PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Gov. Gina Raimondo weighed in Monday on the controversy surrounding an audit ordered by House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, saying it’s clear her fellow Democrat broke the rules.
Raimondo has said relatively little about the so-called performance audit ordered by Mattiello last month, which came at the same time his friend and Convention Center employee James Demers and a second employee, Amanda Marzullo Wilmouth, were ensnared in a personnel issue.
But the second-term governor spoke out in comments to reporters Monday.
“It’s clear that he didn’t follow the rules. The rules are there to be followed. He went out of his way to order an audit without following the rules. That’s a problem,” Raimondo said. “If he did anything criminal, we’ll let the state police figure that out.”
Mattiello, who ordered the unusual audit under the auspices of the Joint Committee on Legislative Services, has since canceled the probe amid public pushback. Target 12 first reported the audit nearly two weeks ago.
In response to Raimondo’s comments Monday, Mattiello called on the governor to take action.
“Given the high level [of] taxpayer investment, I continue to believe a performance audit is warranted for the Rhode Island Convention Center,” Mattiello said in a statement. “I ask the governor to facilitate such a review with an independent firm.”
House Minority Leader Blake Filippi last week filed a lawsuit challenging Mattiello’s authority over the JCLS — the Joint Committee on Legislative Services, the Assembly’s administrative arm — and on Friday the R.I. Convention Center Authority board asked the state police to investigate whether any laws were broken in the process or Mattiello ordering the original audit.
State Police Col. James Manni on Monday confirmed he received the Convention Center’s request, but declined to comment further.
“I have complete confidence in Colonel Manni and he’ll get to the bottom of anything if there is anything there,” Raimondo said, adding she had not yet discussed the issue with him.
Mattiello’s critics have accused him of ordering the audit in retaliation for how Demers was treated at the Convention Center. But the speaker has adamantly rejected the claim and instead said it was based on troubling information he received about the facility’s finances.
“The timing is unfortunate, and I regret that,” he said during a WPRO radio interview last week. “I understand the way things look, but the important issue that we need to look at is if the audit is necessary.”
Raimondo pointed out the R.I. Department of Administration audits the Convention Center every five years and the facility is scheduled for a new one this year.
Asked about the board’s call for a state police investigation, Raimondo said she understood the frustration of the Convention Center executives.
“They’re upset,” she said. “I understand that. I don’t blame them, so we have to get to the bottom of it.”
Ted Nesi, Steph Machado and Kim Kalunian contributed to this story.