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EXCLUSIVE: MEMO by CVS’ Foulkes and Other Members Unveiled EDC in Chaos

Thursday, November 05, 2015


Helena Foulkes, VP at CVS and former RIEDC Board member

In March of 2012, just before the collapse of 38 Studios, top CVS executive Helena Foulkes and two other members of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation (RIEDC) board sent a scathing private memo to then-Governor Lincoln Chafee regarding his management, the lack of progress of job creation initiatives, and alleged interference and incompetence by the Governor’s closest allies.

The memo was secured by GoLocal through an Access to Public Records Act (APRA) request to Governor Gina Raimondo’s office, and discloses that Foulkes and fellow RIEDC Board members Jack Templin of Betaspring and Cheryl Snead of Banneker Industries were deeply concerned about the failure of leadership and interference in the Department. This document has never released to the public previously.

“We suggest that Jonathan Stevens be redirected from his role of “advisor” as the dynamic he is creating, from our experience, is one of extreme mistrust and overwhelming bureaucracy,” said Foulkes in the memo. “It appears to us that no decisions are being made as the staff is unclear about whether Jonathan or Keith (Stokes, the Executive Director) is in fact in control.”

Foulkes is currently Executive Vice President of CVS Health and President of CVS/pharmacy, and in her role at CVS has “responsibility for all aspects of the company’s retail business including its more than 7,800 retail stores, 18 distribution centers and e-commerce sites, as well as merchandising, supply chain, marketing, real estate, front store and pharmacy operations,” according to her CVS bio.  Foulkes in 2014 was named one of the powerful women by Fortune magazine.


Delays in Job Creation

The Foulkes memo blasted Chafee and his administration for failure to implement programs to improve Rhode Island’s woeful job situation. The memo outlines a series of programs stalled by the Chafee administration due to petty politics, incompetence or procrastination. The trio of board members pressed Chafee to move forward with the Jobs Plan. Foulkes wrote, “Since January the process has been stuck in the mud. The people issues mentioned above have stymied all work on the initiatives. The staff is wordsmithing and revising based on Jonathan Stevens’ feedback, but we need action.”

Then-Governor Lincoln Chafee under fire in the Foulkes Memo

Urban Initiatives

In addition, the three RIEDC Board members were highly critical of the implementation and leadership of the Urban Initiative being developed by EDC. “We also suggest that you consider removing Doris De Los Santos from the role she is playing on the Urban Initiative. While she is a terrific person, it is our thought that she does not have the capabilities to succeed. We ask that you instead allow the staff at the EDC to execute the Urban Plan.”

Later in the memo, the failure to initiate the Urban Initiative was further addressed. “The Urban Initiative has been stuck since early 2011. There is no clarity of this objectives, outcomes, key deliverables, timeline and owner. Without clarity, the teams will continue to make no progress.”

At the time of the memo, Rhode Island unemployment was 10.7% and the U.S. rate was 8.2%.


38 Studios 

The Foulkes memo was sent to Chafee just two months before the collapse of 38 Studios, but the document that outlines more than 20 issues of concern makes no mention of the funding, management or oversight of the 38 Studios loan guarantee. As GoLocal first reported in May of 2012, the EDC Board never reviewed the 38 Studios loan guarantee.  

Curt Schilling’s faltering video game company was rarely mentioned—let alone discussed—during Economic Development Corporation (EDC) board meetings in the 19 months after signing a lease to move into downtown Providence, a review of board meeting minutes dating back to September 2010 shows.

The board and its subcommittees held 63 meetings between September 27, 2010 and last month, but 38 Studios was referenced on only a handful of occasions during that time span and the company’s financial health was never talked about.

In July 2010, the EDC’s board voted 8-1 to award Schilling’s company a $75 million loan guarantee to move his gaming company from Massachusetts to the Ocean State. Schilling pledged to create 450 direct jobs and another 1,113 indirect jobs by 2013.


Foulkes RIEDC Memo to Chafee

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It is unknown who has written notes on the document

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