R.I. Ethics Commission dismisses complaint against McKee’s former chief of staff

Updated at 2:20 p.m.

THE RHODE ISLAND ETHICS COMMISSION threw out a complaint by a vote of 7-0 that was issued by the state's Republican party against Gov. Daniel J. McKee's former chief of staff, Anthony Silva, on Tuesday, due to what the commission said was a lack of evidence./PBN PHOTO/CASSIUS SHUMAN

PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island Ethic’s Commission on Tuesday dismissed a complaint issued by the state’s Republican Party against Gov. Daniel J. McKee’s former chief of staff, Anthony Silva, citing a lack of evidence to support the allegation.

Jason Gramitt, executive director and chief prosecutor for the commission, told Providence Business News the commission voted 7-0 to dismiss the complaint, which was filed by the state GOP last August. The GOP had accused Silva, who was McKee’s chief of staff at the time, of violating the state’s ethics code by failing to disclose his financial ties to a Cumberland property his family owned between 2017 and 2020.

The Ethics Commission in a statement said that there isn’t enough evidence to believe Silva violated state law by failing to disclose a financial interest in the 45 Canning Street, Cumberland property on his 2017-2020 financial disclosure statements filed with the commission.

Gramitt said the commission will issue a written decision and order explaining the basis for its vote within the next two weeks, when the decision is finalized.

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Sue Cienki, Rhode Island GOP chairwoman, said, “The ethics commission’s interpretation allows politicians to hide their financial interest in property, and that is not beneficial to the public.”

Silva had been in hot water after his family’s property was issued a wetlands alteration permit by the R.I. Department of Environmental Management last July, after the agency previously denied the approval. Cumberland officials filed a legal complaint in Superior Court on July 29, seeking an injunction to block DEM’s approval of the alteration permit that would allow the Silva family to develop the 5,600-square-foot wetlands property.

In mid-August, amid local opposition to the project and public scrutiny, Silva’s son, who had purchased the property, said he would be withdrawing the proposal and donating the property to the town.

Silva’s text messages and emails calling for withdrawal of the town’s objection revealed what critics saw as a pattern of pressuring Cumberland Mayor Jeff Mutter. He is currently under investigation by the R.I. attorney general’s office, which is reviewing his use of influence to coerce local officials for his benefit.

Silva stepped down on Aug. 20, becoming the shortest-tenured chief of staff to a newly inaugurated Rhode Island governor since 1991, when Ed Wood lasted 79 days as the top aide to then-Democratic Gov. Bruce Sundlun.

(SUBS 5th paragraph with state GOP comment.)

Cassius Shuman is a PBN staff writer. Contact him at Shuman@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter @CassiusShuman

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