PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Providence Ethics Commission voted to open an investigation Wednesday night into “allegations of misconduct,” but is so far declining to publicly name the person or people being investigated.
After discussing the allegations in executive session, the commission’s members voted to authorize the city solicitor to investigate the allegations “regarding a city employee, a former city employee, or a city elected official.”
The commission did not receive a complaint that prompted the investigation, according to chairman Andrew Kanter.
Commission member Nick Inglis said the discussion was instead prompted by a Target 12 report, though he declined to name which story brought about the investigation.
According to the commission’s own annual reports, the new investigation represents the first time the panel, which has conducted very few probes and has never issued an advisory opinion, has initiated its own investigation rather than one stemming from a complaint.
“It’s great to see that the Providence Ethics Commission has initiated an investigation into a potential violation of the city’s code of ethics,” said John Marion, the executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island. “That commission has not received many complaints over the years and the City needs a vigorous ethical watchdog.”
The commission didn’t even have members until 2015, nine years after it was created during Mayor David Cicilline’s administration. Mayor Jorge Elorza and the Providence City Council each appointed members at the time, and then-Council President Luis Aponte promised the ethics commission would not be a “toothless tiger.”
The very first complaint ever filed with the city commission was against Aponte, though it was dismissed because the commission did not find a “knowing and willful” violation of the city’s ethics code. The state’s ethics commission, however, found Aponte violated the state ethics code and he agreed to pay a $1,500 fine.
The city ethics commission also investigated a complaint in 2018 against a building official named David Rodio who later resigned. The complaint was dismissed after the investigation found his actions would have justified discipline or firing, but were not a violation of the city ethics code.
It’s unclear exactly when the subjects of the new investigation will be made public. According to the commission’s own regulations, complaints are considered public record, which includes the name of the official being accused of misconduct.
In this case, the commission is investigating a matter without a complaint. Kanter declined to comment on when the names of the person or people currently being investigated will be released.
Dan McGowan contributed to this report.