Common Cause files ethics complaint against state lawmaker

Peter Palumbo

Government watchdog group Common Cause has filed a complaint with the Rhode Island Ethics Commission against state Rep. Peter Palumbo of Cranston.

Palumbo was the target of a series of NBC 10 I-Team reports last week.

I-Team reporter Parker Gavigan revealed that Palumbo was running the concession stands at Scarborough, Wheeler and Misquamicut state beaches on behalf of his friend, former state Democratic Party Chairman David Caprio.

But last fall, Palumbo himself submitted bids for the concessions and initially won the contracts.

Common Cause says the submission of those bids was a violation of ethics Regulation 36-14-5007.

It states, in part, "No member of the General Assembly shall seek or accept state employment, not held at the time of the member's election, while serving in the General Assembly." Employment would include "service as an independent contractor or consultant to the state or any state agency."

In a statement, Common Cause Executive Director John Marion said the group rarely takes this kind of action, "But clearly Representative Palumbo has run afoul of our ethics laws and needs to be held accountable for his actions."

Marion added, "By controlling the state budget, members of the Assembly control the purse stings, and shouldn't be allowed to stick their hands in the same purse for personal gain."

The I-Team reported that after winning the contract last year, Palumbo withdrew his bids. Caprio was the second-highest bidder, who then hired Palumbo to run his concession stands.

Caprio resigned as chairman of the Rhode Island Democratic Party on July 29, after the NBC 10 I-Team report.

Common Cause told the I-Team that Palumbo's current job as manager would be considered a sub-contractor role that is allowed under ethics rules.