PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The embattled state official at the center of a controversial taxpayer-funded business trip to Philadelphia earlier this year saw his job status change once again Tuesday even as he remains out on leave.
David Patten, director of the R.I. Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, has been on leave since March 13, three days after he and his then-boss — former R.I. Department of Administration director Jim Thorsen — took a problematic trip to a Philadelphia facility developed by Scout Ltd.
Patten’s job status has changed multiple times in the two months and 17 days since. He was initially out on paid medical leave, then transitioned to unpaid medical leave. Now, state officials confirm he’s on paid administrative leave, though they declined to comment further.
“David Patten is being placed on paid administrative leave, effective Tuesday,” DOA spokesperson Cassius Shuman said in an email. “As this is a personnel matter, we will have no further comment.”
After the Philadelphia trip, Scout staff wrote an email alleging Patten made a series of inappropriate comments that shocked the people he met over the course of the daylong visit. Scout has been leading efforts to redevelop the historic Cranston Street Armory in Providence, and the two directors were visiting a massive co-working facility they developed in Philadelphia to get a sense of what the company can do.
The Scout email alleging the bad behavior was shared with top state officials, including with Gov. Dan McKee and House Speaker Joe Shekarchi, but so far their offices have refused to make it public.
Target 12 has filed two public-records complaints with R.I. Attorney General Peter Neronha’s office requesting the denials be reversed. Those complaints remain under consideration.
State officials — including McKee — have been tight-lipped about what happened on the business trip. But records show Thorsen met with the state’s human resources division immediately after returning from the Philadelphia trip and Patten subsequently went on leave.
Despite keeping the Scout email secret, however, the governor’s office has released a seven-page memo summarizing the trip which Patten sent Thorsen dated March 12. His review was mostly glowing, which stands in sharp contrast to the allegations outlined in the Scout email, according to Target 12 interviews with six people familiar with the situation.
“We had to walk and talk fast,” Patten said, explaining they only had three hours to get through the tour. “The day was exhausting physically and mentally. However, it was the best day have [sic] experienced in my nearly one year of service to the State of Rhode Island, both on a personal and professional level.”
Thorsen, who had tendered his resignation prior to the business trip, stepped down last month to rejoin the U.S. Treasury Department.
The McKee administration has put no extra money toward the Cranston Street Armory project in its latest budget proposal.