PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The man at the center of an ongoing controversy involving House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello was called before a statewide grand jury Monday.
James Demers, a close friend of the speaker, was one of at least four people with ties to the R.I. Convention Center who was called before the grand jury at Kent County Courthouse.
The grand jury has been looking into the circumstances surrounding Mattiello’s actions in December, when he ordered an unauthorized audit of the Convention Center at the same time Demers was the focus of an internal investigation there.
The audit came under scrutiny after Target 12 first revealed it back in January. Critics have accused Mattiello of ordering the highly unusual audit in retaliation for a personnel investigation at the facility involving Demers, who worked as director of security until he separated from its management company last month.
Mattiello has denied the audit was retribution, insisting he was motivated by alleged problems at the quasi-public agency that Demers had flagged to him.
Demers and his attorney, John Manni, declined to comment after testifying for about 90 minutes.
Mattiello has refused to share the list of alleged problems given to him by Demers. The speaker’s office has also denied WPRI 12’s request for a copy of the list, saying it is exempt from disclosure under the state’s Access to Public Records Act.
In addition to Demers, Target 12 also witnessed Bernie Buonanno, George Nee and Patrick Butler also go into the room where the grand jury convenes. All three men serve on the Convention Center Authority board, which requested a Rhode Island State Police investigation into the circumstances surrounding the audit after learning the speaker’s move was not authorized by the Joint Committee on Legislative Services, the legislative leaders committee.
Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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