A Hummel Report Investigation
He is the most powerful politician in Rhode Island. But it's House Speaker Gordon Fox's work as a private attorney for a troubled Providence agency that has caught the attention of federal overseers. Our months-long investigation has turned up potential conflicts of interest and questions about disclosure of income on his ethics form.
He is one of the highest-profile politicians in Rhode Island. And, as Speaker of the House, the most powerful.
But it's Gordon Fox's work as a private attorney for a troubled Providence agency over much of the last decade that has caught the attention of a federal agency: part of a top-to-bottom review of the Providence Economic Development Partnership - a taxpayer-funded business loan program that had an exorbitant default rate under former Mayor David Cicilline.
Cicilline paved the way for Fox to make tens of thousands of dollars as the closing attorney on dozens of loans for an agency that operated largely under the public's radar. Our investigation shows that for five years Fox did not list that income on his Rhode Island Ethics Commission financial disclosure form.
We do know from post-closing filings Fox made on behalf of PEDP that he handled approximately 80 loans. But the city could not tell us exactly how much Fox made because he was paid by Joshua Teverow - PEDP's longtime legal counsel, who Cicilline told to send some legal work Fox's way. That all changed in April 2010, when the Taveras administration made Fox register directly with the city. Records show he then made $40,000 closing on 29 loans.
Fox then began reporting the PEDP income on his ethics form - beginning in 2010.
Fox declined our request for an interview about his legal work. Instead he issued a statement through his legislative spokesman Larry Berman:
“While I appreciate your invitation, I have no further comment on this issue at this time. I have not served as the closing attorney for PEDP for many months. I performed this work as a sub-contractor through another attorney (Josh Teverow) from 2005 to 2010, and then I received the loan information directly from PEDP from 2010 through last year.''
So we tried to get more answers after a House session last week.
Hummel: ``And I'm just curious as to why you don't want to answer our questions about PEDP.