GOP calls for ethics investigation into state official

In this May, 2020 file photo, RI Director of Administration Brett Smiley is onstage with Gov. Gina Raimondo (not shown) in a coronavirus briefing. File photo by Steve Klamkin WPRO News

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The Rhode Island Republican Party filed a complaint with the state Ethics Commission on Thursday calling for an investigation into Department of Administration Director Brett Smiley’s alleged solicitation of donations from state vendors for an expected run for mayor of Providence.

“We believe that the next chapter in Smiley’s career shouldn’t begin until a sweeping investigation by the Ethics Commission into his unethical pay-to-play fundraising is conducted,” state GOP chair Sue Cienki said in a statement.

Smiley, a Democrat, accepted the donations despite telling the ethics commission he would not do so, the GOP said.

He has since returned some.

A voicemail seeking comment from Smiley was left with a spokesperson for the Department of Administration. The agency oversees hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of state contracting and spending.

Smiley announced Wednesday that he will resign when Gov. Gina Raimondo is confirmed as President Joe Biden’s commerce secretary.

“As Governor Raimondo prepares to serve the country as President Biden’s commerce secretary, I have decided to leave state service when she is confirmed so that I can focus on the next chapter of my public service career,” the Democrat wrote in an email.

While he hasn’t officially announced his candidacy, Smiley has indicated he’ll run for Providence mayor next year. Current Mayor Jorge Elorza is term-limited.

Raimondo in a statement called Smiley “an extremely dedicated public servant,” who during the pandemic worked “under impossible circumstances.”