WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — A partner in the accounting firm hired by the Warwick City Council to examine a number of fire department-related issues was the campaign treasurer for Councilman Steven Merolla at the time of the vote, and the firm does accounting work for his law firm.
Merolla denied there is any sort of conflict of interest or favoritism involved.
“This allegation of a conflict of interest is patently absurd and is nothing more than a diversionary tactic designed to divert attention from the real issue which is the investigation into the fire department,” Merolla said.
Thomas Lisi was Merolla’s treasurer since 2003, according to state campaign finance documents. He was replaced in January.
Lisi’s LinkedIn page indicates he was a partner with YKSM, LTD when Merolla and other council members voted last February to hire the company for “CPA Consulting Services.”
City records show the city received three bids for the contract. The other two bids came from Parmalee, Poirier & Associates and Marcum, LLP.
Marcum and YKSM have since merged and the company website states Lisi is currently the firm’s office managing partner.
The Providence company has been paid $60,000 since last February and on Monday night, the city council voted in favor of allotting another $165,000 to pay Marcum for what was said to be an audit and an ongoing investigation of a number of fire department issues.
Merolla, who is now council president, said Lisi volunteered as his campaign treasurer.
The Warwick Democrat added he “pretty much [does] all the work [himself] and Tom looks over it.”
Merolla said Marcum, and previously YKSM, have also done some accounting work for his law practice.
“The fact that one of the members of the firm was the treasurer of my campaign in his individual capacity does not present any conflict of interest whatsoever,” Merolla said. “I have absolutely no financial interest in the accounting firm and I derive no financial benefit from the fact that the firm was unanimously selected by the Warwick City Council to perform the job and is doing it.”
Lisi has not responded to a request for comment on whether or not the relationship represents a conflict of interest.
Warwick Mayor Joseph Solomon, who was council president at the time of last year’s vote to hire the company, received a $250 campaign contribution from Lisi in 2013.
Solomon has not responded to a request for comment on whether Merolla should’ve recused himself from the vote or acknowledged his relationship with Lisi and the firm.