John Bisceglio needed all the business he could get for his custodial supply company in Providence, Rhode Island. But for Bisceglio, honesty was more important than making a buck, so he blew the whistle on government kickbacks and risked his financial future to do the right thing.
It all started when Bisceglio realized that one way to secure municipal contracts for custodial supplies was to make campaign contributions to the Mayor—Vincent Cianci, Jr.. The setup was pretty simple. The city purchasing director would call Bisceglio with a hard-to-resist proposal: If Bisceglio made a financial contribution to the mayor, then he'd get some business from the city in return.
Bisceglio gave a $125 donation, and in three days he got a $387 municipal contract. A few months later he was asked for another donation, and within 10 days was given another contract.
Maybe that's good business for the city, but it didn't sit well with Bisceglio. He went to the local paper and gave them the story. When it broke, other business owners weren't happy. "Why don't you keep your mouth shut?" they said. "You're not going to change the world!"
When asked why he exposed the shakedown, he answered, "I'm a taxpayer. The bottom line here is that they're playing with people's money. You have to be totally accountable."
Accountability was evidently not Providence's strong point. Raising money through contracting with city workers was just one violation. The mayor also held cocktail parties with his finance committee in City Hall, where they collected donations. He also allegedly fired a city worker because the worker wouldn't donate to the mayor's campaign. And some contributions were never reported, including the $250 given by Bisceglio. The donation was cashed, but there was no record of where it was spent.
Bisceglio still feels bad that he went along with the scam at all, but at least his conscience is clear now. "My situation is just small potatoes," he says. "I'm just a little guy who got sucked in by hopes and desires." Aside from the desire to bring the corruption to light, was there another reason he spoke up? "You know," he says, thoughtfully, "I love this state."