House minority leader files lawsuit against House speaker over audit

HOUSE MINORITY LEADER Blake A. Filippi, left, filed a lawsuit Thursday against House Speaker Nicolas Mattiello, accusing him of breaking state law by ordering an audit of the Rhode Island Convention Center. / PBN FILE PHOTOS/MICHAEL SALERNO/TRACY JENKINS
HOUSE MINORITY LEADER Blake A. Filippi, left, filed a lawsuit Thursday against House Speaker Nicolas Mattiello, accusing him of breaking state law by ordering an audit of the Rhode Island Convention Center. / PBN FILE PHOTOS/MICHAEL SALERNO/TRACY JENKINS

PROVIDENCE – State Rep. Blake A. Filippi, the House minority leader, filed a lawsuit Thursday against House Speaker Nicolas Mattiello, accusing him of breaking state law by ordering an audit of the Rhode Island Convention Center without authorization from a legislative committee.

Filippi, who is a member of the Joint Legislative Services Committee, said the audit ordered by the house speaker on Dec. 23 was illegal. A Republican, Filippi represents communities including Westerly and New Shoreham.

The lawsuit was filed in state Superior Court on Filippi’s behalf by attorney Brandon S. Bell of Providence, who is the former director of the state’s Republican Party.

According to the suit, the state auditor general was directed to conduct the audit by Mattiello, D-Cranston, and Frank Montanaro, who is executive director of the Joint Committee on Legislative Services. The action came despite the fact that no vote of the committee was requested or taken, Filippi’s lawsuit said.

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The audit is among other actions taken by Mattiello without authority, Filippi stated in the lawsuit, without identifying them. Filippi asked the court to approve a preliminary injunction preventing the officials – all members of the committee – from taking any further action on the audit.

In addition, he asked that records produced as part of the audit be kept under seal by the court.

Shortly after the filing, Mattiello announced Thursday that the audit was being terminated.

He described the lawsuit as a political stunt.

“On Tuesday, Minority Leader Filippi had indicated that he wanted an audit and believed one was appropriate. He stated he would sign a letter requesting that an audit be conducted at the Convention Center. On Wednesday, when the letter was presented to him for his signature, he became belligerent and refused to sign the letter. He threatened that a lawsuit would be filed and he stated to me that ‘this is political’.”

“I firmly believe that regular audits of our quasi-public agencies, including the Convention Center, are necessary. In fact, the Republican Party has previously called for an audit of the Convention Center on numerous occasions. It is unfortunate that Leader Filippi has turned this into a political stunt.”

Filippi responded on Twitter to the announced withdrawal of the audit: “I’d like to thank the Speaker for acknowledging he didn’t follow the law. No one is above the law – even Speaker Mattiello – and holding leaders to account is no political stunt.”

The audit was made public after reporting by WPRI, which said the performance audit was ordered after the convention center authority initiated a personnel action against a friend of the House Speaker.

Mary MacDonald is a staff writer for the PBN. Contact her at macdonald@pbn.com.

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