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RI State Report: Sexual Discrimination, State Worker Theft + More

Saturday, August 31, 2013


This week’s State Report centers on a pair of legal cases: one which involves a professor suing Roger Williams University for sexual discrimination, and another dealing with a state worker charged with stealing from developmentally disabled patients.

Also on the docket, a newly announced grant designed to help Woonsocket’s struggling Head Start program, as well as an upcoming business expo intended to support small business development. Lastly, we’ll cover a prestigious new honor just awarded to Congressman Jim Langevin.

Professor Files Sexual Discrimination Lawsuit Against Roger Williams University

Sharon DeLucca, a senior professor of Graphic Design at Roger Williams University, has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit in Rhode Island Superior Court against her employer Roger Williams University alleging four counts of sexual discrimination. The lawsuit names Roger Williams University President Donald Farish, former RWU Acting Provost Robert Potter and Assistant Provost Robert Cole as co-defendants.

DeLucca claims that she was subject to repeated discrimination and retaliation over several years, which caused her severe mental and physical distress and hospitalization. DeLucca, a tenured professor at RWU, argues that she was the driving force behind the development of RWU's Graphic Design program, which has provided millions of tuition dollars to the university over the past several years.

In her lawsuit, DeLucca claims that RWU, and specifically Dean Robert Cole, used her to develop the curriculum and recruit prospective students but refused to give her the equal title and compensation of her male counterparts. DeLucca immediately filed a complaint of sexual discrimination against Cole within the RWU administration. That complaint was supposed to be investigated by Robert Potter, then acting Provost of RWU. DeLucca alleges that Potter met with her only once, treated her in an unprofessional manner and downplayed the seriousness of her claim. DeLucca then filed a sexual discrimination complaint against Cole with the Commission for Human Rights in Rhode Island.

The suit goes on to say that RWU President Donald Farish promoted Robert Cole to Assistant Provost (the third highest ranking administrative position), despite Cole being named and central to an ongoing investigation into discrimination by the Commission for Human Rights. The lawsuit claims that Farish then attempted to marginalize DeLucca within RWU, attempting to remove her from all elected committee positions on campus and barring her from any involvement in the Graphic Design program, which she had built.

This ongoing harassment caused DeLucca to be admitted to Rhode Island Hospital for "stroke like symptoms" in April 2011, according to case. While hospitalized, Delucca was sent a disturbing bouquet of Black Lilies (aka "funeral flowers) from Roger Williams University. The receipt of these flowers was perceived as a threat and caused DeLucca further emotional and physical trauma.

Professor Delucca is represented by Visconte, Boren & Campbell LTD and is seeking $2 million plus punitive damages in the case.

Former State Worker Charged with Stealing from Developmentally Disabled Patients

Former state worker Caren Thompson was arraigned in Providence Superior Court on Friday on one count of wrongful conversion over $100 by a government employee, according to a statement released by Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin on Monday. Thompson, 49, was released on $10,000 personal recognizance bail and is scheduled for a pre trial conference on October 16, 2013.

It is alleged that on or about October 2, 2012, Thompson, who was employed as a community living aid at the Rogler Farm Home, converted approximately $393 from the personal needs accounts of two male residents for the purchase of women's clothing for her own use. The Rogler Farm Home is a state-operated facility managed by Zambarano Hospital, a division of the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH).

The matter was referred to the Office's Medicaid Fraud Control and Patient Abuse Unit by BHDDH, which enforces the laws pertaining to fraud in the state Medicaid program and prosecutes cases of abuse, neglect or mistreatment of patients in all state healthcare facilities. The Unit prosecutes criminal activity, pursues civil remedies where appropriate and participates with federal and state authorities in a variety of inter-agency investigations and administrative proceedings.

Mollis, RIDEC to Meet with RI Businesses at ‘We Mean Business Expo’

Local businesses will soon have the opportunity to sit down with government officials who regulate businesses here in Rhode Island as part of the upcoming “We Mean Business” Expo to be held on Tuesday, September 10th, 2013 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick.

Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis and Governor Lincoln D. Chafee, along with the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation (RIEDC) will bring Rhode Island's local, state and federal agencies together in Crowne Plaza’s Grand Ballroom.

Among the state agencies that will participate are the state Department of Environmental Management, Department of Health, Division of Taxation, and the state Department of Labor and Training. Municipalities including Coventry, Burrillville, Portsmouth, and Tiverton will be present.

This year, the Secretary will introduce the new "Smart Start" room where attorneys and accountants will be on-hand to speak with businesses and entrepreneurs interested in learning more about how to properly manage and grow their business. The "Smart Start" clinic is catered for new business owners looking to learn more about filings, patents, trademarks, tax documentation and Federal Identification Numbers.

There will also be a variety of workshops as well, including a "Social Media" workshop by Gil Lantini of the RI Small Business Journal and a "State Fire Code from A to Z" workshop from the State Fire Marshall's Office.

For more information about this free event visit http://www.wemeanbusinessri.com/

Sen. Reed Announces $1.5 Million Grant for Woonsocket Head Start

Senator Jack Reed announced on Wednesday the Woonsocket Head Start Child Development Association, Inc. would receive a $1.5 million grant to continue to deliver quality, comprehensive early childhood education and family support programs that enhance the growth and development of children and families, respond to their changing needs, and contribute to the betterment of the community.

“Head Start is about our future and our commitment to ensuring that all children, no matter what their economic means, have the opportunity to develop their talents and thrive,” said Reed.
The Senator made the announcement while visiting youngsters and staff at the Karen G. Bouchard Children’s Center in Woonsocket. The Senator was on hand to tour early childhood learning programs and discuss how preparing children before kindergarten is critical to their long-term success and the well-being of their communities.

Last year, Head Start served about 2,450 children in Rhode Island, a number which will be reduced by about 370 because of across-the-board federal spending cuts known as the sequester, which is reducing Rhode Island’s Head Start funding by $1.3 million this year, a 5 percent cut.

“These cuts have a ripple effect that goes beyond a year of high quality pre-school education,” said Reed. “It means that more students are at risk of starting school way behind. It means that parents will have to scramble to find alternatives – and there are few affordable, quality options for some of these folks.

The Head Start program is aimed at ensuring that low-income children are ready for school by providing access to high quality pre-school programs. In addition to preparing children for kindergarten, the program is a key link to other important social services, such as food and health assistance.

Nationwide, sequestration has forced Head Start to eliminate and reduce services for more than 57,000 children for the coming school year, according to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.

Rep. Langevin receives honor from RI retirement group

On Friday, members of Rhode Island Alliance for Retired Americans awarded Rep. Jim Langevin with the prestigious RI ARA 2013 Social Security and Medicare Hero Award.

“Rhode Island citizens are fortunate to have a Congressional delegation that really cares about our wellbeing. You will never hear of RI elected officials being sent to Washington DC only to forget about the folks at home. RI ARA board members are delighted that we can honor one such true hero, Congressman James Langevin,” said Rhode Island Alliance for Retired Americans (RI ARA) President John A. Pernorio.

The RI ARA honor marks the fourth major award that Langevin has received this year. Earlier this year, Langevin was also the recipient of the Superhero Award for his advocacy on behalf of people with Down syndrome; the International Disabilities Award, which recognizes people living with disabilities for their work and influence on the global disability community; and the Friend of the National Parks Award for his contribution to protecting and enhancing America’s national parks.

Part on the national Alliance for Retired Americans, the RI ARA aims to ensure social and economic justice and full civil rights for older and retired citizens through providing them with opportunities to pursue new and expanded activities with their unions, civic organizations and their communities.


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