Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Blue State Graft Watch- Rhode Island Speaker of the House Resigns After Feds Raid Offices

Gordon Fox, a Rhode Island democrat who held the distinction of being the first openly gay speaker of the state house in the USA, abruptly announced that he was resigning from his role as speaker shortly after the FBI, IRS and Rhode Island State Police raided his home and office this week.

The joint effort by Rhode Island state troopers, and investigators from the FBI, the IRS and the U.S. Attorney’s office, began in mid-morning, when troopers took up positions outside Fox’s office.

The troopers would not answer questions about why they had closed off access to the speaker’s State House office. They referred questions to the U.S. Attorney’s office, which provided no further details. Soon after, FBI and IRS agents arrived.

As to the nature of the documents the investigators took, Berman said: “Business-related. They looked like files, but I am not sure.” When asked if that included legal files, Berman noted that Fox has “a separate law office on Dorrance Street where he practices his law.”

“They weren’t asking, from what I understand, for legislative documents, which are all on line and available anyway,” Berman said.

While investigators searched Fox’s State House office, more than a dozen FBI and IRS investigators were searching his East Side home. (A Fox confidante said the investigators asked Fox to leave, but allowed his spouse, Marcus LaFond, to remain behind to look after Fox’s 91-year-old mother.)

The investigators emerged from the house shortly before 2 p.m. in single file, carrying boxes and navigating a gauntlet of media. As a few of the investigators in dark suits watched, others wearing windbreakers emblazoned with “Evidence Response Team” quickly loaded the boxes into a white unmarked truck parked across the street and drove off.

Although the US Attorney declined to specify the charges against Fox, the Providence Democrat has had prior legal and ethics violations. Earlier this year, Fox agreed to pay a $1500 fine after he failed to disclose $43,000 he made preparing loan documents for a local economic development agency. A decade prior, Fox was fined $10,000 for voting on a $770 million lottery deal that assured work would be steered towards his law firm at the time, according to the Providence Journal.

Fox's resignation abruptly triggered an internal struggle among Democrats in the Ocean State after then-house majority leader Nicholas Mattiello [D- Cranston] called for a closed-door caucus at the Providence Marriott as soon as Fox stepped down as speaker. However, a number of members of the House weren't even informed of the caucus until well after the fact. By Tuesday, Mattiello was voted in by colleagues as Rhode Island's latest Speaker of the House.

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