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Top Rhode Island official out over work misconduct claims

Top Rhode Island official out over work misconduct claims

A top Rhode Island official announced his resignation Thursday, closing part of an investigation into accusations of misconduct, including racially and ethnically charged remarks and requests for special treatment, during a business trip to Philadelphia earlier in the year.

The investigation focused on the visit by David Patten to review a state contractor, Scout Ltd., on March 10. Patten served as state director of capital asset management and maintenance in the Department of Administration.

After the trip, Scout officials wrote an email alleging what they described as bizarre and offensive behavior from Patten.

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On Thursday, Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee called for Patten’s resignation.

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An aide to McKee pointed to a human resources investigation which he said highlighted Patten’s “highly inappropriate conduct, which was disturbing, entirely unacceptable, and not representative of Rhode Island’s values or the integrity of our state workforce.”

Patten, through his lawyer Michael Lynch, announced his decision to step down Thursday, effective June 30.

Lynch said in a statement his client’s behavior was “the result of a health issue termed an acute stress event — culminating from various events over the past 3 years for which he treated and has been cleared to return to work.”

“While a simple apology is never enough, Mr. Patten is apologetic to the citizens of Rhode Island,” Lynch added. “He also apologizes to the many individuals in Philadelphia he met with in March and were, unfortunately, recipients of comments that resulted from Mr. Patten suffering this acute stress event.”

Patten’s alleged transgressions were detailed in the Scout email released in response to appeals from The Providence Journal and WPRI-TV.

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When speaking with a doctor who helped the poor, Patten allegedly asked, “When you go to the bars at night, you must have to swat off the women.” The doctor said he was happily married. When Patten pressed him on his heritage, the doctor said he was Jewish, apparently prompting Patten to say “mazel tov” and that he knew Jewish people in Brooklyn, according to the email.

During a visit to a shoe store, Patten was offered sneakers. After receiving the pair, he allegedly said, “Are these made in China? I hope not, because I really hate China,” and then directed his attention to a female Asian staff member, saying, “No offense, hun.”

The e-mail said Patten pressed other businesses to let him take items for himself.

Rhode Island Department of Administration official David Patten has announced his resignation amid allegations of workplace misconduct. The announcement comes just one day after Democratic Gov. Dan McKee (pictured) called on Patten to step down. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

“Patten at almost every visit insisted on taking something from the tenant home with him, whether that be vegan cheese, hand blown glass or a pair of sneakers,” the email read.

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Patten had been on paid leave since three days after the trip. As part of his resignation, the state will continue to pay a portion of his health coverage until Sept. 30.

McKee addressed the incident and Patten’s resignation with reporters Friday.

“We expect more from our state employees than the behavior that Mr. Patten is now apologizing for in Philadelphia,” McKee said. “People who behave in that way, I don’t expect that they are going to be employed by the state of Rhode Island.”

McKee said his hands had been tied earlier in the process when the incident was being reviewed by human resources, adding that “the investigation was as thorough and swift as possible.”

McKee said the situation began during the March 10 trip to Philadelphia when a report about Patten’s behavior was sent to human resources, prompting the initial investigation.

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Two days later, the state received an email from Scout alleging “bizarre, offensive” behavior that was “blatantly sexist, racist and unprofessional.”

On March 14, Patten’s access to state computer systems and cell phones was locked.

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“I personally called Scout Management to apologize for the behavior that was being reported,” McKee said, adding he also offered to speak with anyone Scout asked him to call as governor to also provide an apology.

In April, McKee said his legal office referred the matter to state police. That investigation is ongoing, he said.

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On May 30, Patten’s doctor cleared him to return to work. Instead, he was put on paid administrative leave to allow the human resources investigation to continue, according to the governor.

McKee called for Patten’s resignation Thursday. Patten announced his resignation and the human resources investigation was suspended.

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Patten was making more than $174,000 annually.

Published: 2023-06-17 00:52:55

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