ARLENE VIOLET – Raimondo blocks IGT info

ARLENE VIOLET – Raimondo blocks IGT info

God bless The Providence Journal! The newspaper propounded an open records request to Gov. Gina Raimondo seeking “all communications to and from IGT and the governor’s staff – and their consultants – since January 2019…that relate to the proposed extension of the IGT contract.” (Providence Journal September 2, 2019). At least 400 documents were withheld concerning the $1 billion, no bid 20-year contract. What was turned over on the last day the law allowed the state to respond were innocuous calendar entries and emails. Any meaty documents were withheld on spurious grounds such as records generated during the deliberative process. No such language in the Access to Public Records Act exists. Further, the law requires a list of documents withheld to be sufficiently delimited as to what each is. The governor prefers to use generic language for categorization.

Fortunately, The Journal filed a complaint with Attorney General Peter Neronha. The law places Neronha as the chief enforcer of the Open Records provisions. Hopefully, he will make a ruling before the contract ever becomes a fait accompli.

The Lottery Commission responded to The Journal’s request to its agency with its own response independently of the governor. Among the gems in that document trove was the discovery that IGT had guaranteed a minimum profit level with Indiana and New Jersey. IGT, in fact, fell below the minimum in Indiana in 2015 and paid the state $18.3 million. It has not made any such guarantee in its Raimondo deal.

On Sept. 19 the Senate held a public hearing on the IGT “deal.” It is inconceivable that with almost four more years on the present contract that the solons would not put the state lottery business out to bid. There cannot be a downside to the state entertaining competition. The chief focus has to be on technology commitments into the future and slot machines that are competitive in the market both in theme and payoffs. Nobody likes to go to a casino thinking that it is preordained that the patron’s pocket will be picked.

Further, IGT has not satisfactorily explained what “1,100 jobs” in Rhode Island means. The way the legislation is written it implies lower-paying jobs than those touted by the company in paid ads and could include those of outside contractors going toward the count. Further, IGT has not convincingly made its case that a 20-year commitment is necessary. In fact, its present Rhode Island contract far exceeds the time in other state deals.

Raimondo has punted her credibility in her “negotiations” with IGT by invoking the same “exemptions” from the Open Records law that she used to block access to her decision to extend Deloite Consulting’s contract, the company that supplied Rhode Island with the flawed UHIP system which is projected to rack up costs of $656 million.

I suppose with this track record of gaffes it does explain the urge to hide the travel of the back and forth between the governor’s office and the entity draining taxpayer dollars.

Hopefully, taxpayers will be able to depend on the attorney general to require the administration to open up the secreted documents. Open and transparent government was a campaign pledge by then candidate Neronha. The public needs him to disinfect the air of secrecy on Smith Hill.

Violet is an attorney and former state attorney general.

Comments

This column is one of your best. Thank you for keeping the RI public informed on this deceptively confusing
issue. To date, our new atty. general has done some good work for RI. How he responds to this issue will determine if he is a GREAT AG.