PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A second lawyer for the R.I. Executive Office of Health and Human Services resigned in recent months after being removed from the state’s master list of attorneys, but officials refuse to say if the two matters are related.
Gregory A. Madoian served as a deputy chief of legal services at EOHHS until his resignation on April 25, one day after he was placed on administrative leave. He earned about $100,000 a year.
Madoian was removed from the Rhode Island Supreme Court’s master roll of attorneys on July 14, 2016, “for failing to register with the Supreme Court,” judiciary spokeswoman Kara Picozzi told Eyewitness News.
“That removal process is different. No order issues and there is no hearing,” Picozzi explained. “The attorneys receive several notifications reminding them of their upcoming annual attorney registration obligation and they are removed if they fail to comply.”
Supreme Court rules say that anyone who is not on the master roll of attorneys but works as a lawyer in Rhode Island anyway “is engaged in the unauthorized practice of law and may be subject to the disciplinary procedures of this court.”
Madoian could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday. A court document shows the Rhode Island Bar Association reported Madoian to judicial officials in 2016 for failing to pay his bar dues for two years.
The Department of Administration said he had worked for the state since October 1991, and had held a position as deputy chief of legal services since 1992. Officials said they could not provide details about his leave or resignation because it involves a personnel matter.
Madoian appears to have filed for bankruptcy multiple times in recent years, court records show. North Kingstown municipal records show there were tax liens on his home there before it went into foreclosure last year.
Another EOHHS lawyer, Gregory Hazian, has been in the headlines this week after he missed the deadline to appeal a case that could cost taxpayers $24 million. Hazian was removed from the state’s master roll of attorneys in January for failing to complete educational requirements but apparently did not inform his bosses. He resigned Monday as state officials moved to fire him.
Hazian has since complied with his educational obligations and was reinstated as an active lawyer on the master list of attorneys, Picozzi said.
(Separately on Tuesday, lawyers met with a judge to discuss whether the state should be allowed to appeal the case despite Hazian missing the deadline to do so prior to his resignation.)
On Tuesday evening, Department of Administration Director Michael DiBiase sent an email to all state workers warning “that it is the responsibility of the individual employee to maintain … required licenses or certifications in good standing during the term of employment.”
“Any failure to maintain a license or certification required for employment shall be grounds for discipline, including termination,” DiBiase wrote. “Moreover, any employee who performs licensed work without the required license may be subject to other penalties or consequences.”
Secretary of Health and Human Services Eric Beane told reporters Monday the agency was reviewing whether any of its other lawyers had problems in light of the Hazian case.
“My understanding is that there is not a formal process for the Supreme Court to notify employers or clients of issues pertaining to lawyers’ individual standing, so I think it makes sense for us to consider additional precautionary measures like having each attorney who works for the state attest regularly that they are members in good standing of the Rhode Island bar,” he said.
Payroll records list 28 attorneys who work for EOHHS, and most have active, blemish-free records.
Rhode Island Republican Party Chairman Brandon Bell renewed his call for Beane to resign Tuesday, and continued to highlight Hazian’s links to Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello.
“Hazian began working for the General Assembly within one year of Mattiello taking office as a state representative in 2007, and he obtained a job at Health and Human Services within a year of Mattiello becoming majority leader in 2010,” the GOP said in a news release.
“Will House Speaker Mattiello protect Beane or get rid of him by eliminating EOHHS in the budget?” Bell asked. “If Mattiello protects Beane, is it to ensure we never learn how he may have helped protect Hazian over the years?”
Mattiello’s office has so far declined to comment on his relationship with Hazian, who made campaign donations to the speaker as well as his two predecessors, Gordon Fox and William Murphy. Hazian was first hired by the state in December 2007 as a General Assembly lawyer during Murphy’s speakership.
Larry Berman, a spokesman for Mattiello, said Hazian was initially assigned to work for the Senate Finance Committee, and was moved to the legislative council in 2009. Both positions were part-time.
Bell and Republican gubernatorial candidate Allan Fung are also calling for the elimination of EOHHS so that the heads of departments it oversees will answer directly to the governor. Former Gov. Don Carcieri created the office in 2004 to unify oversight of the agencies, which oversee billions in yearly spending.
Separately, Rhode Island Health Care Association President Virginia Burke pointed out that while the figure of $24 million has been widely cited as representing how much the state could owe local nursing homes in the botched lawsuit, the actual amount state taxpayers would have to cover is lower.
The reason, as Burke explained: the federal government matches half of Medicaid spending, so only $12 million of the $24 million would come from state general revenue. In addition, the $24 million figure represents the total that would be owed from July 2016 through June 2019, the end of the next fiscal year; the current liability would be closer to $16 million.
Tim White contributed to this report.