BOARDING PASS: Gov. Chafee took office in 2011 saying he wanted his people in place on the R.I. Economic Development Corporation board. Since the 38 Studios collapse, he has questioned the agency’s continued independence.
When the R.I. Economic Development Corporation finally emerges from the turmoil surrounding its $75 million loan guarantee to Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios LLC, the quasi-state agency in charge of growing business activity in the state may be unrecognizable.
Already, the EDC’s executive director has resigned in the wake of 38 Studios’ collapse and by late last week six of the 13 members of the board of directors had either stepped down or not been reappointed. On May 31, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee nominated three people to serve on the board: Marcia Blount, president of Warren’s Blount Boats Inc.; Dr. Pablo Rodriguez, former medical director of Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island; and Alison Vareika, co-owner of William Vareika Fine Arts in Newport. She is the mother of Chafee's deputy communications director, Christian Vareika.
And the changes may go well beyond leadership.
In discussions about what went wrong at 38 Studios and with the state’s oversight role, Chafee has questioned the independence of the EDC and said he would like to see the agency “more closely aligned with the governor.”
Chafee’s comments came after his hand-picked vice chairwoman, Helena Foulkes, resigned, citing differences with the governor about the future direction of the agency.
Whether Chafee intends to create a new state agency under the governor’s office that would handle some or all of the EDC’s functions, as is the case in many states, including Massachusetts and Connecticut, he has not said.
But many Rhode Island leaders have noted that it was a former governor, Donald L. Carcieri, and not the EDC, who became intoxicated by Schilling and the idea of bringing his video game company to Rhode Island.
“We do see that central irony,” said Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce President Laurie White about Chafee looking to reduce the independence of a board that could have stopped the deal from going through if it had been a little more independent. “I don’t know if it is really a matter of independence or of overlapping terms and the governor wanting to be able to appoint all his own people immediately.”