Attorney accuses chief of misleading on Google spending

Attorney accuses chief of misleading on Google spending

Martellini irate; council members distance themselves from memo

NORTH PROVIDENCE - Town Council members are distancing themselves from a memo sent by their attorney Raymond Mansolillo to the U.S. Department of Justice that accuses Police Chief Paul Martellini of misleading officials about a $150,000 gift to the Hopkinton Police Department.

Martellini is irate at the memo, which claims to be sent on behalf of the council and accuses him of making some sort of "backroom deal" with the money. He's denying that he "misled" anyone during what has been a very "transparent process," saying it's "very unfair and unfortunate" that Mansolillo would say such things.

"When you call people's ethics into question, we get offended," said the chief, saying he's angry that "my integrity, my honesty" is being questioned.

Council members say the only action they told Mansolillo to take after retaining his services was to seek clarification from the Department of Justice on who the governing body is when it comes to the spending of the police department's $60 million Google fund.

The memo from Mansolillo cites last Wednesday's story in The North Providence Breeze about Martellini's plan to give $150,000 to Hopkinton (R.I.) for upgrades to its dispatch services.

In the story, Martellini says the motivation for the payment, which was authorized by the Department of Justice but has not yet been made, was that Hopkinton Police Chief David Palmer played an integral role in guiding the North Providence Police Department during a critical period back in 2008, especially in keeping the department in the investigative program that would eventually land the $60 million.

According to Mansolillo's memo, he interpreted the comments "from the chief's mouth to the press" as "some type of payback for services" to Palmer.

"We were misled as to the use and the Town Council and myself feel that $150,000 should be returned immediately and the proper action taken for whoever lied to the DOJ about its use," he said. "Payback for services that are not presented to your office and paybacks that are unaccountable are not and should not be acceptable. It smells of backroom deals and improperly taking care of friends. It perverts the integrity of the equitable sharing program, which should be discouraged and averted at all costs."

Councilor Dino Autiello said the first time he saw last Wednesday's memo from Mansolillo was two days after it was sent.

"I supported Mansolillo getting an opinion of who the governing body is, not sending out letters like this," said Autiello. "All I expected was a request for an opinion. It's gone too far."

Autiello said he's been on the council for four years, and there's always been a tough relationship between Mayor Charles Lombardi's administration and the Kristen Catanzaro-led Town Council, but this latest controversy is beyond anything he's seen.

"I've never been more embarrassed to be part of something, just the way things are being handled by all parties," he said.

Autiello said he believes having council oversight of the $60 million winnings from a 2012 settlement with Google would "add another layer" of accountability, but he will accept whatever the final determination is of who the governing authority is, whether it's Lombardi or the Town Council.

Neither Mansolillo or Catanzaro could be reached for comment.

Councilors Stephen Feola and Manny Giusti were both heavily critical of the memo this week, with Feola calling it "inappropriate" and Giusti deeming it "a disgrace."

Councilor John Lynch said Monday that he couldn't comment on whether the memo was appropriate because he hadn't read it, but he blamed Martellini for its contents, because the chief "said one thing to one person and something else to someone else." The entire situation could have been avoided if Town Solicitor Anthony Gallone had returned a phone call to Mansolillo, said Lynch.

Councilor Bill Warren said he didn't approve the memo, and had only briefly scanned its contents. He doesn't know "where (Mansolillo) was coming from," but will wait until he hears the whole story from him before commenting.

Catanzaro is claiming that the Town Council should have authority on the spending of Google money, but officials are still far apart on resolving the matter.

Martellini said he's been completely honest and forthright about the payment to Hopkinton, openly sharing about the plan in The Breeze. He said he voluntarily held up the payment to Hopkinton until after local questions on authority are settled.

Comments

Is there a problem in the way the Google money has been handled, that is the question? Mansolillo is the "expert on DOJ" stuff. So let's see where this plays out. I don't think the chief would do anything knowingly that was not by the book. This is new turf and with no prior experience NP is learning as it goes, generally by making mistakes but learning. Let's see how it goes, it will be a long process but $60 million is going pretty fast.

The children have their candy, and everyone wants it for themselves. Just a little more embarrassment for our town. Thanks guys.