Target 12

Detective: Solomon 'should've known better' regarding dealership violations

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — The Motor Vehicle Dealers' License and Hearing Board voted Wednesday to warn board member Warwick Mayor Joseph Solomon following a handful of potential violations tied to his dealership.

But Rhode Island State Police Detective William Riley, who is assigned to the DMV and investigated the "telephone call" complaint about Solomon's Legal Motors, admonished the board and the mayor, saying as a board member, Solomon "should've known better."

"He should be held to higher standard," Riley said. "He knows the rules and regulations." 

Board Chairman James Bolvin agreed but also said the board has issued warnings to other dealerships for similar infractions, which in Solomon's case included not having a sign on the West Shore Road building and the hours the business was open.

As far as not responding to a request last week from Gov. Gina Raimondo's office to resign from the board "to avoid the appearance of impropriety," Solomon seemed to split a bureaucratic hair.

"I received a request from [Raimondo's Chief of Staff] Brett Smiley," Solomon said. "I didn't vote for [Smiley for] governor. It was his opinion [that I resign]. I did not respond."

Solomon was appointed by Raimondo in 2015 to fill the board's unpaid attorney position.

The business hour issue was blamed on what Solomon's attorney referred to as the "emergency" of unexpectedly taking over as mayor last spring after former Mayor Scott Avedesian stepped down to become RIPTA's CEO.

Solomon, who recused himself from the portion of the hearing that dealt with his Legal Motors, said he respects Detective Riley's opinion but shook his head when asked if he should've known better.

"I didn't do anything wrong," Solomon said.

Earlier this month, he refused a DMV request to surrender his license and all six of his dealer plates after the agency found that he appeared to be out of business.

The case began with a March 6 site visit that investigators said uncovered the sign and business hours infractions, along with two more potential violations.

Investigators said two non-employees were on Legal Motors' list of people who could buy or sell vehicles at auction, and a fourth potential infraction involved a landscaping business sign on the building.

Solomon said the dealership sign came off the building during a storm and has since been replaced.

Solomon's attorney said the landscaping sign belonged to a company that was using an adjacent property. The non-employees on the auction list were said to be an oversight, with neither one ever buying or selling vehicles for Legal Motors, according to Solomon.

The board's warning covered the dealership sign issue and the non-employees on the auction list.

Solomon said he is satisfied with the board's decision and plans on keeping Legal Motors in open.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.


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