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New round of grand jury subpoenas issued in Mattiello audit probe

Target 12

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Another round of subpoenas has been issued in the ongoing grand jury probe examining why House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello ordered an unauthorized audit of the R.I. Convention Center.

James McCarvill, executive director of the quasi-public Convention Center Authority, confirmed Tuesday three board members have received subpoenas, including Patrick Butler and the board’s chairman Bernie Buonnano.

McCarvill also said board member and longtime labor leader George Nee has been notified that he will receive the order to testify.

The latest round of subpoenas raises the number of witnesses called before the statewide grand jury to at least 12 people, and reinforces that the investigation remains active. Prosecutors are examining whether Mattiello retaliated against Convention Center leaders because he was upset about a personnel investigation there targeting his friend, James Demers, their security chief.

Andrew Annaldo, a $2,000-a-month State House lobbyist for private Convention Center operator ASM Global, told Target 12 he could not discuss whether he has received a subpoena. Pressed on the issue, Annaldo insisted he could not comment because of his lobbying work.

Among those who have already testified are McCarvill, board member Paul McDonald and Convention Center General Manager Larry Lepore.

Two members of Mattiello’s inner circle – chief of staff Leo Skenyon and Joint Committee on Legislative Services executive director Frank Montanaro Jr. – appeared late last month at Kent County courthouse in Warwick, where the grand jury meets. As of Tuesday evening, Mattiello had not received a subpoena related to the investigation, according to a spokesperson.

The controversy started in January when Target 12 first revealed that Mattiello had ordered an unusual audit of the Convention Center at the same time that Demers and another executive were caught up in a personnel matter there.

The audit, which Mattiello has since canceled, raised questions about whether the speaker abused his power to retaliate against the facility for its treatment of Demers.

A spokesperson for Attorney General Peter Neronha has declined to confirm or deny the grand jury probe.

The subpoena to Butler was first reported by the website GoLocalProv.

Mattiello has denied the audit was retaliatory, and insisted he only wanted to have a review of potential financial improprieties flagged by Demers. Mattiello previous told The Providence Journal that Demers supplied him with a list of those issues.

Mattiello has refused to share the list of alleged problems given to him by Demers. The speaker’s office has also denied WPRI 12’s request for a copy of the list, saying it is exempt from disclosure under the state’s Access to Public Records Act.

Demers and the other executive involved in the personnel investigation, Amanda Marzullo Wilmouth, have both since left the Convention Center, according to ASM Global. They had previously been on administrative leave for several weeks.

Tim White (twhite@wpri.com) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook

Eli Sherman (esherman@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter for WPRI 12. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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