RI State Police done with Montanaro investigation

Frank Montanaro Jr.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Just a day after confirming the investigation, the Rhode Island State Police said Tuesday they have completed their examination of a top State House staffer who got about $50,000 in free tuition, and forwarded their findings to the attorney general.

Target 12 revealed last month that former Rep. Frank Montanaro Jr. spent three years on unpaid leave from his old position at Rhode Island College after taking a $156,000 job appointed by House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, and that he used his status to collect $49,787 in free tuition over that period. He eventually said he would repay the money. The state police confirmed their investigation Monday.

Lt. Col. Joseph Philbin said investigators on Tuesday had finished looking into the matter, which they were asked to do two weeks ago by Attorney General Peter Kilmartin’s office. Kilmartin’s staff will now review their information to determine whether to pursue any criminal charges.

Kilmartin and Montanaro, both Democrats, served together in the Rhode Island House of Representatives for more than a decade, from 1991 to 2004. In the past Kilmartin has not recused himself from investigations involving his former colleagues. His office does not comment on pending probes, but has noted in the past he’s prosecuted former colleagues including John Carnevale and John Whiting.

Joseph Penza, Montanaro’s attorney, has confirmed Montanaro was voluntarily interviewed Friday by the state police. He insisted that “no criminal wrongdoing occurred here,” calling that “a conclusion we have every confidence they will reach.”

Separately, a spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday RIC was also contacted as part of the probe.

“I can confirm that RIC has been contacted by the Rhode Island State Police regarding tuition waivers granted to Mr. Montanaro’s family members,” RIC spokeswoman Kristy dosReis said.

“RIC has cooperated fully with the state police relative to all such inquiries,” she said. “We leave to the state police to disclose, as they see fit, the nature and details of the inquiry and any requests for documentation, as we do not want to prejudice their inquiry in any way.”

dosReis also said RIC and Montanaro’s lawyer have been discussing how he will repay the $49,787, but he “has not, as of this time, advised specifically as to how or when any payments will be made.”

Tim White ( twhite@wpri.com ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook