INVESTIGATION: John Hope Settlement House Under Investigation by State Police

Friday, September 19, 2014


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The former Executive Director of the John Hope Settlement House (JHSH) has said he has been contacted by the Rhode Island State Police to come in to speak with them on Friday.

Taino Palermo, who had raised questions of political and financial misconduct at the House -- and its Board President and State Representative Anastasia Williams -- said he was contacted by the State Police on Thursday.

The development marks the latest in a series of events that followed Palermo's departure from the House in late August, after challenging Williams' leadership.  The group "Concerned Citizens for John Hope Settlement" was formed in early September and voiced their opposition to both Williams' remaining on the board, as well as Williams' appointing former embattled ProCAP director Frank Corbishley as the interim Executive Director at the house.  

Last Friday, the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth, and Corrections visited the House and found a series of violations with the vans used for transportation.  

New Questions Surface

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"Concerned Citizens for John Hope" outside of the facility for a prior rally.

Palermo confirmed on Thursday that JHSH paid former State Representative Mary Ann Shallcross Smith, who runs Dr. Daycare, to be consultant to the House to assist with day care oversight.  

"The relationship was already established when I got there," said Palermo, who had joined JHSH in May.  "I worked closely with Mary Ann, she was the day care consultant as they had no day dare director, or a certified kindergarten teacher, as required by law as one of the few remaining private kindergartens in the city that feeds into the public schools."

"No one even understood how the house had been in compliance," continued Palermo.  "When I got there, the day care room door didn't close on its own, which I know is a major violation.  I had that fixed, along with a doorbell, and paint compliance."

"So the day care was up to snuff by the time I left," said Palermo.  "[Shallcross Smith] did a ton of work, got the files squared away, which wasn't before -- and needed to be.  She turned it around to the point where things were in place, and we were hiring a new teacher, so she finished.  Without her, I'm convinced [the day care] would have been shut down immediately."

Palermo said though he wasn't surprised the work had gone to a former colleague of Williams in the General Assembly.

"I've noticed it's all just a circle...with the same players," said Palermo.  "A lot of it is 'who can I hook up.'  The staff told me [Thursday] that Williams brought in a cook who was later found to have issues with BCIs that were never done before he came on board."

"I think the bigger thing is that Williams is in there every day.  I don't understand who blows the whistle," said Palermo.  "She's practically their only funder -- she's the wizard of oz, but all they've got is her legislative funding at this point that she gets."

"They need to close the chapter on this, it's just too soiled, and the community is just a ping pong ball in this game," said Palermo.



Related Slideshow: Rhode Island’s History of Political Corruption

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Buddy Cianci

Vincent A. "Buddy" Cianci resigned as Providence Mayor in 1984 after pleading nolo contendere to charges of assaulting a Bristol man with a lit cigarette, ashtray, and fireplace log. Cianci believed the man to be involved in an affair with his wife. 

Cianci did not serve time in prison, but received a 5-year suspended sentence. He was replaced by Joseph R. Paolino, Jr. in a special election. 

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Joseph Bevilacqua

Joseph Bevilacqua was RI Speaker of the House from 1969 to 1975, and was appointed as Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court in 1976.  It was alleged that Bevilacqua had connections to organized crime throughout his political career.  

According to a 1989 article that appeared in The New York Times at the time of his death:

The series of events that finally brought Mr. Bevilacqua down began at the end of 1984... stating that reporters and state police officers had observed Mr. Bevilacqua repeatedly visiting the homes of underworld figures.

The state police alleged that Mr. Bevilacqua had also visited a Smithfield motel, owned by men linked to gambling and drugs...

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Thomas Fay

Thomas Fay, the successor to Bevilacqua as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, resigned in 1993, and was later found guilty on three misdemeanor counts of directing arbitration work to a partner in his real estate firm, Lincoln Center Properties.  

Fay was also alleged to use court employees, offices, and other resources for the purposes of the real estate firm.  Fay, along with court administrator and former Speaker of the House, Matthew "Mattie" Smith were alleged to have used court secretaries to conduct business for Lincoln, for which Fay and Smith were business partners. 

Fay was fined $3,000 and placed on one year probation. He could have been sentenced for up to three years in prison. 

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Brian J. Sarault

Former Pawtucket Mayor Brian J. Sarault was sentenced in 1992 to more than 5 years in prison, after pleading guilty to a charge of racketeering.  

Sarault was arrested by state police and FBI agents at Pawtucket City Hall in 1991, who alleged that the mayor had attempted to extort $3,000 from former RI State Rep. Robert Weygand as a kickback from awarding city contracts.

Weygand, after alerting federal authorities to the extortion attempt, wore a concealed recording device to a meeting where he delivered $1,750 to Sarault.

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Edward DiPrete

Edward DiPrete became the first Rhode Island Governor to be serve time in prison after pleading guilty in 1998 to multiple charges of corruption.

He admitted to accepting bribes and extorting money from contractors, and accepted a plea bargain which included a one-year prison sentence.

DiPrete served as Governor from 1985-1991, losing his 1990 re-election campaign to Bruce Sundlun.

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Plunder Dome

Cianci was forced to resign from the Mayor’s office a second time in 2002 after being convicted on one several charges levied against him in the scandal popularly known as “Operation Plunder Dome.” 

The one guilty charge—racketeering conspiracy--led to a five-year sentence in federal prison. Cianci was acquitted on all other charges, which included bribery, extortion, and mail fraud.

While it was alleged that City Hall had been soliciting bribes since Cianci’s 1991 return to office, much of the case revolved around a video showing a Cianci aide, Frank Corrente, accepting a $1,000 bribe from businessman Antonio Freitas. Freitas had also recorded more than 100 conversations with city officials.

Operation Plunder Dome began in 1998, and became public when the FBI executed a search warrant of City Hall in April 1999. 

Cianci Aide Frank Corrente, Tax Board Chairman Joseph Pannone, Tax Board Vice Chairman David C. Ead, Deputy tax assessor Rosemary Glancy were among the nine individuals convicted in the scandal. 

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N. Providence Councilmen

Three North Providence City Councilmen were convicted in 2011 on charges relating to a scheme to extort bribes in exchange for favorable council votes. In all, the councilmen sought more than $100,000 in bribes.

Councilmen Raimond A. Zambarano, Joseph Burchfield, and Raymond L. Douglas III were sentenced to prison terms of 71 months, 64 months, and 78 months, respectively. 

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Charles Moreau

Central Falls Mayor Charles Moreau resigned in 2012 before pleading guilty to federal corruption charges. 

Moreau admitted that he had give contractor Michael Bouthillette a no-bid contract to board up vacant homes in exchange for having a boiler installed in his home. 

He was freed from prison in February 2014, less than one year into a 24 month prison term, after his original sentence was vacated in exchange for a guilty plea on a bribery charge.  He was credited with tim served, placed on three years probation, and given 300 hours of community service.

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Joe Almeida

State Representative Joseph S. Almeida was arrested and charged on February 10, 2015 for allegedly misappropriating $6,122.03 in campaign contributions for his personal use. Following his arrest, he resigned his position as House Democratic Whip, but remains a member of the Rhode Island General Assembly.

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Gordon Fox

The Rhode Island State Police and FBI raided and sealed off the State House office of Speaker of the House Gordon Fox on March 21--marking the first time an office in the building has ever been raided. 

Fox pled guilty to 3 criminal counts on March 3, 2015 - accepting a bribe, wire fraud, and filing a false tax return. The plea deal reached with the US Attorney's office calls for 3 years in federal prison, but Fox will be officially sentenced on June 11.


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