Rewrite this post
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Embattled state director David Patten submitted his resignation Thursday amid mounting pressure after he faced accusations of behaving badly on a business trip to Philadelphia.
The state property director had been on paid leave since three days after the taxpayer-funded trip on March 10 to visit state contractor Scout Ltd. After the trip, Scout officials wrote an email alleging “bizarre, offensive” behavior that was “blatantly sexist, racist and unprofessional” — focused mostly on Patten’s actions.
Patten’s attorney Michael Lynch has attributed the director’s behavior to a “mental health event.” On Thursday, Lynch issued a statement on Patten’s behalf reiterating his health issues, but acknowledged “Mr. Patten knows he must step away,” noting how distracting the issue had become to the state. His resignation is effective June 30.
“While a simple apology is never enough, Mr. Patten is apologetic to the citizens of Rhode Island, who he has had the pleasure of representing,” Lynch said, adding that of any of the matters that occurred, “none were part of his fabric and were in no way intentional.”
“He also apologizes to the many individuals in Philadelphia he met with in March and were, unfortunately, recipients of comments that resulted from Mr. Patten suffering this acute stress event,” he added.
Patten had been making nearly $175,000 per year as director of the R.I. Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance. Scout officials also accused Patten’s former boss, Jim Thorsen, of failing to intervene during the trip.
Thorsen, who stepped down as R.I. Department of Administration director in April, responded to the allegations Wednesday, arguing he did his best to navigate a difficult situation. In a statement, he did not address whether he rebuked Patten for his behavior in the moment, but insisted that he didn’t personally engage in the inappropriate behavior.
“I did not make any remark or make any statement to any person that was racially or sexually insensitive or inappropriate,” Thorsen said. “I do not engage in that type of speech or conduct.”
Scout’s email condemning Patten and Thorsen has made national news since Target 12 and The Providence Journal won a public-records complaint forcing Gov. Dan McKee’s office to release the document last week.
McKee declined to fire Patten after the incident, saying he would wait for the conclusion of investigations by the R.I. State Police and the state’s human-resources office. Following Patten’s resignation, McKee spokesperson Matt Sheaff noted the governor initiated the investigations into Patten’s behavior to “ensure the state was strongly and soundly positioned to act should the appalling allegations prove to be true.”
Sheaff said the human resources probe showed Patten’s conduct was “disturbing, entirely unacceptable, and not representative of Rhode Island’s values or the integrity of the state workforce.”
Explaining why the governor didn’t fire Patten prior to his resignation, Sheaff said they were prepared to move forward with displinary proceedings, but it would have required a hearing that “could have extended well beyond Mr. Matten’s resignation date of June 30, resulting in the continuation of his paid administrative leave at a cost to taxpayers.”
Patten is considered a “classified employee,” according to Sheaff, which means he has certain rights to a due-process hearing prior to any displinary action.
As part of his resignation, the state agreed to continue to pay a portion of his health insurance until Sept. 30, citing that Patten had “indicated that he is dealing with a health issue.”
“Mr. Patten continues to pay his co-share, to allow him to receive any treatment he may need,” Sheaff said.
Critics have suggested Scout’s decision to report the behavior led McKee to sour on its proposal to redevelop the Cranston Street Armory, an assertion the governor has rejected.
“Mr. Patten does not want to prolong the distraction nor engage in what could be a long, expensive and litigious fight for all parties,” Lynch said. “Rhode Island has been and remains home to Mr. Patten. While it will no doubt take time, he is confident that, as he now understands, there is a need to take care of oneself not only to be an effective and productive worker but a leader and is hopeful that he will be able to re-establish the faith and trust so many placed in him that led him to the position as a director in the governor’s administration.”
. Keep all images. Remove “and links” at the beginning