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Landfill Investigation: Former AG Arlene Violet Rips Lynch for Not Pressing Charges

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

 

Former Attorney General Arlene Violet criticized Patrick Lynch and the State Police for their inaction on the landfill corruption scandal—but says the state could still get back some of the wasted $75 million through civil lawsuits.

“The state made a major mistake in not prosecuting this matter,” Violet told GoLocalProv.

At least two candidates for Attorney General have said they would reopen the investigation, but Violet said it’s now too late for that. “When people talk about reopening the investigation I’m not sure what that would do or yield because there’s no question on the major charges the statute of limitations has run out,” Violet said. “I fault the Attorney General’s Office and the State Police for their failure to file charges before the expiration.”

A preliminary state audit found evidence of corruption, mismanagement, and other wrongdoing in March 2008. But instead of taking action then, Violet said Lynch waited into the final report, which was released a year and a half later (click here to read it). Then it was too late to press criminal charges.

“They just let the time run out for one reason or another,” Violet said.

Attorney General’s Office Blames State Police

The Attorney General’s office yesterday laid blame at the feet of State Police.

“As the media and others continue to revisit the audit of the RI Resource Recovery Corporation, it’s important to realize that the Rhode Island State Police—the law enforcement agency relied upon by the Attorney General’s Office in this case to investigate any possible criminal conduct and to present evidence to form the basis of a criminal prosecution—did not present any evidence of criminal wrongdoing to this office,” said Lynch spokeswoman Beryl Kenyon. “Had they done so, we would have considered any and all criminal charges supported by that evidence.”

She said the Attorney General’s Office does not have the resources to do its own investigations.

“Should the State Police develop evidence of a crime associated with the RI Resource Recovery Corporation, we are confident they would be in contact with this office,” Kenyon added.

The State Police could not be reached for a response in time for publication.

Violet Believes Lawsuits Will Be Successful

While she blamed Lynch for his inaction, Violet credited General Treasurer Frank Caprio with developing the strategy of suing the companies that insured the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation, which manages the landfill.  

A GoLocalProv investigation reported last week that Resource Recovery most recently sued the Travelers insurance company hoping to recover $16.6 million allegedly stolen by employees. The agency had an insurance policy with Travelers that covered employee theft.

Violet thinks the state will be successful in the suit. “If I were that insurance company, Travelers, I would be looking to settle for something less than the full policy limit because they are taking a gamble in trying to beat it,” Violet told GoLocalProv.

Violet cited two Rhode Island Supreme Court cases that concluded that insurance companies have to cover employee acts even if they are intentional and border on the criminal. (Those two cases are John Angelone v. Union Mutual Insurance Company of Providence, decided in 1974, and Town of Cumberland v. Rhode Island Interlocal Risk Management Trust, Inc., in 2004.)

The absence of any criminal prosecutions makes it more difficult for the civil suits to proceed, Violet added. “That makes it even harder because if there were convictions or pleas they could just point to that and use it as evidence,” she said.

Resource Recovery has already met with success in another suit, winning a $5 million settlement in June against the RSUI Indemnity Company.

 

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