Frank Williams Appointed Mediator in 38 Studios Lawsuit
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Williams told GoLocalProv this afternoon that he was appointed as the mediator in the case by Rhode Island Superior Court Judge Michael A. Silverstein in an attempt to settle the dispute between the State of Rhode Island as well as the mediator between the state and the defendants in the 38 Studio's lawsuit case.
Williams was widely credited for his efforts to settle the lawsuit between the state and the public sector unions who filed suit against the state for changing their pension benefits.
Williams said it will be a different challenge, but feels optimistic that he can make progress toward settling the lawsuit.
"I haven't met with the parties yet, but it's a different dynamic and paradigm," said Williams.
Williams cautioned that like almost all other meditations, the process will be confidential until, and if, a deal is struck.
The law firm of Moses Afonso Ryan settled in June of 2014 for a $4.4 million payment to the state of Rhode Island.
High profile lawyer Max Wistow is the state's attorney in the case.
Like the state pension case, the sides met unsuccessfully last year in an attempt to settle the case.
Williams expressed optimism that like in the state pension case, the two sides would be able to overcome their differences and settle the case.
"It's a different tempo, and different time, and a different demeanor hopefully," said Williams.
Williams will earn $400 per hour in his efforts to settle the suit--a discounted rate than he normally charges, he said.
Related Slideshow: INVESTIGATION: Fox, Corso and 38 Studios
The Early Years
Fox was emerging as a powerful leader in the House via his role on the Finance Committee and later as Finance Committee Chair. Corso served on the management team at developer's Buff Chace's Cornish Associates.
The two worked together to write and pass the Historic Tax Credit Legislation.
Bio attached from the early 2000's - Cornish Assoicates Website.
Insiders Had Hands All Over Schilling’s 38 Studios Deal
The owner of the construction company that was awarded a contract to work on the interior of 38 Studios’ downtown headquarters has close ties to House leadership and other prominent local politicians, GoLocalProv has learned.
Steven Nappa, who owns Nappa Construction Management, has contributed over $16,000 over the last decade to top politicians including House Speaker Gordon Fox, Congressman and former Providence Mayor David Cicilline, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, former House Speaker William Murphy and former House Finance chairman Steven Costantino. In June 2011, Nappa also contributed $1,000 to the Fund for Democratic Priorities, a political action committee maintained by House leadership.
Nappa is also connected with Michael Corso, a Providence lawyer who has made a fortune helping to sell state tax credits and was involved in the earliest meetings between Schilling and Rhode Island officials. The two hosted a private fundraiser at the Peerless Lofts for then-Majority Leader Fox in 2007. Nappa also helped build the movie screen located in the open space next to Tazza, the downtown café owned by Corso.
Corso himself has contributed $11,625 to Fox, Cicilline, Taveras, Murphy and other local politicians in recent years.
Movie Tax Credits
Corso and Movie Tax Credits
The Providence lawyer who pledged more than $14 million in Rhode Island motion picture tax credits that had not actually been issued as collateral in order to obtain an $8.5 million loan for Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios is now playing a behind-the-scenes role in a Michael Corrente movie that is slated to receive $625,000 in state tax credits, GoLocalProv has learned.
Michael Corso, a top tax credit broker whose loan agreement with BankRI is among several 38 Studios-related matters currently being investigated by state and federal authorities, is one of seven producers for “Backmask,” a horror film currently being shot in Exeter, according to IMDB. Corso’s business partner, Anthony Gudas, is listed as the executive producer and former State Rep. John Loughlin has a small role in the film.
On Monday, the Rhode Island Film and TV Office confirmed the film has received an “Initial Certification Letter” for the tax credits. Corso did not respond to a request for comment.
Questions Surround Speaker Fox’s Relationship with 38 Studios Insider
Several weeks after initial inquiries from GoLocalProv, House Speaker Gordon Fox still isn’t answering questions about a 2007 fundraiser held for him by the lawyer who would play a pivotal role in bringing Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios to Rhode Island three years later.
In March 2007, Michael Corso, Steven Nappa and Robert Britto of Nappa Building Corp. and former State Representative Ray Rickman were listed as the hosts of a private fundraiser held in the Peerless Lofts for the then-Majority Leader. The event, which helped Fox rake in approximately $10,000, was catered by Tazza, the downtown café owned by Corso.
But while Fox’s campaign finance reports from the time include details about several other fundraising events held during the first quarter of 2007, there is no information listed about expenses incurred for the Corso-hosted event, which may constitute a campaign finance violation.
“Speaker Fox has been extremely busy entering the final two weeks of the session, but he will soon be checking the campaign records from five years ago,” Fox spokesman Larry Berman told GoLocalProv on June 4. “If corrections are necessary to the report, he will make them.”
Fox and Corso
38 Studios Insiders Have Been Connected Since May 2009
The lawyer at the center of the deal that brought Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios to Rhode Island had a business relationship with a top executive at the video game company a year before a piece of legislation that expanded the EDC’s Job Creation Guaranty Program was pushed rapidly through the General Assembly.
On May 29, 2009, Michael Corso, a top tax credit broker whose relationship with House Speaker Gordon Fox helped steer 38 Studios to the Ocean State, struck a deal to purchase credits handed out for the multi-million dollar Stone House hotel project in Little Compton from the Round Pond Management Corporation, whose President was Tom Zaccagnino.
By June of that year, Zaccagnino, who was also the co-managing director at the Wellesley Advisors Corporation in Maynard, MA, had become Vice Chairman and Lead Director of 38 Studios. A month later, Haymarket Capital, an LLC with the same address as the Wellesley Advisors Corporation, was involved with the seven-figure bridge loan a group of Rhode Island investors provided to 38 Studios.
In March of 2010, Zaccagnino and Schilling met with Speaker Fox and former EDC director Keith Stokes in Corso’s downtown law office. By May, the General Assembly had expanded the EDC’s loan guarantee fund from $50 million to $125 million, the exact amount the EDC awarded to 38 Studios later that summer.
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