During 30 years on the job, Pawtucket police officer Ken Provost spent a lot of time behind the wheel of a patrol car.
But the NBC 10 I-Team learned he also bought and sold police vehicles for the city without giving other businesses a chance to bid.
"Generally there's sort of a firewall there. You're either an employee or you're a vendor, but not both," said John Marion of Common Cause, a Rhode Island group that advocates for open government. "It certainly seems to have the appearance of something funny, if not an actual financial conflict."
City leaders say the unusual unwritten agreement was in place for at least 10 years.
But on Thursday, Provost was charged with stealing about 200 gallons from city pumps, using both his personal car and a gas can.
Records obtained by the I-Team reveal Provost bought six cars for the police department in the past three years alone -- more than $100,000 worth of vehicles, including undercover cars and cars driven by his superiors.
Pawtucket Public Safety Commissioner Antonio Pires said Provost saved the city money on dealer fees, and never made a profit when he bought the cars.
Pires says the city felt more comfortable working with Provost because the vehicles were undercover cars.
The I-Team asked Pires if that was an ethical arrangement.
"It's certainly worth a second look at it," Pires said.
Provost was put on paid administrative leave. His business arrangement with Pawtucket is over, and city leaders say they'll re-evaluated how they buy undercover cars going forward.
Provost is scheduled to appear in court in two weeks.