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RI agency chief facing whistleblower lawsuit resigns

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Office of Healthy Aging Director Rose Amoros Jones. (Courtesy/Capitol Television)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The head of a Rhode Island state agency facing an unusual whistleblower and defamation lawsuit is resigning from state government, telling the governor she’s leaving to spend more time with her family.

Rose Amoros Jones, director of the R.I. Office of Healthy Aging, submitted a letter of resignation to Gov. Dan McKee on Thursday, notifying him that she plans to resign on July 2. In the letter, Jones described the past eight years working in state government as an “honor of a lifetime.”

“I am especially proud to have had the opportunity to lead OHA and to serve alongside an amazing staff team and network of partners,” wrote Jones, who’s served in the position since 2019. “Together, we ushered in a new era of performance and focus at the agency — one that saw the renaming of our organization and an associated shift in the narrative and priority placed on aging in Rhode Island.”

The resignation marks a sharp turn from less than a month ago when Jones was high on McKee’s list of potential picks to lead the R.I. Department of Human Services, one of the state’s largest agencies with a $635 million budget and nearly 1,000 employees. “We like Rose,” McKee told 12 News at the time.

But McKee changed his mind after Target 12 first reported that Jones had been sued by her former financial management administrator, Kathleen McNamara, who accused Jones of unlawfully firing and defaming her. The issue stemmed from a dispute in 2020 involving McNamara’s refusal to make what she claims were “improper and illegal” personnel and financial decisions.

“That whole process is a mess,” McKee said about the lawsuit during a State House news conference after the story came out. “You don’t need to add more drama to the situation, which is what it would be. I mean, if you did move ahead, I think some headlines would be questioning that, right? So, we don’t need that right now.”

On Friday, McKee spokesperson Andrea Palagi said an interim director for the Office of Healthy Aging would be announced ahead of Jones’ departure on July 2.

“OHA has a critical mission and it is a priority for the administration to find a candidate that can lead efforts to empower older Rhode Islanders and adults living with disabilities to age strong and connect them with vital information and resources in the community,” Palagi said. “We thank Director Jones for her service to the state and wish her the best in her next chapter.”

In her resignation letter, Jones highlighted her work during the coronavirus pandemic, saying the Office of Health Aging made “needed investments, connected families to vital supplies and services, created opportunity, and advanced efforts to stamp out the ageist and ableist views that marginalize” older adults. She also told McKee she was grateful to have served on his team.

“The pandemic, and its many ripple effects, took a heavy toll on our families, including mine,” she wrote. “I am looking forward as I step away from state service, to spend more time with my family, deepening my community involvement, and furthering efforts to promote a more equitable, healthy, and resilient Rhode Island.”

Eli Sherman (esherman@wpri.com) is an investigative reporter for WPRI 12. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram

Tim White contributed to this story.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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