McKee selects legal team to go after those responsible for bridge failure - Warwick Beacon (2024)

STORY OF THE WEEK: “We’re leaving no stone unturned as far as accountability,” Gov. Dan McKee said last Friday, as he unveiled Max Wistow and Jonathan Savage as the lawyers who will seek money from any responsible parties for the failure of the westbound Washington Bridge.

“The combined expertise on this legal team will put the state in a strong position to build the best possible case for Rhode Island taxpayers and deliver the accountability they deserve,” McKee said. Wistow is known in part for clawing back $70 million after the failure of video game maker 38 Studios. Savage has substantial experience in construction law. The announcement comes amid an extension in the amount of time needed to complete the state’s forensic audit explaining what went wrong with the bridge. The lawyers’ findings could influence how Rhode Islanders view who is responsible for how things decayed -- Carved in Sand meets infrastructure -- even as the frustration of drivers and affected small businesses has piled up during McKee’s tenure. While Wistow declined to sketch a timeline for possible litigation, he promised a thorough review of what happened, calling it “open season” on potential targets. He also pledged to be unsparing in examining the role of public officials, despite restrictions limiting the ability of parties to sue the state. “If it turns out that he’s done something wrong,” Wistow said, referring to RIDOT Director Peter Alviti, “we’re going to report it.”

DRIVE-THRU: The outlook for Scott Avedisian’s tenure as CEO of RIPTA grew more uncertain following the release of a police report last week suggesting he may have been under the influence during a minor accident at a McDonald’s in Warwick. What’s more, the longtime former mayor is reported to have left the scene and not responded when police came to his home. During the course of the week, Gov. McKee switched his commentary from wait-and-see to supporting a special RIPTA board meeting to “review the facts,” and “follow the appropriate human resources protocol,” according to spokeswoman Laura Hart. Avedisian’s lawyer, former House speaker John Harwood, told reporters after a court appearance that he wanted to review discovery in the case before commenting, and Avedisian has declined comment.

PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS: “Uncommitted” got about 15% of the vote in Tuesday’s presidential primary in Rhode Island -- and around twice that in Providence -- as some voters used the ballot box to protest U.S. support of Israel. State Rep. Jennifer Stewart (D-Pawtucket) was among local elected officials who voted for uncommitted. “I will support President Biden in the general election, for sure,” Stewart said when asked on Political Roundtable if splintering Democratic support will help boost Donald Trump in November. “And I think that the uncommitted vote in the primary is really about sounding an alarm to Biden that this is something that is going to create further problems in the general election if it isn’t tended to by his administration.”

DELEGATE MATH: The election also included the election of delegates. For Democrats, the winners in CD1 (the top three women and top four men) were Providence Mayor Brett Smiley, state Sen. Sandra Cano, Central Falls Mayor Maria Rivera, lawyer Kristan Peters-Hamlin, Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien, Senate staffer Tom Kane, and William G. Foulkes, who is married to Helena Foulkes. State Majority Leader Ryan Pearson didn’t make the cut. In CD2, the winners (the top four women and the top three men) were Mary-Murphy Walsh, Melissa Carden, Erica Hammond, Autumn E. Guillotte and Jay G. Weigmont. All the Democratic delegates are for Joe Biden. Two more male delegates are expected to be elected during a Democratic state convention on June 9. Among Republicans in CD2, former Rep. Justin Price, who was in DC for Jan. 6, placed second.

MEDIA: Mike Reed, chairman/CEO of Gannett, owner of the ProJo and a number of other papers in southern New England, saw his compensation fall to $3.4 million in 2022, down from $7.7 million the year before. Via Dan Kennedy: “It’s also 66 times more than the median salary ($51,035) earned by Gannett employees in 2022, as Don Seiffert observes at the Boston Business Journal.”

GENERAL ASSEMBLY: Efforts to move an overhaul of the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights through the General Assembly have bogged down in the House of Representatives. A LEOBOR bill cleared the state Senate, with progressive support, early in the session. But with one week until lawmakers’ spring recess, the outlook in the House remains unclear. The RI Black, Latino, Indigenous, Asian-American and Pacific Islander Caucus recently announced four priorities needed to win the group’s support: an annual public reporting mechanism, the removal of limits on the ability of people to speak about LEOBOR cases, a summary suspension of up to 14 day without pay, and allowing LEOBOR cases to proceed concurrently with possible criminal cases.

CITY HAUL: Efforts to add more cycling infrastructure often remain an uphill fight, particularly when fallout from the Washington Bridge is cited in Providence Mayor Brett Smiley’s plan to remove the protected bike lane on South Water Street. Cycling supporters turned out to oppose the move during a meeting at City Hall this week, and they say eliminating the lane will not improve mobility for motorists dealing with the bridge.

BASEBALL: Larry Lucchino, who died last week at age 78, leaves a rich baseball legacy, as someone who supported the rise of retro ballparks like Camden Yards in Baltimore, the preservation of Fenway Park, and most notably, was part the ownership that helped end an 86-year World Series drought for the Red Sox. When I wrote in 2005 about how The New York Times (at the time) had an ownership stake in the Red Sox and The Boston Globe, a request for an interview with Lucchino was declined, and instead I got the voluble Charles Steinberg. But by the time when Lucchino became part of the ownership of the PawSox, and the team was pushing for a new home in Providence in 2015, Lucchino was front and center in the efforts. He made for a good interview and was gracious, even as the proposal for a new stadium faced tough sledding in the aftermath of 38 Studios and a cold shoulder from top state officials. Lucchino’s legacy includes relocating the Sox’ AAA team to Worcester and profiting from the sale of the team. Minor league ballparks are nice amenities, even if they are not to be confused for engines of economic development, so the loss of the PawSox still stings.

ON THE MOVE: Jesus Solorio announced this week he’s leaving his role as executive director of the Rhode Island GOP to launch Homan Street Strategies, a digital and fundraising consulting firm centered on supporting conservative candidates. Solorio said his move is unrelated to changes at the RNC, where Donald Trump has put his own people in place, and that he will continue to work with RI GOP Chairman Joe Powers on fundraising.

KICKER: A smart reader/listener noted an aphorism attributed to Mark Twain (history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes) in sharing an archival piece from Vanity Fair from 1990 that highlights many familiar tropes from Donald Trump.

McKee selects legal team to go after those responsible for bridge failure - Warwick Beacon (2024)
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