Raimondo Administration Criticized for Failure to Respond to Public Records Request

Thursday, December 31, 2015


The Rhode Island Republican Party has raised concerns about the lack of transparency and failure to respond to basic information requests by the Raimondo Administration. 

"Yesterday we learned that a public records request by Republican State Representative Patricia Morgan for information on proposed locations of toll gantries for Governor Raimondo's RhodeWorks program was responded to with an 1882 Atlas of the City of Providence.  This Atlas was from an era when thehorse and buggy was the main form of transportation," according to a release by the Republican Party.
"It is bizarre that the Governor provided a member of the General Assembly with a horse and buggy map to justify a one billion dollar investment in a 21st century bridge repair program. Hopefully the Department of Transportation is using more recent information in planning transportation projects," said Rhode Island Republican Party Chairman Brandon S. Bell

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19th Century Map Released by Raimondo Administration Relating to Information Request on Tolls

"Responding to a legitimate request by a State Representative in this manner is the kind of behavior you'd expect from a 19th Century political boss who could care less about transparency in conducting the public's business.  Any person in Governor Raimondo's administration who responded to a State Representative with this utter contempt should be immediately reprimanded. There is no room for this absolute arrogance from any employee paid by Rhode Island taxpayers." 
Chairman Bell concluded that it is time for Governor Raimondo to come clean on where all proposed toll gantries would be located and what level of tolls would be levied.  "The very first action taken should not be on tolling but rather on a subpoena for Governor Raimondo to appear before the General Assembly to provide 21st Century documents related to where the toll locations are proposed, the scheduling of bridge improvements and the tolls that would be assessed." 


Related Slideshow: Raimondo and Mattiello - Friction Going Into the 2016 Session

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Mattiello has long questioned why little Rhode Island has its own health exchange. His questions center around scale, cost and long-term viability.  Raimondo had been defending the Chafee initiative, but the move of Anya Rader Wallack from her leadership position at HealthSource to Medicaid (right when open enrollment started, to boot) is one of the indications of Raimondo’s walk away.

As GoLocal reported in January, Walack’s program in Vermont ended up failing under her leadership

Now the question is, will Raimondo make the policy change in her budget or make Mattiello do the dirty work?

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Raimondo has been the champion of an ever-changing funding scheme to rebuild Rhode Island’s infrastructure.

No one questions the need to rehab Rhode Island’s failed bridges and roads, but most everyone has raised questions about the constantly changing funding structure and the corresponding lack of disclosure. 

Raimondo’s request to legislative leaders has been to pass legislation -  and to trust her and her administration. Last session of the General Assembly the Senate functionally went along with the plan and the House held firm on wanting to see the numbers.

Now, it is six-months later and much of the plan has not been disclosed to legislative leaders, the public or the media.

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Irony of Transparency

For decades, Rhode Island Speakers have been wildly criticized for being all powerful, Machiavellian, and highly secretive, but in this unusual situation it is often that Mattiello is the open, responsive and proactive communicator. 

In contrast, Raimondo less than two months ago came under fire from the media and civil rights groups for secrecy, failing to respond to media inquiries, and non-responsiveness to public information requests. 

As GoLocal reported in October: 

Five organizations, including ACCESS/RI, American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island, Rhode Island Press Association, New England First Amendment Coalition,and League of Women Voters of Rhode Island, sent sharply wordedletter to Governor Gina Raimondo on Tuesday asking her to issue an executive order which calls on state agencies to "adopt a strong presumption in favor of disclosure in addressing public information requests.

Mattiello, unlike his predecessors, has been the voice of the voter asking for information and requesting greater transparency. 

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Election Year

The Democratic Governor enjoys a four-year term, but she needs the support of a legislature who is up for re-election with an electorate that is wildly dissatisfied with the direction of the country, the direction of the state, the performance of Congress. It is a Presidential election year which will only add to the volatility.

The Governor who only won the Democratic primary with 40% of the vote and then was elected last November with 40% off the vote hardly has the most powerful bully pulpit to speak from.

For many legislators the smart political step maybe to show independence and raise questions rather than to lock step with her.  

For Mattiello, this means he may need to give far greater latitude to legislators to vote freely.

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Raimondo a Lawyer and Venture Capitalist 

Raimondo is trained as an attorney and worked nearly her entire professional career as Venture Capitalist. Lots of Non-Disclosure Agreements, “paper the deal” with agreements and little disclosure.

This training is great for confidentiality as it relates to high stakes venture, but those skills become obstacles to governing in a Democracy during a period when the public demands transparency.

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 “I am better than you”

There is a growing sentiment among Democratic legislators that the Governor has a “I am better than you” attitude. Raimondo who was educated at Yale, Harvard and Oxford seems to intentionally or unintentionally exude superiority.

As one legislator told GoLocal at the request of anonymity, “The only thing worse than her being pompous is when she tries to act like she is ‘just like everyone else.’ It is insulting.”

The ramifications of the Governor and her staff’s tone is not lost on legislators. Top Raimondo confidant Representative Joe Shekarchi can only do “Shuttle-Diplomacy” so much. 

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Raimondo has announced a series of initiatives to restrict gun ownership in Rhode Island. A corresponding pro-gun control campaign is being funded by Democratic heavy weight Mark Weiner and former Hasbro CEO Alan Hassenfeld.

Raimondo uses the issue of gun control as a fundraising trigger with her supporters. The initiative may be good political fundraising, but will put her at odds with Mattiello, who is a strong gun rights supporter who has received high scores for his voting record on from the gun rights organization.


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