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Former Rhode Island Gov. DiPrete Fined in Ethics Probe of Contracts

From Associated Press

The state Ethics Commission has fined former Gov. Edward D. DiPrete $30,000 for improperly influencing the award of a contract to a campaign fund-raiser and ordering that another be given to a contributor.

An investigative panel of the commission also found that DiPrete failed to file required conflict of interest statements in the two cases.

The panel said DiPrete violated the state ethics code by ordering the award of a contract to Tutela Engineering Associates Inc., headed by Domenic V. Tutela, a major DiPrete campaign contributor. The contract was later awarded to another firm.

DiPrete also improperly suggested the law firm of James Taft, his campaign fund-raiser and business partner, as a candidate for state legal work, the investigation found. Taft won that contract.

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The panel’s decision followed a complaint brought by the watchdog group Common Cause. The decision stands for the entire commission, Executive Director Mark Eckstein said.

The three-term Republican governor, who lost a reelection bid last year to Democratic Gov. Bruce G. Sundlun, said he was “extremely disappointed.”

“My attorneys and I feel very strongly that the opinion is unsupported by the facts and the law. We intend to take an immediate appeal to the Superior Court,” he said.

Common Cause Executive Director H. Philip West said he hoped the decision would send the message that “trading contracts for contributions” no longer would be tolerated.

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The probe concluded that DiPrete violated several ethics laws in each of the two cases.


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