Speaker: Police to talk to lawmakers on 38 Studios
State police plan to interview all lawmakers who voted on the job creation program under which former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling's now-bankrupt company received a $75 million state-backed loan, the House speaker told members Wednesday.
In an email, Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said he was contacted by state police Tuesday and "informed that they would like to ask questions of every member, past and present, who participated in the voting" on the loan program.
Mattiello told lawmakers he would be providing cellphone numbers to police unless anyone objected. As of Wednesday afternoon, one member did, and that representative's number was not turned over.
In an interview, the speaker said he's "thrilled" that state police are investigating the 38 Studios debacle and he has full confidence in their probe. He said he was not told, nor did he ask, about the investigation's scope.
Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed's spokesman Greg Pare said state police head Col. Steven O'Donnell also had contacted her to say authorities would be reaching out to senators.
In a statement, O'Donnell stressed that no one is suspected of wrongdoing "simply because of their vote."
He and state Attorney General Peter Kilmartin have said previously they are conducting a criminal investigation into 38 Studios. O'Donnell on Wednesday called it active and ongoing and said the goal of contacting lawmakers is to "ensure that anyone with information, who has not been previously contacted, has the opportunity to present it."
He said he's aware Kilmartin supported the loan guarantee bill when he was in the legislature but is satisfied the attorney general has no conflict in the case.
Federal authorities conducted a probe but have since said it is closed.
The General Assembly hurriedly approved the loan guarantee program in 2010. It wasn't disclosed at the time that 38 Studios stood to get funding. Once the program was approved by the legislature, the former Economic Development Corp. approved the guarantee, which was backed by bonds.
The agency is now suing Schilling and 13 others, saying its board was misled. Schilling has said Studios fully disclosed its financial condition to the Economic Development Corp.
Rhode Island owes more than $89 million in connection with the transaction.
The 2014-15 state budget approved by the General Assembly includes $12.3 million for the next bond payment related to 38 Studios. Some lawmakers have called for the state to default, saying there are too many unresolved questions about the deal to go ahead.
Mattiello said Wednesday he offered to make himself available to investigators to answer "whatever questions they ask me." He said he knew nothing at the time of the 2010 vote about funding being contemplated for 38 Studios. He called the loan guarantee program a good bill that was misapplied by the Economic Development Corp.