Governor Chafee decided to tap veteran R.I. Economic Development Corporation staffer William Parsons as its new executive director despite Parsons’ involvement in a 1999 scandal over executive expense accounts.
Parsons was reprimanded and demoted from deputy director to associate director after he approved – perhaps inadvertently – the EDC’s purchase of a plane ticket to Disney World for the son of its legal counsel, who wound up resigning along with other top staff members, according to newspaper accounts.
Parsons was also criticized for taking a $300 cash advance off his EDC credit card, charging $19.77 at a Family Pet Center in North Providence and failing to reimburse the agency for $390 he spent to bring his wife on a trade mission to London.
Christine Hunsinger, a spokeswoman for Governor Chafee, said Friday the governor was aware of the expense irregularities but decided it wasn’t a reason to pass over Parsons, who has worked for the EDC and its forerunner since 1975, a year after former Gov. Philip Noel created it.
“Yes, there was an issue several years back and that was dealt with, and since that time his track record has been impeccable,” Hunsinger told WPRI.com. “The governor is confident that Bill Parsons is the right person because of the institutional knowledge he has in 37 years of public service. EDC will move forward and under the governor’s direction will be a force in driving economic development in the state.”
Hunsinger declined to say how many others Chafee approached about taking the job. She also said the governor called Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed to inform her of the choice. Parsons’ appointment must be confirmed by the Senate.