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AG Candidate Kilmartin will Advocate for the Permanent Codification of the Public Corruption Unit
Published on: Oct 28, 2010

Attorney General Candidate Peter Kilmartin announced today that when elected, he will advocate for the permanent codification of the Office’s Public Corruption Unit. Currently, public corruption cases are handled by the “White Collar Crime Unit” within the Criminal Division of the Office.

“By having a Unit solely devoted to public corruption, there can be new focus on corruption at all levels – whether or not the acts are criminal in nature,” said Kilmartin. “We need to focus on criminal behavior, in addition to the pursuance of acts that are in violation of the public trust – specifically where damages are incurred to Rhode Island taxpayers.” 

Kilmartin has strengthened his initial call to enhance the White Collar Crime/Public Corruption Unit based on recent corruption allegations in the Ocean State, in addition to further evaluation of the Office. The “Public Corruption Unit” will include two attorneys – one designated to civil matters and one focused on criminal prosecution. The “Public Corruption Unit” will work in conjunction with the Rhode Island State Police, local law enforcement, the Bureau of Audits, the United States Attorney’s Office, the Ethics Commission, Supreme Court Disciplinary Counsel for Attorneys and the Auditor General. 

Kilmartin stated: “Clearly, our approach to public corruption in Rhode Island is not working as effectively as it should. If we are going to root out corruption in all levels of our state, it is time to get creative and work together. Seeing as Rhode Island does not have an Inspector General, it is essential that the Attorney General take on this function so taxpayers know that someone is watching out for an government fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement and if those abuses are happening, to hold those bad actors accountable. In the absence of an Inspector General, I will fill that role as Attorney General.”

The creation of the “Public Corruption Unit” will be a part of Kilmartin’s “Legislative Corruption Package,” aimed at enhancing penalties against those that violate the public trust. His “Legislative Corruption Package” will also include a bill aimed at enhancing penalties against “pay to play” practices and criminalizing the “theft of honest services.” 

Kilmartin’s “pay-to-play” legislation will bar companies from donating to those persons who are responsible for awarding specific government contracts; this includes state and local officeholders or candidates for those offices. The donation ban would last throughout the bidding process, and, if, the contract is awarded, the ban remains in effect for two years after the contract terminates.

The “theft of honest services” legislation would make it unlawful, for any public servant to fraudulently engage in, or attempt to engage in, conduct that deprives the public of honest services. Those actors found in violation would be guilty of a felony and subject to imprisonment of up to ten (10) years and a fine of up to one hundred fifty thousand dollars ($150,000), or both. The act would also extend the statute of limitations for wrongful conversion by officer or state or municipal employees, R.I.G.L. §11-41-27, from three (3) to ten (10) years. As Attorney General, Kilmartin will ensure that this proposal is consistent with the newfound Supreme Court precedent (Skilling vs. United States, 561 U.S. (2010)) and amend the proposal as necessary.

Kilmartin asserted: “The Attorney General has broad common law authority to ensure the best interests of all Rhode Islanders, I will use that authority to take a broad approach to rooting out public corruption including the use of civil investigatory demands, audits of state and local contracts and the creation of phone and internet corruption “tips-lines” for people to call in and report leads on possible corruption cases.”

Regarding legislation that will make the “Public Corruption Unit” statutory, similar statutes have been enacted in areas where specialized resources are necessary, including: the Office of Health Care Advocate (R.I.G.L. §42-9.1); the Office of Elder Justice Prosecution Unit (R.I.G.L. §42-9.2;); and the Office of the Civil Rights Advocate (R.I.G.L. §42-9.3).