptcy that officially ended in October, though the receivership is still in place.
The five-year fiscal recovery plan approved by the bankruptcy judge budgets a full salary for the mayor starting Jan. 1, but it appears unlikely he will have full mayoral authority by then.
A spokesman for Diossa had no immediate comment. A spokesperson for Gov. Lincoln Chafee was not immediately available.
State Revenue Director Rosemary Booth Gallogly has said that local leaders in Central Falls will get their power back only after she feels confident they understand the fiscal plan and will abide by it.
Several members of the council, including President William Benson Jr., have resisted the state's continued presence in the city. Benson quickly adjourned a special joint meeting of the council and the receiver on Dec. 17 that was to include a "workshop" on the five-year plan because of objections to the receiver's participation.
"He thought he was going to run a city council meeting," Benson said Wednesday. He said no other meetings with the receiver are planned.
Asked when he thought local governance would return in Central Falls, Benson said: "We have no idea when it's going to happen. I expect to be put back in office. We don't know (when). We haven't got an answer. Your guess is as good as mine."
Diossa last week created an advisory council made up of five committees that will focus on economic development, quality of life and city services, education, public safety, and arts and tourism. Diossa and the receiver's office also announced the appointment of permanent police and fire department chiefs.