It was a prime opportunity for a Philadelphia developer who had won a contract for a $55 million project in Providence, RI to show what he could do.
But even before two Rhode Island state officials arrived for a tour of a building the company had been renovating, one of them made some very unorthodox requests.
« Please prepare me fresh coffee (with milk and sugar) and the best croissant in Philadelphia upon arrival, » wrote the official, David Patten, director of the Rhode Island Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, in a text message to Company officials, Scout, who sent at midnight before the tour, the developer later told in an email.
« Director Thorsen likes Diet Coke, » Patten added, referring to his colleague James E. Thorsen, who was administrative director of Rhode Island. “Grab a cold six-pack waiting on the table in your conference room. You have three hours to convince us to give you $55 million. »
The text message foreshadowed what was to come: « a series of bizarre, offensive and unprofessional actions » by Mr. Patten that stunned the developer and infuriated local business owners, the Scout email states.
The Rhode Island governor’s office said in a statement it asked state police and state human resources officials to conduct investigations related to the tour, but did not provide additional details.
The episode took place on March 10, when Scout welcomed the two Rhode Island officials to the Bok buildinga former Philadelphia vocational high school that the company had transformed into a home for more than 200 businesses, artists and nonprofits.
Officials arrived as Scout was seeking state funding from Rhode Island for a contract she had won redevelop a former state-owned armorya Providence, at a cost of $55 million.
The email detailing the visit was signed off by Scout managing partner Lindsey Scannapieco and another Scout executive, and was sent March 12 to the company’s lobbyist in Rhode Island, who forwarded to the Rhode Island governor’s chief of staff.
The email was released Thursday after the Rhode Island attorney general ordered the administration by Governor Daniel McKee to satisfy a request for public records by The Providence Journal AND WPRI, a Providence news station.
According to the email, Mr. Patten told Ms. Scannapieco as they were having coffee in the morning, « If I had known your husband wouldn’t be here, I would have come last night. »
While touring the Bok Building, Mr Patten insisted on taking items – including vegan cheese and a pair of trainers – from the tenants, making them « very uncomfortable, » the email says.
The email states that Mr Patten insisted on lunch at Irwin’s, a Sicilian restaurant in the building that Bon Appétit magazine named one of The 10 Best New Restaurants in America in 2022even after being told it wasn’t open for lunch.
« Well, you can call in a favor if you want $55 million in funding, » Mr. Patten told Ms. Scannapieco, according to the email. The scout then arranged a « private lunch » at Irwin’s, « something that has never happened in the history of the project, » according to the email.
Mr. Patten went on medical leave on March 13 and is now on administrative leave, according to Laura Hart, a spokeswoman for the Rhode Island Department of Administration.
Mr Thorsen tendered his resignation in February, ahead of the tour, and it took effect April 30, Ms Hart said. She said the Rhode Island governor’s office a declaration that Mr. Thorsen had gone to work for the United States Department of the Treasury. A Treasury Department spokesman said Mr. Thorsen’s work as a part-time contractor had been suspended, pending an internal review.
Scout’s email did not accuse Mr Thorsen of making offensive comments, but said he had allowed Mr Patten’s « behavior to continue even after we pulled him aside to make a note that this had to stop. »
According to the email, when Mr. Patten received a pair of sneakers from Diadora, a sportswear company in the Bok Building, he said he hoped they weren’t made in China « because I really hate China. »
Mr. Patten then turned to an Asian American woman in the room and said, « No offense, honey, » Scout’s email states.
At a health clinic in the building, Mr Patten pressed a doctor to state his ethnicity and last name, the email said. When the doctor said he was Jewish, Mr. Patten said, « Mazel tov, » according to the email.
In a statement released after releasing the email, Governor McKee said, « The allegations regarding Mr. Patten’s conduct, if true, are disturbing, unacceptable and unsuitable for anyone, especially an employee representing the state and who expects to be hired by the state.”
Michael P. Lynch, an attorney for Mr. Patten, said his client was « certainly embarrassed and humiliated, not only for himself and the impact this has had on his family, but also for those who have so placed so much faith in him as director.”
Mr Lynch said Mr Patten’s behavior was the result of « an acute stress event » that had built up over the past three years following the deaths of his sister, father-in-law and best friend.
« He hadn’t been taking care of himself and was trying to deal with stressors through work, » Lynch said. He added that while Mr. Patten was « not hiding » from his actions, « the comments and statements that were described in that email simply weren’t or were part of his fiber. »
Mr Thorsen said in a statement released by his lawyer that he was aware Mr Patten was « behaving strangely » and was not « representing the state appropriately or positively ».
After returning to Providence, Mr. Thorsen said, he went directly to a meeting he had arranged with the state human resources office to discuss Mr. Patten’s conduct. He said he spoke to state police later.
Mr. Thorsen said he did not ask Scout for preferential treatment and did not advise anyone that Scout’s treatment of him would have any effect on the award of state funding for the armory project in Providence.
Regarding the lunch at Irwin’s, Mr Thorsen said he did not ask for it in advance and paid for the meal after learning the restaurant had opened early for his visit.
« Most importantly, I have not made any remarks or statements to any person who was racially or sexually insensitive or inappropriate, » Thorsen said. « I don’t engage in that kind of conduct or speech. »
Scout’s email indicates that Ms. Scannapieco and her colleagues were « disgusted » by Mr. Patten’s behavior.
“We do not want to work with people who advocate casual racism and sexism and are shocked at how this reflects on the state of Rhode Island and the lack of expertise there,” the email states.
Ms. Scannapieco said in an email Tuesday that Scout was solely focused on her plan to redevelop the former armory in Providence. The project, which she says could create 400 jobs, still needs $55 million in funding.
Alan Rapport contributed report.