Patten conducted questionable behavior day before Philly trip, memo alleges

Revelations come as state’s property management director resigns and governor defends procedure

By: - June 16, 2023 4:23 pm
Gov. Dan McKee speaks at a podium inside the State Room at the Rhode Island State House.

Gov. Dan McKee addresses reporters Friday over the resignation of David Patten, who oversaw the state’s property division. (Photo by Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)

The now infamous trip to Philadelphia was not the only time David Patten, the state’s property management director, displayed questionable behavior.

Former DOA director responds to Philadelphia trip allegations

Gov. Dan McKee on Friday revealed another incident in which Patten made unprofessional and offensive statements during a work meeting at a Providence bar the day before Patten and former DOA Director James Thorsen toured Bok, a South Philadelphia coworking, small business and artist hub. Bok is owned and operated by a developer interested in pursuing a potential redevelopment of the Cranston Street Armory in Providence.

At a hastily arranged morning press conference at the State House, McKee told reporters about an incident that occurred at Ladder 133 Kitchen & Social on Douglas Avenue. The incident is outlined in a memo sent to the Department of Administration (DOA) on March 10, the same day as the Philadelphia trip. All names on the memo are redacted.

Patten created “a rather uncomfortable situation” during a work meeting at Ladder 133, the memo states.

Ladder 133 Email -3-10-2023_Redacted

The press conference came just over three months after McKee received a March 12 email from an executive at Bok’s developer, Scout Ltd., complaining about alleged misconduct by Thorsen and Patten. Scout was selected to redevelop the Cranston Street Armory in Providence through a request for proposals.

McKee tried to keep the email secret. But it was made public June 8, a day after Attorney General Peter Neronha ordered its release after WPRI-TV and the Providence Journal appealed McKee’s refusal under the state’s Access to Public Records Act.

The March 10 DOA memo stated Patten asked a line of unprofessional and at times, offensive, questioning.

“Questions included but were not limited to: age, sexual orientation, relationship status, living arrangements and other details of the relationships disclosed, etc.),” the memo read.

Patten also allegedly “made some off-handed comments that we deemed homophobic in nature.” 

“Specifically alluding to choices of alcoholic drinks, driving, and innuendos regarding workplace relationships,” the memo read. 

McKee said at the press this incident was reported to Rhode Island’s Division of Human Resources on March 13.

Patten resigns

The new revelations come after Patten announced his resignation Thursday evening at the request of the governor. Patten’s resignation takes effect June 30.

Michael Lynch, Patten’s attorney, released a statement Thursday saying, “While a simple apology is never enough, Mr. Patten is apologetic to the citizens of Rhode Island, who he has had the pleasure of representing as a director in the Department of Administration, that any of these matters occurred.”

“He also apologizes to the many individuals in Philadelphia he met with in March and were,  unfortunately, recipients of comments that resulted from Mr. Patten suffering this acute stress event,” Lynch wrote.

Lynch issued another statement on behalf of his client Friday after the details about Ladder 133 were aired. Lynch issued neither he nor Patten “had, before this afternoon, been afforded the courtesy of a copy of the referenced memo containing the commentary from the evening prior to Mr. Patten’s and Mr. Thorsen’s morning visit to Philadelphia.”

“Any such referenced conduct was certainly part of the effects of the diagnosed acute stress event that had built up over time and carried over to the following day and for which Mr. Patten ultimately sought and received the care needed to address this health related matter,” Lynch said.

McKee said Friday that Patten’s resignation suspends the state’s HR investigation in his alleged misconduct during the Philadelphia trip. However, a separate investigation conducted by the Rhode Island State Police remains ongoing.

The Rhode Island Ethics Commission is scheduled to vote on whether to pursue its own investigation on June 27.

Severance allows for unemployment, other benefits

A copy of Patten’s termination agreement with the state says he “shall not seek or apply for future employment with any State department or agency.” However, Patten is eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. 

Brian Daniels, the director of the state’s Office of Management & Budget, said after Friday’s  press conference that Patten’s benefits would be based on a percentage of his salary and that he’d only receive it “if he’s truthful” in his application.

It is up to the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training to determine if Patten can receive unemployment benefits, if he applies, Daniels said.

Patten Settlement 06152023

Additionally, Patten is entitled to continue his family health, vision and dental coverage in accordance with the provisions of the federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). Patten, though, is responsible for paying his portion of the costs of his COBRA Family Medical Coverage in order to keep his insurance coverage.

Governor defends procedure

When asked why his office took so long to request a resignation, McKee told reporters, “the proper procedure was followed in this case.”

The governor also provided a timeline of what he called a “sometimes painfully slow process” the state is required to follow when investigating and building a case against a “classified employee,” such as Patten. The timeline began with the initial report of Patten’s behavior on March 10, the State Police launching an investigation a month later, Patten’s placement on administrative leave in late May, and his resignation on June 15.

“It’s my job to follow this procedure, and that’s exactly what we did,” McKee said.

Status of the Armory

McKee said he called representatives of Scout on March 14 to personally apologize. He added that he offered “to speak with anyone that they asked me to call as governor of the state of Rhode Island.”

Plans to renovate the Cranston Street Armory remain unclear. Funding to redevelop the  property was not included in the fiscal 2024 state budget McKee signed 90 minutes after the press conference. The property was used as a warming station for the unhoused from December until its May 15 closure. 

“We do [not] want to work with people who support casual racism and sexism and are shocked at how this reflects on the State of Rhode Island and the lack of competence there,” Scout Director of Hospitality Everett Abitbol wrote to McKee’s office in his March 12 email. “We would like to make the Armory into a safe and supportive space for ALL and it is clear that with their leadership this will not be possible.”

Abitbol could not be reached for comment.

As for the state’s current relationship with Scout, McKee said, “it’s professional.”


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Christopher Shea
Christopher Shea

Christopher Shea covers politics, the criminal justice system and transportation for the Rhode Island Current.