PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – New details continue to emerge about Republican gubernatorial nominee Ashley Kalus’s history of legal disputes across several states, as the political newcomer battles Democratic incumbent Dan McKee ahead of the Nov. 8 election.
Documents show Kalus — who moved to Rhode Island last year — has been party to a lawsuit in Illinois, a legal battle in Florida and ongoing mediation with the R.I. Department of Health over contracts that brought her to the state.
Last week, Target 12 obtained a 2019 police report in which a woman accused Kalus of pushing and kicking her during an altercation inside the office building where Kalus and her husband operated their plastic surgery practice.
According to the Chicago Police Department, the woman was pregnant at the time, and claimed Kalus “immediately began verbally insulting her and demanding she leave the premise” when she entered the office to discuss a suspected water leak.
Kalus then “approached her, while she was in the doorway of the offender’s unit, pushed her left shoulder and then kicked her in the shin,” the woman told police.
However, police wrote that the woman didn’t seek medical treatment and had no visible injuries. She also didn’t press charges and police suspended the investigation.
Chicago Police confirmed the authenticity of the police report. The alleged victim declined to comment on the matter when contacted by Target 12.
Asked about the report’s contents, the Kalus campaign insisted the woman lied to police.
“The report filed was entirely false and completely fabricated,” said Matt Hanrahan, a spokesperson for Kalus. “The incident never happened, period. The report came from an unreliable source. Anyone can file a police report, regardless of whether the claim has merit. Ashley was never contacted by the police regarding the alleged incident.”
Hanrahan also blamed the fact that the report has now surfaced on politics, arguing it’s “a desperate attempt to smear Ashley.”
“WPRI’s inquiry was the first time she heard of this,” Hanrahan said. “If she had been interviewed by the police, that report would exist, but it does not. If a pregnant woman was shoved and kicked and the police didn’t interview the alleged attacker – that should indicate just how dubious this claim was.”
A witness who was interviewed by police could not be reached for comment.
The Kalus campaign suggested she could have proven the woman filed a false report if detectives had contacted her at the time because “the building had cameras throughout.” But her husband’s practice did not keep surveillance video, Hanrahan said.
“We understand that politics is a dirty game – but the record shows that this woman made an unsubstantiated claim which warranted no follow-up from Chicago PD,” he said.
The Kalus campaign also provided contact information for Randy Vickery, a Chicago lawyer who told Target 12 he was hired by the tenants association to mediate disagreements in the building where the alleged incident happened.
Vickery acknowledged he wasn’t hired until 2020, a year after the police report was filed. But he said the woman’s accusations weren’t consistent with his understanding of Kalus’s character.
“What is written in the report is not the Ashley Kalus that I know,” Vickery said. “Ashley Kalus wouldn’t do the things that are described there. And I think that the fact that Ashley wasn’t even questioned about these things pretty much explains it.”
Vickery confirmed he continues to do some legal work for Kalus and her husband, but he said they share no business interests otherwise and described their relationship as solely a professional one.
‘Company is broke … End of friendship’
The police report isn’t the only newly surfaced evidence of conflict involving Kalus in Illinois.
Kelley Folino, who worked with Kalus when the pair were employed by then-Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, claims her former colleague aggressively recruited her in 2017 to join a startup company founded by her and her husband, Adhereon Corp., which specialized in a treatment for scars, including those caused by breast implant surgery.
According to court documents, Folino said Kalus offered her a nearly 27% stake in the company, along with a $125,000 per year salary. But Folino claims she wasn’t paid as promised and by 2018 the company started running into serious money problems.
The documents quote an email Kalus sent to Folino, saying: “The company is in worse shape than expected. Reality is that we can’t pay salaries nor are we in a position to personally loan the company any more money.”
Folino said the relationship soon soured, as Kalus “stormed out” of a breakfast meeting after being reminded that Folino was entitled to her earned equity and salary, according to court documents. The complaint shows Ashley later texted Folino: “Company is broke. End of story. End of company. End of friendship.”
When asked about Folino’s lawsuit, which was first reported by The Providence Journal, Hanrahan called it “meritless.”
“This case has been dismissed twice previously, and a motion to dismiss will be filed shortly to again knock out the plaintiff’s recently filed amended complaint,” Hanrahan said.
Kalus listed herself as CEO of Adhereon in her 2021 financial disclosure forms filed with the R.I. Ethics Commission. The Illinois lawsuit remains ongoing and is currently scheduled for a status hearing on Nov. 7, a day before Election Day in Rhode Island.
Kalus was also involved in a lengthy legal dispute in Florida.
The Providence Journal first reported earlier this month the GOP candidate recently settled a three-year dispute over a $15,000 fine levied against her real-estate holding company – Sierra Key LLC – for allegedly violating short-term rental laws in Monroe County.
“Monroe County faces a critical affordable and workforce housing shortage, and further conversion of available local housing into vacation rentals will substantially and adversely impact this shortage,” Monroe County attorney Derek Howard and Peter Morris wrote in a 2019 court response to a legal complaint filed by Kalus and her husband’s company.
The county lawyers cited other issues tied to the short-term rental industry, including “increased noise and traffic impacts,” and they argued violating the local rules would have “serious adverse consequences that would fundamentally alter the community and economic character of the Florida Keys.”
In a statement to The Journal, the Kalus campaign called the allegations “absurd,” arguing the county was retaliating against her because she was “highlighting injustices being perpetrated by the government against working people in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.”
Court documents reviewed by Target 12 show Kalus’s company ultimately agreed to pay a reduced fine amount – $5,000 – in exchange for not renting out the disputed property for less than 28 days unless compliant with local regulations.
The Monroe County case was closed on Jan. 19, just as Kalus became embroiled in another dispute documented by police – this one in Westerly.
‘I follow the rules and law’
As Target 12 first reported in April, the relationship between Kalus and state health officials became so acrimonious in the final months of her coronavirus testing contract that they began exchanging hostile emails.
At the heart of the dispute was the fact that Health Department leaders wanted Kalus’s company, Doctors Test Centers, to vacate a Westerly testing site about two weeks before its contract officially ended, in order to make room for Med Tech, the new vendor that would be taking over the operation.
Kalus’s team said they planned to stay until their contract ended, kicking off a heated exchange. “Whistle blowers do have protection when bringing up issues of waste, fraud, and abuse,” Kalus wrote in an email dated Jan. 14. “I would suggest that you not erase your phone in preparation for litigation.”
Then police got involved, filing a report on Jan. 16 alleging Kalus’s company vacated that morning from the testing site – located inside the Westerly Police Department – and took MedTech’s “computers, printers and all the testing supplies,” according to the report.
Then-Lt. Paul Gingerella contacted Doctors Test Centers asking for the equipment back and said he received a call from the owners, including someone he believed to be Kalus and her husband.
“[The] owners both constantly talked over me and continued to ask me for a list of what was taken and who even called the police,” he said.
Kalus has defended her actions, both at the time and in response to questions throughout her gubernatorial campaign, insisting she’s proud of the work her company did for Rhode Island throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
“There was confusion, but there was nothing adversarial,” Kalus said during a 12 News debate on Oct. 11.
The dispute with the state, however, has resulted in a mediation process that was still ongoing before R.I. Superior Court Presiding Justice Alice Gibney as of earlier this month.
“The reality is that I follow the rules and law,” Kalus said during the debate.
Eli Sherman (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Target 12 investigative reporter for 12 News. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook.
Tolly Taylor (email@example.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter for 12 News. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook