PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — R.I. Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor has submitted his resignation effective Tuesday, Gov. Dan McKee announced, amid to pressure to step down now that he’s running for state treasurer.
Pryor announced his campaign in May, saying he would resign as commerce secretary in two weeks.
But Pryor’s exit was delayed as he led the negotiations over the proposed Tidewater Landing project, a Pawtucket development centered around a soccer stadium, which is seeking more state funding amid ballooning costs.
James Diossa, another Democrat running for treasurer, slammed Pryor earlier this week for staying on the job, accusing Pryor of having “recklessly clung to power in an attempt to influence the outcome of these negotiations for future political gain.”
Pryor and McKee both said the secretary actually stayed on longer at the request of the governor and commerce board members.
“I have stayed a couple weeks longer than I originally anticipated in order to offer further assistance on some key fronts,” Pryor said in his resignation letter Friday.
McKee said, “Stefan has provided strong leadership to the state of Rhode Island over his seven plus years as Rhode Island’s Secretary of Commerce. I’m grateful for his work and his partnership especially as we’ve emerged from the pandemic with strength and economic momentum. I’ve also appreciated that he delayed his departure to assist with key economic development issues including the Tidewater project.”
Pawtucket State Rep. Karen Alzate also called on Pryor to resign earlier Friday, calling it improper for him to continue negotiating the Pawtucket stadium deal on behalf of the state now that he’s a declared candidate for office. (Alzate has endorsed Diossa in the race.)
“Mr. Pryor continues to negotiate deals with the very people whom he is likely to solicit campaign contributions from either presently or in the near future,” Alzate said in a statement. “In fact, he already opened an online contributions page. This presents clear ethical concerns. I want a deal for Pawtucket, and for Rhode Island, as much as anyone. But these issues cannot be treated as mere inconveniences. Mr. Pryor alone made the decision to run for office, and the decision of when to announce his candidacy for office.”
Pryor, who was named commerce secretary under former Gov. Gina Raimondo and stayed on under McKee, touted the Commerce Department’s various programs created during his tenure to spur economic development.
“Working together with public sector, private sector, and labor leaders over these seven and a half years, we have established new small business loan and grant programs to support our small business
community – whether in better times or challenging times,” Pryor said. “We have crafted and deployed investment tools to bring construction cranes to our skies, to grow businesses in our state and create jobs for Rhode Islanders, and to foster the entrepreneurs whose innovations will help produce the jobs of tomorrow.”
McKee’s office said an announcement about Pryor’s replacement would be made by Tuesday.
While Pryor is in McKee’s cabinet, the governor had already endorsed Diossa for treasurer when Pryor announced his bid for the office.
Also running for treasurer as a Republican is James Lathrop, the town finance director in North Kingstown.
Ted Nesi contributed to this report.