Former House Speaker Gordon Fox returned to the Rhode Island State House on Wednesday, taking a seat in the chamber for the first time since the FBI, the IRS and the state police raided his home and State House office last month.
The Democrat resigned his leadership position the day after the March 21 raids, but kept his seat representing Providence's East Side. He has not attended a legislative session since.
Fox would not comment on the investigation but said getting back to work was the right thing to do.
"I knew I had to come back. It was the responsible thing to do. It's the right thing to do, and I've been serving in this building for 22 years and tried to be very responsible to my constituents, to this institution -- the people's institution -- and that's what's important today to be here for," Fox said.Fox said it was an emotional day for him. "In a lot of ways, it's like coming out of a shock," he said.
He shook hands and received hugs, describing his reception at the State House as very kind similar to "going back to a school you haven't been to in 20 years." He said he got a ride in from Rep. Edith Ajello, who represents an adjacent district in Providence.
During the session, Fox stood to second a resolution and then another bill and, like any other representative, was recognized by name by his successor as speaker, Nicholas Mattiello. The Cranston Democrat had served as his majority leader.
Authorities have not said what they are investigating or named the target of their probe, although the state Board of Elections, which keeps campaign finance records, said it had been contacted by federal authorities about Fox. Law enforcement also subpoenaed the city of Providence for records pertaining to Fox.
Fox is not running for re-election and recently put his house up for sale. He said he hopes people will look back at his legislative record one day and think that the state was better off for him having served.
"I love this institution and I love the state," he said before heading to a hearing of the Health, Education and Welfare Committee, to which he was assigned. "My life in a lot of ways has been turned upside down."
Fox said he was out for 12 sessions, the most he has ever missed in more than 20 years in the General Assembly. He said he will attend as often as he can.
Mattiello said he hadn't known Fox was coming Wednesday and that the two did not get a chance to speak.
"He's doing the work he was elected to do," Mattiello said.