Rhode Island Gov ignores FOIA requests over cozy contract

Rhode Island Gov ignores FOIA requests over cozy contract

Last time we checked in on Democratic Governor Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island, she seemed to be in a bit of hot water. Thanks to some detailed investigative work by the Providence Journal, we learned of a plan where the Governor was awarding a 20-year contract to handle the state’s lottery system to IGT, the company that already ran the project. The problem was that the company’s performance had been seen as sub-par and they were getting this massive extension on a no-bid basis. Further, their former CEO was now a lobbyist with deep ties to the Governor herself.

It all stunk to high heaven and an ethics probe was begun. Meanwhile, journalists began filing FOIA requests to get all of the details as to how this sweet deal for IGT came about. Well, the clock has run out and the Governor has decided to simply not provide most of the requested documents. (Vally Breeze)

God bless The Providence Journal! The newspaper propounded an open records request to Gov. Gina Raimondo seeking “all communications to and from IGT and the governor’s staff – and their consultants – since January 2019…that relate to the proposed extension of the IGT contract.” (Providence Journal September 2, 2019).

At least 400 documents were withheld concerning the $1 billion, no bid 20-year contract. What was turned over on the last day the law allowed the state to respond were innocuous calendar entries and emails. Any meaty documents were withheld on spurious grounds such as records generated during the deliberative process.

That’s a fascinating strategy. Governor Raimondo is claiming that she doesn’t have to turn over any emails with IGT or other related documents if they were “generated during the deliberative process.” So she only handed over a few calendar entries and barely related communications. The problem is, there is no language in the state’s Access to Public Records Act allowing for such exceptions. She’s not allowed to refuse if the documents relate to public business, but she’s just shutting them down cold.

The Providence Journal has filed a separate appeal to Attorney General Peter Neronha, hoping that he can step in and enforce the law. Unfortunately, there’s no assurance that the effort will go anywhere. Neronha was an early endorser and supporter of the Governor, putting them on the same team. Prosecutorial discretion may rear its ugly head here yet again.

Meanwhile, the Journal did manage to extract some information about IGT and its operations in other states where they have similar contracts. In at least one of those offices they fell short of a guaranteed profit to the state and were forced to compensate them to the tune of nearly twenty million dollars. The sweetheart deal in Rhode Island contains no such assurance that they would repay losses. Other complaints have been raised to the point where it seems obvious that someone else could have had a shot at this contract and probably put in a competitive bid if it had been allowed.

Meanwhile, the Governor continues a pattern of denial and obfuscation. How much longer can this scandal drag out?

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David Strom 8:41 PM on March 20, 2023