Former top RI official ordered to pay $5,000 fine over infamous Philly trip. What to know.

PROVIDENCE 鈥 The Rhode Island Ethics Commission Tuesday fined one former high-ranking state official for accepting gifts 鈭 including a "free private lunch" at a pricey Sicilian restaurant 鈭 during an infamous day-trip to Philadelphia in March 2023 and voted to go to trial against a second.

The events that led to these actions were exposed by an email from a state contractor that the McKee administration refused to make public until The Journal and WPRI appealed the denial to the attorney general, who ordered its release. Here's the latest:

David Patten, the former head of the agency that manages all state-owned property in Rhode Island, agreed to pay a $5,000 fine to settle complaints he acted improperly in March 2023 while vetting an earlier turnaround project by Scout Ltd., the Philadelphia firm in line for a potential $56-million R.I. contract to redevelop the Cranston Street Armory.

"Mr. Patton has been apologetic for the events and for the conduct that resulted from this event," his lawyer, Michael Lynch, told reporters as the two left the Ethics Commission meeting Tuesday.

Lynch attributed Patten's actions in Philadelphia to a "medical crisis" and said his client has now "been able to get back on the right path and is very, again, regretful of that time and in those events that took place."

One of the seven members of the Ethics Commission, Hugo Ricci Jr., wanted to double Patten's fine to $10,000 but no fellow commissioners seconded his motion, the chairwoman, Marisa Quinn, disclosed after the commission's hour-and-a-half long closed-door, decision-making session.

The Ethics Commission found "probable cause" to believe that James Thorsen, the former McKee administration cabinet member who joined Patten on the ill-fated Armory-related trip to Philadelphia, violated the Ethics Code when he accepted a "free private lunch."

Next step for him: an adjudicative hearing, which is essentially a trial before the commission.

Leaving the meeting, Thorsen 鈭 who, days after his return from Philadelphia, personally paid $262.30 towards the $524.60 four-person lunch that he and Patten and the top two Scout executives had at a highly-rated Sicilian restaurant in the building they were touring 鈭 said he didn't think he did anything wrong.

"If I thought I did wrong, I wouldn't be here right now. It would've been settled a long time ago," Thorsen told reporters after leaving the Ethics Commission meeting.

But the Ethics Commission report noted that "It was not until three days later, and only after learning" of the "scathing email" that wound its way from Scout's top executives to their lobbyist, Jeff Britt, to Gov. Dan McKee chief of staff 鈭 "that Thorsen requested that they forward him a bill for lunch."

Asked the governor's response, a McKee spokeswoman issued this statement: "We appreciate the time and effort that the Ethics Commission has made to review this matter. The Ethics Commission has a constitutional and statutory duty to fulfill and we must allow them to do their job and let the process continue."

David Patten, the former director of the state's Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, seen after this meeting with the state's Ethics Commission on Tuesday.

What happened on the infamous Philly trip?

Thorsen was director of the Department of Administration at the time of the ill-fated trip, and Patten then-director of the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, a state agency responsible for the management and maintenance of all state-owned properties in Rhode Island, including the oversight of rehabilitation projects on state properties.

The two went to Philly to check out an award-winning project by , the firm the state hired to put the fortress-like Cranston Street Armory to new use.

What happened on that trip 鈥 at a time when the fate and funding of the proposed $56-million Cranston Street Armory revival hung in the balance 鈥 led the top executives at Scout to send the governor a blistering email.

Among the allegations in that email: that Patten left a trail of racist and sexist remarks, demanded freebies at multiple stops along the site tour, including a pair of sneakers he said he hoped weren't from China because he hates China. According to the email, upon spotting an Asian-American woman nearby, Patten said, "No offense, hon."

A screenshot from a stream of a Rhode Island House Finance Committee meeting on March 9, 2023, shows then-Department of Administration Director James Thorsen, left, and David Patten, director of the state's property management division.

When told that the high-end restaurant where he wanted to eat wasn't open for lunch, Patten allegedly told a Scout executive 鈭 "Well, you can call in a favor if you want $55M in funding."

While getting coffee with Scout's managing partner, Lindsey Scannapieco, that morning, he allegedly said: 鈥淚f I knew your husband wasn鈥檛 going to be here, I would have come last night.鈥

As for what Thorsen allegedly did 鈭 or didn't do 鈭 that gave rise to the ethics complaint: neither he nor Patten paid their share of their $525 lunch that day with the two Scout executives until Thorsen asked for an invoice days later.

The Patten settlement

To settle the case, Patten admitted to violating the state Ethics Code's prohibition on accepting gifts in excess of $25 from those with a financial interest in his decisions when he took the private lunch. The fine for that was $3,000.

And he also admitted to breaking a state law banning procurement officials from accepting goods and services valued over $100, to wit: "coffee croissant and a private lunch."

Ethics Commission Chief Prosecutor Jason Gramitt said this is the first time the Ethics Commission has brought a case under the state procurement law since being granted authority to do so by the General Assembly.

Gramitt said the complaint against Patten had also included the charge that he used his office to solicit gifts, but the Commission agreed to exclude that from the settlement.

The racism and sexism attributed to Patten while he was in Philadelphia, while noted in the investigative report, did not factor into the Ethics Commission case against him, which was limited to enforcing rules against abuse of office for personal gain.

Thorsen charges

The Ethics Commission voted unanimously to find probable cause that Thorsen committed three violations 鈭 of the Ethics Code and one of the gift ban for procurement officers 鈭 when he took that lunch in Philadelphia.

The Commission cleared him of the charge of using his office to solicit gifts.

Under the three charges still pending against Thorsen, Gramitt said he faces a maximum fine of $52,000.

Fallout from the Philly trip

While the Ethics investigation was underway, Thorsen through his lawyer denied any unethical behavior on the trip.

"At no time did Thorsen solicit or accept any gift or reward based on any understanding that a vote or official action or judgment would be influenced thereby," Thorsen's lawyer, Kevin Bristow, told the Ethics Commission earlier in response to the complaint lodged by the commission's deputy chief investigator. (The Ethics Commission found no evidence of influence-peddling.)

"Also, contrary to the averments contained in the complaint, James Thorsen was not a 'key decision-maker' in connection with the prospective redevelopment contract with Scout Ltd.," Bristow asserted. (On this point, the Ethics Commission did not accept Bristow's argument.)

Thorsen left state government in April 2023 for a reported job at the U.S. Treasury, but his LinkedIn page still lists the Rhode Island Department of Administration as his last employer.

澳门6合开奖结果:A $525 lunch in Philly and more revealed in new emails about state officials' alleged misconduct.

Patten ultimately resigned.

At that point, Patten's lawyer, Michael Lynch, issued a statement that said in part: "While a simple apology is never enough, Mr. Patten is apologetic to the citizens of Rhode Island, who he has had the pleasure of representing as a director in the Department of Administration, that any of these matters occurred."

"He also apologizes to the many individuals in Philadelphia he met with in March and were, unfortunately, recipients of comments that resulted from Mr. Patten suffering" what has been described as an "acute stress event."

The Commission previously dismissed a separate complaint the state GOP filed against McKee in connection with his own interactions with Scout executives at a fundraising lunch paid for by Scout's lobbyist, Jeff Britt.

McKee's lawyer argued 鈥 and the Commission agreed 鈥 that there was no "probable cause" to believe that McKee committed a knowing and willful violation聽because he didn't know what happened after he left the Capital Grille lunch.

What questions remain?

Pointing to the much larger issue that the Commission did not deal with head on, John Marion, executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island, said McKee was having lunch with a state vendor and a lobbyist and expecting a campaign check at the end, which may be legal, but "isn't how people think government should work."

In this case, Scout's managing director, Lindsey Scannapieco; development director Everett Abitbol; and their lobbyist, Jeff Britt, were invited to the lunch while the $56-million Armory contract they were seeking 鈥 on top of their design contract 鈥 was still up in the air.

What is happening with the armory?

The McKee Administration cancelled Scout's contract. The fate of the largely abandoned armory remains unclear. In August, the City of Providence laid down terms for a potential takeover of the cavernous building. There have been no reported developments since then.

Asked the status, a spokesman for Mayor Brett Smiley told The Journal on Tuesday, "The Administration continues to be in conversations with the State regarding ownership of the Cranston Street Armory. These discussions have been collaborative and productive and we anticipate this process to be ongoing."

The Cranston Street Armory is a fortress-like building in the Broadway-Armory Historic District of Providence.