Coia’s Rhode Island Friend Off on Technicality

A state Ethics Commission probe into Frank E. Corrente — senior aide to Providence, R.I., Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr. — suspiciously came to an end just a few days before he announced his retirement Jun. 9. The probe was into Corrente’s business dealings with the Laborers’ Int’l Union of No. Am. Corrente had faced a $25,000 fine.

The three-year probe looked into whether a conflict-of-interest existed when a Corrente partnership sold an building to a subsidiary of LIUNA’s legal fund for $2.3 million in 1994. At the time of the sale, Corrente was the City’s chief negotiator with LIUNA Local 1033. He was actively working on a new contract that included the City’s payment into LIUNA’s legal fund.

One of Corrente’s partners in the real estate venture was his long-time friend —  LIUNA top boss Arthur A. Coia.  Additionally, Corrente’s son, Darren Corrente, is a member of Coia’s law firm, Coia & Lepore, which received income from the same LIUNA legal fund.

R.I. law prohibits public officials from participating in public matters that enrich themselves, their family or their business interests. The Ethics Commission said the case was dropped not on its merits, but because of an unrelated state supreme court ruling. The court held that ethics investigators must complete probes within 180 days for charges to be valid. In short, the probe of Corrente took too long, so he’s free.

Six weeks ago, the FBI and U.S. Atty.’s Office announced a corruption investigation of the Cianci administration. As for Coia, no word if the failed LIUNA “internal reform effort” and its ethically-challenged “in-house prosecutor” Robert D. Luskin have pursued these corruption allegations. [Providence Journal-Bulletin 6/9/99]