PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – R.I. State Police responded to the State House late Monday night after receiving a tip that documents may have been improperly removed from the offices of the embattled Joint Committee on Legislative Services, Target 12 has learned.
Troopers were at the State House for at least an hour, departing shortly before 10:30 p.m. One investigator initially went into the building, then exited and used a flashlight to inspect a green dumpster for a period of time.
Law enforcement sources tell Target 12 the visit was conducted out of an abundance of caution and there’s no indication yet that anything improper took place.
Late last week officials at JCLS — the General Assembly’s administrative arm, controlled by House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello — began telling others at the State House that mold was discovered in their office and needed to be removed, multiple sources told Target 12.
But the police response comes within a week of the R.I. Convention Center Authority board calling on state police to investigate the circumstances surrounding a controversial audit ordered by Mattiello under the auspices of the JCLS.
The audit raised eyebrows at the State House because it coincided with a personnel investigation at the Convention Center involving Mattiello’s friend James Demers, who is its director of security. Mattiello has insisted the two matters were unrelated.
But the move led House Minority Leader Blake Filippi to file a lawsuit on Thursday, accusing Mattiello of usurping the powers of JCLS for himself by failing to consult other legislative leaders before ordering the audit, as required by law.
Filippi and his lawyer, former R.I. Republican Party Chair Brandon Bell, have said they plan to continue pressing their suit despite Mattiello dropping the audit, and Bell has said he hopes to depose House leaders.
Asked about the mold situation, House spokesperson Larry Berman said, “An employee in the JCLS office discovered black mold under her desk last week, and she was moved into another office. A steam leak was determined to be the cause of the mold.”
“The JCLS office was evacuated today, the carpet was ripped out, and furniture and partitions contaminated by the mold were thrown out,” he said. “All the employees were relocated while the repair work is being undertaken. The Department of Administration, which is in charge of the building maintenance, is supervising the project and is coordinating the effort.”
A DOA spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment.
Berman said no JCLS documents were destroyed or put in the dumpster. “Just furniture, old carpet and partitions related to the reconstruction of the room,” he said.
Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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