Amid former lawmaker arrests, Cranston rep pushing for Inspector General

PROVIDENCE, R.I (WPRI) — Like many Rhode Islanders, State Rep. Robert Lancia is sick of hearing about former lawmakers misusing money while in office.

The same day former House Finance chairman Ray Gallison was arraigned on nine criminal charges related to financial misdeeds, Lancia announced he is re-introducing legislation that would create an Office of the Inspector General in Rhode Island.

The Republican from Cranston said the inspector general would have broad powers to root out public corruption.

“I cannot think of a better time to have a position like this that would be so focused,” Rep. Lancia said. “It would be a separate office, he or she would have their own staff, and have broad powers to investigate waste, fraud and abuse.”

Lancia said unlike the current auditor general, the inspector general would have full subpoena power to gain access to documents and witnesses necessary for investigations.

While the attorney general does also have those powers, Lancia said the attorney general’s office is working on all kinds of criminal cases. The inspector general would be exclusively focused on investigating the misuse of public funds.

Gallison is just the latest person charged with misusing money while in office. Former state Rep. Peter Palumbo was charged last week with embezzlement and filing a false document. The week before that, former Rep. John Carnevale was charged with perjury and filing false documents. His charges stemmed from a state police investigation, triggered by a Target 12 report that questioned whether Carnevale lived in the district he represented.

Rep. Lancia said the inspector general would be appointed jointly by the governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. He is hoping to get the funding for the position into the budget that will be crafted over the next four months. While a full cost estimate has not been done, Lancia estimated a cost of $1.5 million to establish the office.

“We could easily recover more than that,” Lancia said. “I think it would easily pay for itself.”