ARLENE VIOLET – Rhode Island politics doesn’t change much

ARLENE VIOLET – Rhode Island politics doesn’t change much

In the space of one week, changes in the Rhode Island political landscape have been breathtaking. Regrettably, far too often what made the public gasp was the sheer audacity of the actions taken by a politician.

Here are some examples:

Brett Smiley – Gov. Gina Raimondo’s chief of staff finally announced his resignation following a spate of campaign contributions from state vendors to his upcoming mayoral race in Providence. The mining of money from companies with whom the state does business for his campaign was unconscionable. It might be viewed as inadvertent but for the fact that Mr. Smiley has been ethically challenged in other past matters. While dealing with the city of Providence in his official state role, Mr. Smiley’s campaign consulting business simultaneously vacuumed in cash as a “consultant” to Mayor Jorge Elorza. Mr. Smiley and his husband owned a home in Providence assessed at $843,000 and sold it to Brown University for $1.1 million during the time that Mr. Smiley was involved with Brown University in its effort to lease the state-supported Wexford Complex. His splicing and dicing of ethical situations is reminiscent of the era of Mayor Buddy Cianci who was similarly ethically challenged.

Gov. Gina Raimondo – The governor has been pilloried for not resigning her post as she awaits appointment as U.S. Commerce secretary. In politics, as the saying goes, “expect the unexpected.” Since her resignation would be irrevocable her caution is understandable. What isn’t understandable is her lame duck appointments, in one case for a post that won’t be vacant until March and the appointments of two CRMC board members. These appointments smacked of political favoritism and should not have happened. Gov. Raimondo looked like a political huckster as she exits the state.

CRMC directors and former Supreme Court Justice Frank Williams – Thanks to an investigative story by Jim Hummel, the public learned that, after 17 years of losing, the Champlin marina and its attorney, Robert Goldberg, arrived at a favorable settlement using lame duck commissioners on CRMC and the services of former Chief Justice Frank Williams, while the case was pending before the Rhode Island Supreme Court. A major problem was the exclusion of parties who had intervened in the case and the exclusion of the attorney general. In other words, it smacked of a backroom deal. The former chief justice should stay away from “mediating” a settlement requiring acceptance by his former confreres. Further, Robert Goldberg is married to Supreme Court Justice Maureen McKenna Goldberg. She should recuse herself on the case but query why the taxpayer dishes out $225,000 per year for her services on the court when her husband’s avariciousness disqualifies her from the discharge of her duties. Does the state get a salary rebate when he undertakes cases that eliminate her participation? No!

Lieutenant governor candidates – Daniel McKee finally relented and provided the list of folks looking to take over his job if he becomes governor. What was missing was the one candidate who would do the job for $1 because it is a nominal appointment. Apparently, the candidates all seem to want to build their own dynasty in the position. The late Robert Healey was correct. The job is a stand-by and not a position to reinvent the wheel.

Violet is an attorney and former state attorney general.