Mattiello to review legislative grant recipients following Gallison controversy

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Problems at the small educational nonprofit tied to former House Finance Committee Chairman Ray Gallison are providing House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello with a timely opportunity to a take a closer look at a controversial issue.

Gallison resigned Tuesday amid a law-enforcement probe that partly relates to prostitution. A nonprofit organization tied to Gallison, Alternative Educational Programming Inc. (AEP), is also being accused of forgery after listing Aubrey Lombardo as its president on the group’s three most recent federal tax returns in 2015, 2014 and 2013.

“Someone forged an e-signature on the IRS documents and the secretary of state documents,” Lombardo, a local attorney, told Target 12. “I never authorized someone to do it. The first time I saw them was yesterday when I pulled them up.”

It’s unclear if AEP is any way connected to the investigation of Gallison. The Bristol Democrat, 64, declined comment when questioned by Target 12 on Tuesday. His attorney said he couldn’t discuss the case in any detail.

AEP relied almost entirely for its funding on annual legislative-directed “community-service grants,” including a $70,875 one awarded this year. The organization has received at least $1.7 million in such grants since 2005, according to a Target 12 review of documents.

Mattiello said this week he now thinks it was not acceptable for Gallison, as a lawmaker, to be receiving a salary from a group that was so financially dependent on grants awarded by the General Assembly.

The speaker also said he’s in the process of reviewing the organizations that receive such grants, saying he’s concerned with how the smaller ones are managed – or mismanaged.

“I’m going to look at them all. I’m going to look at their size, I’m going to look at their administrative structure,” Mattiello said. “And if they’re too small, maybe we just cut those out of the grant process.”

According to Ken Block, a 2014 Republican candidate for governor, size is not indicative of whether or not a nonprofit is bad.

“It’s the lack of vetting, it’s the lack of process,” Block said Thursday. “And frankly, I don’t believe that the legislature should be in the business of determining who should be getting stuff like this.”

There are two pathways for receiving legislative funding:

  1. Grants that lawmakers include in state departments’ formal annual budgets
  2. Grants that lawmakers apply for and receive through the speaker or Senate president’s offices

Block argued that there’s no oversight of this money and the whole process lacks transparency. He pointed to other states, where he said the governor folds all such grants into a budget proposal and the lawmakers debate it on the floor.

“The right way to fund the food bank is with a budget line item specifically for food banks,” Block said. “The right way to fund Crossroads is with a budget line item specifically for Crossroads. This idea that these unmonitored grant programs that very likely have outside influence by legislative leadership – is just wrong in every way.”

Ted Nesi and Tim White contributed to this report. 

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