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State police interviewed Mattiello’s chief of staff

Politics

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s powerful chief of staff, Leo Skenyon, was interviewed by Rhode Island State Police investigators last fall as they probed the top lawmaker’s 2016 campaign.

Skenyon’s interview with law enforcement on Oct. 15 was revealed in a court filing in the case of Jeff Britt, a former Mattiello operative. Britt, who was indicted two days after Skenyon was interviewed, is accused of breaking the law while coordinating a pro-Mattiello mailer to help the speaker squeak out his narrow win that year.

The document also shows prosecutors plan to call a long list of political figures to testify in Britt’s trial, including Mattiello himself.

Mattiello’s State House spokesperson, Larry Berman, directed questions about the matter to Patti Doyle, a spokesperson for Mattiello’s campaign.

“Leo voluntarily met with the R.I. State Police on Oct. 15, 2019, to discuss the 2016 campaign,” Doyle said in a text message.

Skenyon was accompanied to the interview by former R.I. Democratic Party Chairman Bill Lynch, serving as his personal counsel, Doyle said. “I should underscore that there is no further representation,” she said. “He simply accompanied Leo to that meeting.”

Skenyon, a longtime Rhode Island political operative, has been Mattiello’s chief of staff since the Cranston Democrat succeeded Gordon Fox in 2014. He currently earns a taxpayer-funded salary of about $190,000 as chief of staff, according to the state transparency portal, but is also closely involved in the speaker’s political activities.

Britt has pleaded not guilty. The court document referencing Skenyon was first reported by The Boston Globe. A hearing in the case that had been scheduled for Tuesday was moved to March 10, a court spokesperson said.

The 28-page document, filed by prosecutors last month, suggested the Britt investigation went into high gear last summer, months after the case was referred to the attorney general’s office by the Board of Elections during the closing months of Peter Kilmartin’s tenure. A grand jury heard relevant evidence between Aug. 28 and Oct. 18, the document says.

In addition to Skenyon, others interviewed by the state police last fall included Matthew Jerzyk, another prominent operative who worked for Mattiello; Shawna Lawton, the former Republican candidate who endorsed Mattiello in the illegal mailer; and Teresa Graham, who was allegedly used by Britt to launder $1,000 that helped fund the Lawton mailer.

Skenyon, Jerzyk, Lawton, Graham are all on prosecutors’ potential witness list along with Mattiello, among others.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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