State Police and Other Mechanisms for Responsive Government


During my weekly call today to the John DePetro Show on 1540 AM WADK, John and I disagreed, a little, on the news that, at Attorney General Peter Kilmartin’s request, the State Police are investigating the process by which Frank Montanaro, Jr., got around $50,000 in free public-higher-education tuition as a benefit for a job that he no longer held with Rhode Island College.

The disagreement, minor as it was, involved John’s expectation that there’s legal fire behind the smoke of this issue and my skepticism that the State Police will find and pursue anything that’s actually a legal problem for Montanaro.  John mentioned other legislators who’ve been nailed on legal challenges, but with some of the more-notable cases (Fox & Gallison), federal officials were involved, not just the state.

I guess I’ve just reduced my expectations for the State Police in recent years, based on various seemingly political decisions they’ve made.  Maybe that’s fair, or maybe it’s not, but it’s my feeling.

A key point that I didn’t manage to make adequately on the radio is that Rhode Island has a dire need to start enforcing rules that aren’t quite laws.  The moment Montanaro was found to have filed false reports in pursuit of his benefit, he ought to have been gone, whether or not it proved to be illegal.  And to ensure that reform, we need something other than the State Police.

If the State Police come out and say that they found no evidence of criminal activity — however bad the whole thing might stink — that counts as absolution for crooked behavior.  What we need is some other authority, like an inspector general or something, who can bridge that gap, both recommending legal prosecution and providing credible analysis that a particular deal did not seem to jibe with the spirit of a personnel policy.

A lot of corruption can go on between completely legit government activities and clearly illegal behavior.  Our government officials have proven unwilling to enforce that gray area on the side of justice, so we need something more.

In the meantime, I’ll remain skeptical.

  • Ray Berberick

    Thank you Justin for suggesting an IG. Planning a major media and political campaign on Swearing In Day and lasting through the whole session. Not unlike the Saknnet Toll fight. Could sure use your help.

  • IG_in_RI

    Thank you, Justin, for suggesting an IG. On Swearing-in Day, presumably on Jan 9, 2018, there will be a major media and political campaign to get the GA to create one. Sure could use your help.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    Sad to hear, I had always thought of the State Police as some sort of bulwark.

  • stuckinRI

    I’m with Justin, i.e. skeptical. The whole thing stinks of an insider, “I know a guy” type of deal. Whether it’s illegal or not, is it ‘fair’ to provide a benefit for 3 yrs post employment when the policy for everyone else is ONE year? I HIGHLY doubt your average RIC employee would have gotten the same deal.