A group of Republican legislators in Rhode Island have reportedly announced that they have successfully lobbied for an official investigation to be conducted into the 20-year gaming machine supply deal Democratic Governor, Gina Raimondo, has proposed signing with International Game Technology (IGT).
According to a Tuesday report from local television broadcaster WJAR-TV, the examination is to be conducted by the independent Rhode Island Ethics Commission and is to look at whether Raimondo’s office broke any rules by surreptitiously negotiating the $1 billion no-bid extension that would see IGT provide even more slots as well as a range of associated back-end services to the small eastern state’s Twin River Casino Hotel and Tiverton Casino Hotel.
Conflict of interest:
The broadcaster reported that the Republican lawmakers have argued that the Governor’s representatives should not have agreed the arrangement via former IGT executive Donald Sweitzer because the current lobbyist is now a member of the Democratic Governors Association, which is led by 48-year-old Raimondo.
Ross Cheit, Chairman for the RI Ethics Commission, reportedly told WJAR-TV that his body agreed to undertake the investigation via a six-to-one vote after receiving an official complaint that contained accusations ‘that if true would constitute a knowing and willful violation of the code.’ He detailed that the inquiry will look into whether the first-term Governor or any of her representatives may have broke Section 36-14-5(d) of Rhode Island General Law by using their public positions for financial gain or to enrich any associates or their businesses.
However, Cheit reportedly stated that his body had dismissed a second complaint from the Republican legislators dealing with competitive bidding via an identically concise vote. This later move was purportedly praised by Raimondo’s office via an official statement that subsequently went on to blame the whole affair on political partisanship.
Reportedly read the statement from Raimondo’s office…
“We applaud the Rhode Island Ethics Commission’s decision to throw out one of the two claims filed by the state Republican Party. We are confident that when the Rhode Island Ethics Commission reviews the facts relating to the other claim, it will once again conclude this latest partisan complaint has no merit.”
WJAR-TV reported that Republican legislators in Rhode Island are unhappy with the proposed IGT contract because they believe it does not represent good value for money. They have purportedly moreover urged the General Assembly to postpone a final vote on the deal until after the ethics investigation is complete although Raimondo has floated the idea of prefacing any such ballot with a round of public consultations.