JULY 06, 2006
A politically connected attorney general with a history of leniency towards powerful public officials is being investigated by his state’s ethics commission for accepting money from a lawyer representing a large paint manufacturer in a state lawsuit.
The peddling apparently swayed Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch to exclude DuPont from a landmark lawsuit in which three companies that didn’t bribe him stand to pay billions of dollars after being found guilty of various lead-paint charges.
Besides the thousands of dollars in campaign contributions by DuPont’s lead attorney during and after negotiations to drop the company from the suit, several employees of a firm that lobbies for the multinational chemical company also donated money to Lynch’s campaign.
Now the Rhode Island Ethics Commission, a constitutionally mandated body empowered to enforce the Code of Ethics for all public officials, is investigating the attorney general who comes from a politically connected family. His brother, William, heads the Rhode Island Democratic Party which basically runs the state and his father, Dennis, was a five-term mayor of Pawtucket.
Lynch ‘s handling of other high-profile cases has been questioned in the past. He refused to file criminal charges last year against Portsmouth police after authorities discovered that 40 missing weapons had illegally been taken home by officers.
In 2003 Lynch was rightfully scrutinized for not criminally pursuing negligent city inspectors and fire officials for a night club fire that killed 100 people. Instead, the state went after a special effects technician that was part of the band.
One local newspaper columnist called the man a scapegoat and questioned why nothing happened to the fire inspectors, fire marshals and building inspectors who were in the club and said nothing about the flammable foam on the club wall. The attorney general’s response? State law does not allow for the prosecution of those municipal and state officials because they have immunity unless they showed malice or bad faith.
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