The state Ethics Commission on Tuesday decided to investigate a complaint filed against House Speaker Gordon Fox. The question is whether Fox needed to disclose legal work done for the City of Providence.
Jason Gramitt, a staff attorney for the Ethics Commission, calls the step taken by the commission "preliminary. The commission only looks at the complaint and decides whether or not it should authorize an investigation, and so that's all they've done. They didn't offer any opinion as to whether the complaint is a good complaint or a bad complaint."
On an ethics disclosure that lawmakers file every year with the state’s ethics commission, Fox didn’t disclose legal work done between 2005 and 2009 for the Providence Economic Development Partnership. Judith Reilly, a former Providence resident who now lives in Massachusetts, says that lack of disclosure amounts to a violation. Reilly has been a longtime critic of the PEDP; many of the loans offered by the agency have ended in default.
A lawyer for Fox, Albin Moser of Providence, submitted a letter to the Ethics Commission describing how the PEDP contracted from 2005 to 2009 with lawyer Joshua Teverow to perform closings on PEDP loans. "Mr. Teverow's office subcontracted with Mr. Fox as a closing attorney on some of the closings that PEDP had contracted with Mr. Teverow's office to perform," Moser wrote. "PEDP issued checks to Mr. Teverow's office and Mr. Teverow's office paid Mr. Fox out of these funds. PEDP issued no checks to Mr. Fox."
Moser says Fox didn't list PEDP on his annual financial disclosures from 2005 to 2009 "because he believed that he did not need to list a state or municipal agency on the Yearly Financial Statements unless he received income from the agency."
Moser says Fox will amend his financial statements for the years prior to 2010 "if the Ethics Commission believes that Mr. Fox should have considered his income from Joshua Teverow's law office to be income received from a state or municipal agency."
The Ethics Commission considered the details in closed session before deciding to proceed with an investigation of the complaint.