The State Senate Race in District 26, Cranston took an interesting turn Friday as Sean Gately, Republican contender for the seat Democrat Bea Lanzi is voluntarily abdicating, issued a press release accusing Frank Lombardi, the Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate, of cronyism, backroom deals and wasting taxpayer money on “frivolous lawsuits for political cover.” Frank Lombardi is in a tight primary race with Rev. Gene Dyszlewski, a political newcomer with decades of experience working in the community.
Gately’s accusation comes after an examination of 187 pages of confidential Cranston School Committee executive session meeting notes that were leaked, accidentally or intentionally, online. According to Meg Fraser at the Cranston Herald, “DOCS LEAKED: 187 pages of confidential meeting details shared online“:
Caruolo is a common thread throughout the meeting minutes, and in the final meeting posted, the political implications of a Caruolo appeal are discussed. Former committee attorney Ben Scungio informs the committee that, should they appeal, the decision against the district would be suspended.“That would get the committee members through the election. If the committee says they will let it stand, they have to live with the lies in the decision. It hurts the committee more politically if they let it sit there.”
In 2007 the Cranston School Committee, of which Frank Lombardi was a member, decided to sue the State of Rhode Island under the Caruolo Act for the education money it felt it deserved but was not allocated. Rhode Island Superior Court Judge Judith Savage tossed out the lawsuit and blasted the school committee for not properly exhausting its options in balancing its budget before engaging in litigation. According to Gately, this lawsuit cost the taxpayers of Cranston $210,000 in legal fees paid to Attorney Ben Scungio. Behind closed doors, according to the leaked documents, Scungio advised the School Committee members that appealing the decision would get the committee members through the next election cycle, making it easier for them to keep their jobs in the wake of their shameful fiscal mismanagement.
In other words, the school committee was allegedly advised by Attorney Ben Scungio to risk further taxpayer money not because they had a winning case and could prevail on appeal, but because it would help the school committee members who incompetently wasted public funds to keep their jobs.
Worse, Ben Scungio is a contributor to Frank Lombardi’s present campaign for State Senate! The implication here is clear: Lombardi and the Cranston School Committee gave Scungio a $210,000 pay day, and Scungio is returning the favor by supporting Lombardi’s campaign.
Gately’s press release makes four demands of Lombardi:
1. Repudiate and disavow the advice that Attorney Scungio gave him to appeal a court decision for political reasons.
3. Pledge to stop the cronyism and special backroom deals by not taking any money from any vendors who have done work for the Cranston School Committee
4.Apologize to the taxpayers of Cranston for wasting their money on frivolous lawsuits for political cover.
Gately, I think, echoes the anger of many RI voters when he goes on to say, “This is simply outrageous. Here we have an example of politicians spending taxpayer money, claiming it’s to protect children, but in reality it is being used to protect their own political careers.”
Fortunately, Frank Lombardi is being opposed for the Democratic nomination by Gene Dyszlewski. Gene is not part of the politics as usual machine that cranks out shady insiders like Lombardi. Gene is new to politics, but not new to working for the community as a Reverend and as an advocate for the neediest among us.
Gene’s impressive list of endorsements include Planned Parenthood Votes! Rhode Island, Ocean State Action, National Association of Social Workers Political Action for Candidate Election, Rhode Island Progressive Democrats of America, Clean Water Action, National Organization for Women, Marriage Equality Rhode Island and the National Education Association of Rhode Island.
On Tuesday, September 11th, the people of district 26 in Cranston will have the chance to vote for Gene or Lombardi. They can vote for someone new, honest and untarnished by scandal, or they can vote for the same old tired politics that have plagued Rhode Island for decades.