An editorial in Friday’s Providence Journal correctly deplores the awarding, in contravention of state bidding procedures, of a no-bid contract by the Rhode Island State Police. But is there any doubt that Colonel Ann Assumpico did so at the instruction of Governor Gina Raimondo? No, there isn’t, especially in light of the clear ties of the winning firm back to the Governor, who is also known to have aspirations for the national political stage. From the ProJo editorial:
Ms. Raimondo received a $1,000 contribution from Mr. Gainer’s niece, Bridget, with whom the governor appeared on a Chicago television show to discuss pension reform. Before embarking on his consulting work, Mr. Gainer was hired by former Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid to be sergeant-at-arms of the U.S. Senate. Earlier, Mr. Gainer had resigned as Capitol Police chief when a nepotism controversy arose over his hiring his son-in-law.
Similarly, the action by the State Police to withhold the transcripts of their conversations about the 38 Studios debacle with Attorney General Peter Kilmartin and the entire Rhode Island Senate could only have been a decision and an order by Governor Raimondo. There is no blame to Colonel Assumpico for any of this. She answers to Governor Raimondo and is carrying out instructions as any loyal member of a team would do.
This was an act of blatant political cover-up – rumor is that outgoing Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed was not comfortable having her transcript released so the transcripts of all conversations with state senators were withheld so that the omission of just one was less noticeable – by Governor Raimondo that completely flies in the face of her assertions that she wants transparency and accountability in the aftermath of 38 Studios. (Side note: as some have observed, the withholding of these transcripts did not have the desired effect as doing so ascribed an appearance of guilt in 38 Studios to Attorney General Peter Kilmartin and someone or ones in the Senate that may well not be warranted.)
Providing political cover for a shady deal and illegally handing out a no-bid contract on the basis of political self-interest, while smelling distinctly of the good-old-boy, backroom politics that used to (still does?) emanate from Smith Hill is far from the worst thing that ever happened up there. What is unprecedented, and disturbing, is that Governor Raimondo involved the State Police in these activities. To my knowledge, no prior politician had gone there. It is not good for the State Police and it’s especially not good for Rhode Island, as the Providence Journal notes in its editorial.
For decades, the Rhode Island State Police has been one of the most respected institutions in the state, maintaining high ethical and professional standards, and striving to stay above politics.
Rhode Island very much needs its State Police to be kept clear of politics. Governor Raimondo needs to repair the damage she has done by ordering the release of all 38 Studios transcripts and by properly re-opening the diversity report contract to a public RFP. And, going forward, it is critical that she refrain from involving the Rhode Island State Police in any such political maneuvers.
Governor Raimondo’s failure to do these things will only exacerbate the notion, correct or not, that she views all state resources – and, in this case, a well-respected institution – within her control primarily as assets for her political career and advancement, rather than herself as a steward administering these resources to advance the best interest of the state and its residents.