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Governor wants attorney in bungled case ‘prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law’

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo offered more sharp criticism Thursday for state attorneys involved in a pair of botched cases, as the head of the state GOP tied the two controversies to what he called her “horrible leadership.” 

One case involves a missed appeal of a nursing home lawsuit filed against the Executive Office of Health and Human Services that could cost taxpayers some $24 million if the plaintiffs prevail.

Potential settlement negotiations among the various principals are said to be under way, with a status conference in the case scheduled for Friday. 

Another missed deadline surfaced this week involving a different state attorney who was defending the R.I. Department of Transportation in a lawsuit filed by a contractor.

According to RIDOT, an appeal is still possible in that case, and the attorney involved has been verbally reprimanded. 

Raimondo had been scheduled to be in New York City on Thursday for a meeting with a company and then a campaign fundraiser, but in the morning she said she had decided to attend only the meeting. She said the unidentified business is in the biotech industry and could create hundreds of jobs in Rhode Island.

Reacting to the legal blunders, Raimondo said the issues are “driving me crazy.”

The governor connected the two legal gaffes to other accountability issues involving state employees.

“What we have here is a longstanding problem. It isn’t anything new,” Raimondo said. “When you find these instances of mistakes and sloppiness, enough is enough. It’s not OK, and I’m going to hold every single person accountable.” 

Raimondo argued a package of legislation she proposed last year to reform state personnel policies would hae helped, but the legislation was not passed by the General Assembly. 

She described RIDOT’s attorney missing the deadline as “an honest mistake” that might not matter since the department can still appeal.

But regarding now-former EOHHS attorney Greg Hazian’s missed deadline, Raimondo offered a sharp response, referencing the attorney general’s investigation into the controversy.

“I want this person prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” she said. “What he did wasn’t right and I won’t stand for it.” 

Raimondo said she has also ordered a Department of Administration audit of the state’s attorneys, to check their credentials and identify their various responsibilities, after it was discovered Hazian and another EOHHS lawyer had been removed from the Rhode Island Supreme Court’s master list of active attorneys.

Brandon Bell, chairman of the Rhode Island Republican Party, linked the botched litigation to other problems during Raimondo’s term, pointing to UHIP and DCYF concerns.

Bell said, “Raimondo’s reign is becoming synonymous with one word: incompetence.”

He called the missed deadlines preventable.  

“The most simple thing was not done to prevent this in either case,” Bell said. “Horrible leadership and, ultimately, the governor is responsible.”

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

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