PROVIDENCE — House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello canceled an audit of the Rhode Island Convention Center on Thursday after Rep. Blake Filippi, of Block Island, the top House Republican, filed a lawsuit accusing him of abusing his power.
Mattiello, D-Cranston, had been accused of using the investigation as retaliation for the disciplinary action against a friend, James Demers, the Convention Center's director of security, who was put on leave.
Auditor General Dennis Hoyle sent a letter Dec. 23 informing Convention Center executives that the Joint Committee on Legislative Services had directed him to conduct a performance audit of the center.
Three of the five committee members told WPRI-TV that they had not been consulted about the audit, even though state law says such audits must be requested by a “majority" of the JCLS members.
Mattiello defended his right to order the audit during an interview with WPRI on Friday. He said that there was no vote on the audit but that he sees himself as a majority because he is the committee's chairman.
Filippi, a committee member, filed the lawsuit in Superior Court Thursday accusing Mattiello of ordering “an illegal audit" and denying him his right to vote. The defendants were Mattiello, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, D-North Providence; House Majority Leader Joseph Shekarchi, D-Warwick; and Senate Minority Leader Dennis Algiere, R-Westerly, all members of the committee; plus Hoyle and Frank Montanaro, executive director of the JCLS.
In his complaint, Filippi also alleged that Mattiello and Montanaro had "engaged in a continuous course of conduct without meetings of JCLS and without majority approval. They have unlawfully excercized the statutory powers of JCLS by hiring employees renovating property, assigning office space and maintaining the records of the General Assembly."
Filippi asked the court for a declaratory judgment enjoining the speaker from further action on the conventon center audit, and for a declaration that Mattiello had been in violation of the law since at least the time that Filippi had become minority leader.
The Convention Center Authority’s board, which oversees the convention center, unanimously voted the same day to not comply with the audit until it was authorized by the committee.
Shorly after, the speaker's office released a one-sentence letter canceling the audit.