WOONSOCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — Newly-minted Woonsocket Mayor Christopher Beauchamp said he just wants the city to move forward, but some residents want to know why now-former Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt resigned two weeks after her $1.1 million controversial land deal came to light.
Target 12 was the first to break the news of Baldelli-Hunt’s resignation Thursday. In a letter, Baldelli-Hunt said she was resigning because of health reasons, pointing to when she collapsed during an event back in April.
But some residents want more answers.
“Honestly she owes everybody an explanation,” said Woonsocket resident Walter Lanoue. “Because of health reasons? No, I don’t think so. That’s wrong.”
Baldelli-Hunt resigned two weeks after Target 12 first uncovered that she spent $1.1 million in taxpayer funds to purchase land off Mendon Road assessed at less than $200,000.
City councilors were alarmed by the deal because they were not told about the land acquisition, and that was a violation of the charter.
In an interview with Target 12 on Friday, Beauchamp acknowledged Baldelli-Hunt didn’t just resign because of health reasons.
“[It was a] combination of both,” Beauchamp explained. “The land deal, maybe it forced a little bit more expediated of a resign possibly.”
Beauchamp said he plans to be transparent in this new role, but when asked if he plans to investigate the land deal, he said the city doesn’t need to.
“We did get the money back, the land deal is basically null and void,” he said. “So, it never happened and I’m going to concentrate and move forward.”
But that response is concerning to Councilman John Ward, who said the city still needs to look into what happened to prevent another controversy like this from occurring.
“It’s incumbent on us as elected officials in the interest of informing the public that we collect more knowledge,” Ward said.
Particularly, Ward wants to hear from the employees who are still working at city hall to learn what happened.
Beauchamp was the city council president and had served on the council for the last 11 years.
He said he had an idea that Baldelli-Hunt would resign Thursday, but he said it was a challenging situation, as he considers the former mayor his friend.
“There was some crying, there was some laughing,” Beauchamp said. “But my main concern is the mayor’s health.”
Beauchamp said the city now needs to focus on other more important priorities than this controversy.
“We’ve got a public safety complex that we need to look at, we have an athletics complex that we’re in the middle of,” he said. “So I’m going to concentrate on all of the things we already started.”
Target 12 made multiple attempts to get an on-camera interview with Baldelli-Hunt following her resignation, but still have not heard from her.