NORTH SMITHFIELD – With four out of seven Central Falls City Councilors approving a nomination by city Mayor James Diossa, North Smithfield’s James Lombardi has been confirmed as chairman of Central Falls Detention Facility Corporation.
The corporation oversees the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility, a for-profit prison that has become the focus of controversy in recent months over contracts to house Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees.
The maximum-security facility is also reportedly $130 million in debt, and has failed to make required payments to its home city for the past decade.
Lombardi, who serves a chairman of the North Smithfield School Committee, has a background in both law and accounting. He was internal auditor for the city of Providence from 1999 to 2011, when he was appointed city treasurer, a role he has since held.
Since 1994, he has has also run a successful private practice as an attorney and CPA. He has served as chairman of the North Smithfield School Committee since 2015.
He’ll take the helm at Wyatt at a time when protests of facility’s policies have shut down board meetings, and actions taken by prison workers are under investigation by the state Attorney General’s office.
Prison bondholders also have a lawsuit pending against the board over a decision by Lombardi’s predecessor, immigration lawyer Joseph Molina Flynn, to cancel a contract with ICE.
In discussion of his confirmation at a Central Falls City Council meeting on Monday, Sept. 30, Solicitor Michael Jerzk said Diossa appointed, “a chairman who he believes can competently, adequately look at that intersection of very complex interests and do what’s right.”
Lombardi said he’s honored by the nomination, and told NRI NOW this week that he “looks forward to working with the Wyatt Board of Directors to expeditiously resolve legal disputes with the bondholders, run the operation as a business, and provide stability.”
“I will seek to engage the community and provide compassionate and transparent operations of the facility,” added the new chairman. “I will strive to have the board communicate better to the public to dispel some of the misconceptions of the facility and promptly deal with any issues that are present.”
Two Central Falls city councilors voted “present” on Lombardi’s nomination, which is considered neither an approval or a denial of the appointee, and one councilor recused himself from the vote. The remaining four approved the nomination.
Lombardi’s first meeting as chairman of the corporation is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 21 starting at 5:30 p.m.