NORTH SMITHFIELD — The head of the North Smithfield School Committee and current treasurer of the city of Providence has been named chairman of the Central Falls Detention Facility Corporation.
James Lombardi was nominated to the position by Central Falls Mayor James Diossa and must still be confirmed by the City Council in a vote scheduled for Monday, Sept. 30.
The corporation oversees the Central Falls-based Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility, which has been the focus of controversy over agreements to house people detained through a federal effort to crack down on immigration.
Lombardi is a lawyer and certified public accountant who has served as chairman of the North Smithfield School Committee since 2015. He was internal auditor for the city of Providence from 1999 to 2011, when he was appointed city treasurer.
In a letter regarding the appointment, Diossa reportedly called Lombardi an “ideal candidate,” because of both his financial background and experience running government boards.
If confirmed, Lombardi will have a high-profile issue to tackle from the start.
The 770-bed, maximum security facility made national news last month when a prison worker drove into protestors blocking access to the prison.
Ending any agreements to house detainees brought in by Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been the focus of activists, who have shut down several of the governing board’s meetings in recent months.
The board Lombardi is slated to run must decide if Wyatt will follow a mandatory quota to house 625 ICE detainees a day. Bond holders have sued the jail corporation over a decision in April to suspend the previous agreement to hold 225.
Wyatt was established in 1993 as the first privately-run prison in the United States – a controversial quasi-public form of operation that adds profit motive to incarceration. The maximum security facility is currently more than $130 million in debt, according to reports.
The state Attorney General’s office is investigating correctional officers’ actions during the August incident, where two protesters were injured by the prison truck driver, and other guards used pepper spray to disperse crowds.
Lombardi would replace Joseph Molina Flynn, an immigration lawyer and president of the Rhode Island Latino Political Action Committee, who resigned from the position in April after serving for less than a month, citing time commitments.
The Central Falls City Council was scheduled to vote on Lombardi’s nomination at their meeting on Monday, Sept. 23, but the meeting was postponed after a clerk reportedly published the incorrect meeting time.
The board is now planning to vote on the appointment on Monday, Sept. 30.
Editor’s note: The above article has been edited to reflect the Central Falls City Council’s updated meeting schedule.