WARWICK — The Rhode Island Ethics Commission has launched an investigation into a complaint that accuses the City Council president of ethics violations related to the council’s business with an accounting firm.
The complaint, which was provided to The Providence Journal by its author, resident Robert Cote, says an executive at the same accounting firm was a campaign treasurer for City Council President Steven Merolla.
It says Merolla’s association with the executive, Tom Lisi, was not disclosed in public until after the City Council authorized a final payment to the accounting firm, Marcum LLP, in June 2019.
The firm, says the complaint, received a total of $225,000 in payments from Dec. 18, 2017, to June 17, 2019, but Warwick officials have not provided any accounting report, or any “work product,” generated by the hired accountants. The city hasn’t provided any internal accounting of the spending either, it says.
Lisi was the principal of the accounting firm that the city initially hired, YKSM, (which later merged into Marcum with Lisi remaining on the team), according to the complaint.
The firm’s job, it says, was to investigate various types of payments made to Warwick firefighters.
Merolla’s lawyer, Christopher S. Gontarz, said the commission’s standard for deciding to investigate a complaint is a “low standard.”
“I believe the complaint is unfounded,” he said.
Merolla, who ran for the state Senate but did not win office, will leave the City Council after a long tenure when his term ends early next year.