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NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Dan McKee had little to say Thursday about allegations that a high-ranking official in his administration acted inappropriately during a business trip last month, reiterating that he won’t release an email detailing the behavior without a legal review of its contents.
“All I’m going to say is that individual is on administrative leave and it’s a personnel matter,” he told reporters. “I am not going to talk about it anymore.”
The individual is David Patten, director of the R.I. Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, and his family has confirmed he’s currently on medical leave.
Patten went on leave three days after a controversial business trip to Philadelphia, where he and his boss — Department of Administration Director Jim Thorsen — visited a facility developed by Scout Ltd., a state contractor leading efforts to redevelop the historic Cranston Street Armory in Providence.
After the trip, Scout staff members wrote an email alleging that Patten made a series of inappropriate comments that shocked the people he met over the course of the daylong visit. The email was shared with the offices of the governor and House Speaker Joe Shekarchi, although the governor claimed Thursday he hasn’t read it yet.
“I haven’t seen the email,” he said.
State leaders so far have refused to release the email, despite requests from Target 12. They said they would only consider releasing it after a formal review by lawyers under the Access to Public Records Act, a formal legal procedure that could take weeks.
On Thursday, McKee reiterated the administration wouldn’t release the email until that process is complete — even after it was noted that he could.
“We’ll let the ask go through, then I think more information will come out,” McKee said.
McKee said he’s talked with Scout, but declined to offer details about what happened on the trip. The urban development company has been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to come up a reuse plan for the Cranston Street Armory.
Thorsen and Patten had been working with the developer, which was seeking millions of dollars for the redevelopment plan. Thorsen is stepping down from his role at the end of this month, although he tendered his resignation on Feb. 22, before the trip took place.
Thorsen traveled back to Rhode Island after the Philadelphia trip where he immediately met with human resources, according to a spokesperson. The topic of the meeting has not been disclosed.
McKee dismissed the idea that the problematic business trip has killed the Armory deal. His proposed 2023-24 state budget currently contains no funding for for the project.
“We’ll continue to take a serious look at the opportunity and will determine what’s best for the taxpayers,” he said.
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