Speaker Fox won’t say if he will resign after raids

House Speaker Gordon Fox speaks to reporters (WPRI 12 photo)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – House Speaker Gordon Fox spoke publicly Saturday for the first time since law-enforcement officials raided his home and State House office Friday morning, but declined to comment on the status of the investigation.

“I feel bad that you’ve been hanging out waiting, but when it’s appropriate, I’ll talk to all of you,” Fox told a group of reporters who were camped outside of his home on Gorton Street in Providence. He said he did not plan to comment further Saturday.

Fox declined to say whether he has hired a lawyer or if he intends to resign the speakership, a post he has held since February 2010. He also said he had not called any meetings with his colleagues for Saturday.

Fox’s brief emergence from seclusion was the latest development during a whirlwind 24 hours that began when agents from the Rhode Island State Police, FBI and IRS raided the speaker’s office and home as part of an undisclosed investigation, kicking off a scramble for advantage among those who hope to replace him as speaker.

Fox did not issue a public statement Friday as several Democratic lawmakers worked to cobble together the 38 votes needed to become the next speaker should Fox resign. Majority Leader Nick Mattiello held an “informational” meeting with at least 25 lawmakers Friday evening at the Providence Marriot, while a separate group met at Venda on Federal Hill.

Reporters camped out at Fox’s home for several hours Saturday before veteran public-relations consultant William Fischer entered the house. He stayed for about 30 minutes and declined comment before driving off. Fischer worked as Fox’s spokesman during his 2012 House race against independent Mark Binder.

Fox emerged from the home at noon wearing a blue windbreaker over a red polo shirt, telling reporters that he was going “for a ride.” He thanked the reporters “for your hard work,” but said “I wouldn’t waste your time” spending the day in front of his home.

Fox spokesman Larry Berman said Saturday he hadn’t been in touch with the speaker since Friday evening, when Fox replied to a text message asking whether he would resign by saying: “No resignation.”

Separately, Treasurer Gina Raimondo became the first of the three leading Democratic candidates for governor to comment on what happened to Fox, who has been her legislative partner on issues including pension reform and fixing infrastructure. “This is sad and upsetting news and we need to let the process play out,” Raimondo told WPRI.com in a statement Saturday.

Raimondo rival Clay Pell, a political newcomer, was close behind Saturday with his own statement. “This is an unfortunate situation that is continuing to unfold,” Pell told WPRI.com. “As a former prosecutor, I believe we need to allow this process to play out before commenting further.”

The third Democrat running for mayor, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, used to have a law office in the same building as Fox’s. The mayor chimed in a short time later on Saturday, saying: “I am saddened by what we are seeing. There is a lot more Rhode Islanders are going to need know. Hopefully, the situation will become clearer shortly. Until then I will refrain from commenting further.”

Among the Republican hopefuls, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung called on Fox to resign for the duration of the investigation, while businessman Ken Block described Friday as “a sad day” for Rhode Island.

Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Twitter: @danmcgowan

Ted Nesi ( tnesi@wpri.com ) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com and writes the Nesi’s Notes blog. Follow him on Twitter: @tednesi

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