PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Three top board members at the R.I. Economic Development Corporation sent a memo to then-Gov. Lincoln Chafee in early 2012 expressing frustration at his handling of the agency, just two months before the collapse of 38 Studios.

The previously unreleased memo from March 13, 2012, titled “Ideas to get more done at the EDC” was sent to Chafee as well as George Zainyeh, his chief of staff, and David Gilden, the EDC’s legal counsel. It was authored by EDC board members Helena Foulkes, a top executive at CVS Health; Jack Templin, a tech entrepreneur; and Cheryl Snead, CEO of Banneker Industries.

The memo’s sharp critique of Chafee is particularly noteworthy considering he handpicked Foulkes and Templin to join the EDC board when he overhauled it after taking office in 2011.

“We note that we are very concerned with the dynamic that is playing out at the EDC,” the memo states. “It appears little progress has been made in at least three months on the key initiatives. And this lack of momentum will ultimately hurt the Governor.”

At the top of their list was dissatisfaction with what they described as a lack of clarity from Chafee about who was running the EDC.

After taking office Chafee had kept in place the current EDC executive director: Keith Stokes, who’d been appointed a year earlier by Gov. Don Carcieri. Chafee later said he did so partly at the urging of Stokes’ friend Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed.

However, Chafee had also placed his lifelong friend and loyalist Jonathan Stevens – whose official title was assistant to the governor for special projects – at the EDC to serve as the governor’s eyes and ears.

In the memo, the three board members asked that Stevens be “redirected” in his role as EDC advisor.

“The dynamic [Stevens] is creating, from our experience, is one of extreme mistrust and overwhelming bureaucracy,” they wrote.

The memo expressed confidence in Stokes and said his authority was being undercut by Stevens’ presence.

“It seems that the Governor is now supportive of Keith, so we recommend that you make this crystal clear externally to shut down the rumor mill,” they wrote, adding later that EDC staff members were “unsure who is leading.”

Notably absent from the memo is any mention of 38 Studios. Just one month after it was sent, Chafee and then-House Speaker Gordon Fox would have an emergency meeting with 38 Studios executives and learn that the company was in dire straits. It collapsed in spectacular publish fashion a few weeks later, leaving taxpayers on the hook for the $75-million loan that had lured the business to Rhode Island.

Foulkes resigned from the EDC board at the height of the 38 Studios crisis over disagreements with Chafee about how to handle the crisis. Templin and Snead left the board the following year.

The memo was obtained by Target 12 through a public records request to Gov. Gina Raimondo’s office, which released it late on Tuesday.

Lawyers for Raimondo determined the memo was not a public record, citing the exemption of “correspondence of or to elected officials in their official capacities” in state law, but decided to release it anyway.

“This Office acknowledges the overwhelming public interest in understanding what happened at the former Economic Development Corporation in connection with 38 Studios,” Special Counsel and Public Records Officer Andrea Iannazzi wrote in an email. “As such, these documents were provided.”

In the margins of the memo are handwritten notes, apparently written by someone in the Chafee administration, that suggested talking points to respond to the concerns. They include “not accurate,” “what we’ve been doing,” and “have had these discussions.”

Iannazzi said the Raimondo administration does not know who authored the handwritten note.

Chafee was asked about the memo during his deposition as part of the state’s lawsuit against the architects of the 38 Studios deal.

A lawyer deposing Chafee asked: “In March 2010, did you receive a memo from members of board of directors critical of your performance as chairman of the board?”

Chafee corrected the date given by the attorney but claimed he wasn’t aware of it.

“March of ’12? I don’t recall,” he said, later adding, “I’m sure I received many memos — criticisms.”

The memo reinforces the argument by some that Chafee failed to adequatrely manage the EDC in the months leading up to the collapse of 38 Studios. Chafee – who opposed the deal when he was campaigning for governor in 2010 – has always defended his handling of the crisis as adequate.

After 38 Studios collapsed, Chafee authorized the civil suit spearheaded by attorney Max Wistow, which has resulted in settlement agreements with six of 14 defendants, covering $13 million of the money taxpayers owe on the 38 Studios bonds. Tim White( twhite@wpri.com ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter: @TimWhiteRITed Nesi contributed to this report.