PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello has ordered an audit of funds that state lawmakers directed to former House Finance Committee Chairman Ray Gallison’s nonprofit amid growing concerns about the organization.
Gallison is the executive director of the nonprofit, Alternative Educational Programming Inc. (AEP), and controls its accounting books, documents show. The group has received millions in taxpayer-funded community-service grants over the years, and in the wake of Gallison’s sudden resignation last week, former employees and board members have been raising doubts about its management.
Larry Berman, a spokesman for Mattiello, told WPRI.com on Monday that the speaker is ordering Auditor General Dennis Hoyle’s office to audit how the money provided to AEP was spent. The exact scope of the audit has not been determined, but Berman said Mattiello wants it to cover enough years to stretch back before the 2014 passing of AEP founder Leo DiMaio, who had been Gallison’s boss.
“We’re confident that he will do outstanding work on this,” Berman said of Hoyle. “He’ll go back over several years – whatever he feels is appropriate.”
Asked when the audit will be completed, Hoyle said in an email: “Too early to tell at this point how long it will take since we are just getting started.” Hoyle is appointed by the Joint Committee on Legislative Services, a panel that oversees the Assembly budget and is controlled by House leadership.
Hoyle’s audits have made headlines in the past: his 2012 report on the nonprofit Institute of International Sport, another major recipient of legislative grants, helped lead to the indictment of the institute’s leader, Dan Doyle, after the findings were forwarded to the state police.
Also on Monday, a spokeswoman for Gov. Gina Raimondo said the governor has asked Michael DiBiase, director of the R.I. Department of Administration, to conduct a review of the process by which community-service grants are handled and to recommend what steps should be taken to improve the process.
Lawmakers have granted $2.3 million in community-service grants to AEP since 2003. An additional $1.5 million had gone to the organization over the previous seven years in its prior incarnation through the University of Rhode Island, according to Berman.
The audit of AEP ordered by Mattiello is the second one announced in recent days. The R.I. Department of Labor and Training said Thursday it will audit about $77,000 in job-training funds given over the last year to Man Up, a second nonprofit affiliated with AEP.
Rhode Island Commissioner of Postsecondary Education Jim Purcell separately said state officials had a discussion on Friday about the possibility of doing an executive-branch audit of AEP, but the “unresolved question” was which agency should carry it out. Lawmakers granted money to AEP through Purcell’s office.
Berman noted that Mattiello has also asked the House Finance Committee to hold hearings on all community-service grant recipients and to obtain information from all grantees. Those hearings are expected to start soon, he said.
“Speaker Mattiello will review all the information following the hearings, and it is possible that other grants will be sent to the Auditor General as well,” Berman said.
Gallison resigned from his General Assembly seat last week as he faces an ongoing federal and state investigation that involves allegations of prostitution, though sources say its scope is wider than that.
It’s unclear if AEP is any way connected to the investigation of Gallison. The Bristol Democrat, 64, declined comment when questioned by Target 12 on Tuesday. His attorney said he couldn’t discuss the case in any detail.
Mary Ellen DiMaio, the daughter of AEP’s founder, said it had been “very upsetting” to see the headlines over the past week tarnishing the reputation of her father’s organization. She said Gallison and her father were never personally close, and she was “still searching for the word for all this – what he did to us, to his family.”
Asked whether she was surprised to learn Gallison had controlled the group’s books after her father’s death, she paused, then said: “You know, I always wondered what happened to the program. But it wasn’t on my watch.”Ted Nesi (email@example.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He hosts Executive Suite and writes The Saturday Morning Post. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and InstagramTim White contributed to this report.