NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — The North Kingstown Town Council voted Monday to have a judge take a closer look at the open investigations into a former boys basketball coach accused of having inappropriate interactions with former underage students.
In a 3-2 vote, councilors opted to hire retired Superior Court Justice Susan McGuirl to review the ongoing investigations into former North Kingstown High School coach Aaron Thomas and forgo conducting their own independent one.
Thomas, who is accused of making some athletes strip behind closed doors, was placed on administrative leave from his new job at a middle school in a neighboring town after the attorney general’s office began investigating his behavior as a coach.
Target 12 verified that the investigation into Thomas is focused on skinfold caliper tests of body fat, or fat tests as the students called them.
Outraged parents have repeatedly called for North Kingstown Superintendent Phil Auger to resign, claiming his inaction allowed Thomas to continue having inappropriate contact with their children.
Auger continues to defend his actions, claiming he placed Thomas on leave immediately after hearing from a former student about being inappropriately touched during the tests.
During Monday night’s meeting, Councilor Mary Brimer said Auger should at least be placed on leave “at minimum.”
Both Brimer and Councilor Kerry McKay voted against having McGuirl review the investigations, arguing it should be conducted out of state.
“This needs to be handled as far from the state of Rhode Island as humanly possible,” McKay said. “I don’t think anybody at the firms that are represented here can step aside from all the other political discourse that takes place in our state and I think that’s a mistake. You’re making a mistake.”
North Kingstown parent Kim Lanoway told the councilors she thinks having someone review other investigations is “a waste of money” and that they should be the ones looking at them.
“It seems as though you are a group of intelligent people that could review the investigations yourself,” Lanoway said.
But Town Council President Greg Mancini believes another investigation would do more harm than good to the victims who have come forward.
“Those individuals could inadvertently change their story and could also not want to be interviewed,” he explained.
The North Kingstown Town Council set a budget of no more than $25,000 for the independent review, and vowed to make the process as open and transparent as possible.
A timeline for the review hasn’t been announced, so it’s unclear at this time when it will be completed.