Lynch unveils anti-corruption proposal

While most everyone was focused yesterday afternoon on New Hampshire, the office of Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch released a statement about a proposal to counter public corruption.

Although it seems a bit unusual for this kind of thing to drop shortly before 5 pm on the day of the primary, it also marks a retort of sorts to gripes about the feds typically taking the lead in corruption prosecutions.

Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch [yesterday] announced that he is submitting legislation that would, for the first time, put a strong public corruption felony statute on the books in Rhode Island.


The Government Integrity and Public Accountability Act of 2008 will, if enacted, create a new chapter of law entitled Crimes Against the Public Trust under which the criminal offense, theft of honest services, will allow the state to vigorously prosecute those violating the public trust. The new law, modeled on the federal statute that was enacted in 1988, would apply to public servants at all levels — from elected officials to state, municipal, and town employees, and contract employees.


“The citizens of Rhode Island need assurances that their government, at all levels, is working to further the public good,” Lynch said. “This legislation provides a safeguard for government integrity, gives us the means to return stolen money to the state’s general fund, and, most importantly, a means of prosecuting those who choose to abuse the public trust. We have the will to get the job done, but not the way. This bill gives us the way.”


Lynch’s bill includes a provision, much like criminal forfeiture, that enables the state to civilly pursue recovery of any monies that the public servant unlawfully received in the course of a violation knowingly committed in an official capacity, if the public servant has been convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor.


“The money recovered would be allocated to Rhode Island’s general fund, where it rightfully belongs,” Lynch said. “The state is the victim. It is the residents of our state who are harmed and adversely affected. It is the residents of Rhode Island who suffer each time another public corruption offense takes place. With a looming $500 million state budget deficit and a sluggish economy, state leaders need to transform government. This bill is integral to accomplishing that transformation.”


Another provision of the bill would amend Rhode Island General Laws 12-12-17 to extend the statute of limitations for crimes against the public trust from three years to 10 years.

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