Rhode Island Officials Under Fire After 'Bizarre' Visit to Philly

'Offensive' behavior on work trip included racism, sexism, demands for Diet Coke, per allegations
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 13, 2023 10:00 AM CDT
Officials' 'Bizarre' Visit to Philly Went Way South
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/seb_ra)

Two Rhode Island officials who traveled to Philadelphia on a work trip are now the subject of two investigations within their own state—one by the state police, another by the governor's office—for behavior on that trip that's being described as "offensive" and "bizarre." The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that David Patten, director of Rhode Island's property management division, and James Thorsen, director of administration, headed to Philly in early March to tour Bok, a former vocational school that now serves as a co-working space for nonprofits and other groups. Scout Ltd., the redevelopment firm behind Bok, hoped to convince the two men that Rhode Island should fund a similar project in Providence. But things are said to have gone off the rails before Patten and Thorsen even arrived for the March 10 tour of the Bok site in South Philly.

Per an email penned by Scout managing partner Lindsey Scannapieco and colleague Everett Abitbol to a hired lobbyist, Patten texted Scannapieco the night before the tour demanding "french coffee (with milk and sugar) and the best croissant in Philadelphia" and Diet Coke for Thorsen. "Have a cold six pack waiting on the table in your conference room," Patten wrote. "You have three hours to convince us to give you $55M." But that was just the beginning of what Scannapieco and Abitbol describe as "a series of bizarre, offensive, and unprofessional actions," including rude, racist, and sexist behavior toward Scout staffers and businesses seen during the Bok tour. Among the allegations: Patten noting "I really hate China" (then turning to an Asian American worker to say, "No offense, hun"); demands from the men for a closed restaurant to open for them for lunch; and calling a dog "overweight."

Patten also insisted on taking items from every Bok tenant visited, including vegan cheese and handblown glass, per the email. He also allegedly said to Scannapieco: "If I knew your husband wasn't going to be here, I would have come last night." "We do not understand if there is a mental health challenge underlying this behavior, drug or alcohol use, or frankly just a complete lack of competence about how to treat and interact with people," Scannapieco and Abitbol write. WPRI notes the administration of Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee tried to stifle the email, but finally released it Thursday on order of the state's attorney general. The dual probes are ongoing. Thorsen, who now works for the US Treasury, hasn't commented. A lawyer for Patten, who's on paid leave, says his client is "humiliated" and that his actions were due to "an acute stress event that built up over time." Much more here. (Read more strange stuff stories.)

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