PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Dan McKee didn’t say much Thursday night when asked about the concerning email alleging inappropriate behavior by top state officials on a business trip earlier this year.
“We know it’s under investigation, we know there are reasons for that, and we also know there’s reason not to comment further,” McKee told 12 News.
The email — provided to Target 12 on Thursday after the attorney general ordered the governor to release it — reveals a bizarre pattern of behavior by two Rhode Island state officials towards two Scout employees during a day-trip to Philadelphia.
Scout was selected by the state to redevelop the Cranston Street Armory under former Gov. Gina Raimondo and was trying to convince McKee’s administration to fund the project.
Target 12 first reported in April that two Scout officials — Lindsey Scannapieco and her colleague Everett Abitbol — were so upset that they documented the two officials’ conduct in an email shared with state officials, alleging “bizarre, offensive” behavior that was “blatantly sexist, racist and unprofessional.”
The McKee administration fought for months to keep the email secret, but lost the battle on Wednesday when R.I. Attorney General Peter Neronha ruled in favor of Target 12 and The Providence Journal in an open-records complaint seeking the message.
The email reveals that R.I. Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance director David Patten requested coffee, croissants, Diet Coke and beer from Scout managing partner Lindsey Scannapieco.
“You have three hours to convince us to give you $55M,” Patten wrote in a text message to Scannapieco.
Patten also reportedly asked Scannapieco where her husband was.
“If I knew your husband wasn’t going to be here, I would have come last night,” she reported Patten telling her.
R.I. Department of Administration director Jim Thorsen is accused of enabling Patten’s concerning behavior on the business trip.
“Thorsen allowed this behavior to continue to happen, even after we pulled him aside to make note that this needed to stop,” Scout’s leaders wrote in the email. “We are not sure if this was intended try to force our hand to walk away from the project — but we are disgusted and shocked by these actions.”
McKee refused to speak publicly about the allegations until the investigation is completed.
“Ongoing investigations are ongoing investigations and I think it’s important that we keep it that way,” the governor said Thursday night.
McKee stopped short of condemning the alleged behavior, and indicated he has opted not to apologize to Scout at this time.
“When [the investigation] wraps up, then we will be public about it,” he said. “But until then, I won’t have any further comments about the issue.”
Scout’s plan for the Armory is expected to cost $57 million and includes an indoor soccer complex, offices and a business incubator. McKee declined to request funding for the project in the budget and none was included in the revised budget bill passed last week by House lawmakers.
When asked for his thoughts on the project, McKee said the state will “make a determination based on the merit of the investment.”
“We have a third party that is doing a complete look at the viability of that project, and the decision will be made based on whether the investment’s a good one for the taxpayers,” McKee said.
“We’re going to wait until we see the report that I have asked for to make sure that the representations of it being a good investment are actually true,” he continued. “If they are, we move forward, and if not we take another look at what we need to do with the facility.”
As for the allegations, Patten’s attorney attributed his client’s behavior to “a mental health event characterized by health professionals as an acute stress event that built up over time.”
The state police investigation into the allegations is expected to be completed within the next few weeks.
Tim White, Ted Nesi and Eli Sherman contributed to this report.