Democratic secretary of state candidate Guillaume de Ramel's decision to hire Gordon Fox as a lawyer in 2011 has emerged as an issue in the Democratic primary race between de Ramel and Nellie Gorbea.
De Ramel's move to hire Fox, then speaker of the House, was first reported by WPRI.com's Ted Nesi, who recounted how Fox was the registered agent for a business, Newport Hangers, incorporated by de Ramel in December 2011. Nesi went on to describe how a different lawyer, David P. Martland of Middletown, had become the agent for Newport Hangars (with the change in spelling) in late March 2012.
In response to an inquiry from RI Public Radio, de Ramel spokesman Dave Hoffman limited his comment to the same statement he provided to Nesi: “Attorney Fox filed the initial paperwork for Newport Hangars and, soon after, Guillaume switched to a local attorney who broke ground with the project and continues in this role today.”
Gorbea's campaign reacted to the news by saying de Ramel isn't being sufficiently forthcoming about his decision to hire Fox, who, at that time, was perhaps the most powerful elected official in the state.
In a statement, Gorbea said, “My opponent and I are running for Secretary of State -- an office that demands the transparency and accountability that all Rhode Islanders deserve. The Secretary of State is the state’s Chief Information Officer, providing Rhode Islanders with the information they need to hold government accountable. Candidates for Secretary of State should model transparency and accessibility, if that office is going to have the credibility it needs to hold others accountable."
"Thus far in his campaign," Gorbea continued, "Mr. de Ramel has failed to show the transparency he talks about in his policy proposals, most recently by refusing to answer questions from the press regarding his business dealings with the former House Speaker, Gordon Fox."
Fox's home and Statehouse office were raided by state and federal investigators March 21, and he resigned as speaker a day later. Indications have emerged that investigators are looking at Fox's campaign finances, although further details have yet to come forward.
The primary between Gorbea and de Ramel, ain indepently wealthy candidate who came to close to winning the secretary of state's office in 2006, is September 9. The winner of the race will face Republican candidate John Carlevale.