Administrator concealed theft of court funds

Administrator concealed theft of court funds

PROVIDENCE --- State Court Administrator Matthew J. Smith covered up the theft of $4,200 in Supreme Court money by Anthony A. Piccirilli, the son of a prominent state officer.

Smith was the speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives for eight years and one of the state's most powerful politicians. After leaving the legislature he became the state court administrator, a post that controls all the nonjudicial operations of the state courts.

As administrator, Smith personally oversaw actions to secretly replace the missing money and conceal the theft.

Although they talked about calling in the state police, Smith and his deputy never reported the theft.

Chief Justice Thomas F. Fay, who is responsible for the court administration and who is Smith's boss, has denied knowing about the theft or the cover-up. He has ordered Smith to prepare a report....

Fay, Smith maintain secret account at court

Fay, Smith maintain secret account at court

PROVIDENCE --- Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas F. Fay and his top administrator, Matthew J. Smith, have used a secret account to spend thousands of dollars without any oversight from state accounting officials or the court's other top administrators.

While Fay has steered the money into the secret account, Smith has written almost all the checks to spend the money. The checkbook and other records are kept locked in Smith's secretary's filing cabinet....

Secret court fund paid for liquor and limousines despite state bans

Secret court fund paid for liquor and limousines despite state bans

PROVIDENCE --- Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas F. Fay and his top administrator, Matthew J. Smith, used a secret court account to pay for liquor, pricey restaurant meals, fruit baskets, tuxedo and limousine rentals, and a bus trip to Fenway Park.

Those disclosures came yesterday, the first day Journal-Bulletin reporters were allowed to view records of the Supreme Court's "special account," which Fay and Smith operated for years without the knowledge of state accounting officials....

Chief judge, top clerk preside over network of high-priced patronage

Chief judge, top clerk preside over network of high-priced patronage

...Below Smith and Fay, the courts' job rolls bulge with clerks, administrators and administrator/clerks, law clerks, associate administrators, and deputy administrators, many of whom have passed through the Rhode Island political mill Smith once controlled.

Then, there are the new jobs, and the new titles: the interagency liaison specialist, the intragovernmental policy specialist, the legislative liaison, the principal projects manager, the coordinator of special projects, and the assistant administrator for policy and programming.

And there is the executive assistant for administration, the assistant administrator for human and financial resources, and the court facilities coordinators (classes I and II). And more.

This year, the General Assembly fought over whether 200 poor women would be allowed to collect welfare in their sixth or ninth month of pregnancy, a cost difference to the state of $250,000.

The courts' budget, meanwhile, increased by another $4 million, after adjustments, a rise of 9 percent.

This was presided over by the chief justice who promised reform.

This is how it happened....

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Fay gives arbitration work to friend, allies

Fay gives arbitration work to friend, allies

Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas F. Fay has assigned choice legal work to lawyers with whom he has either personal, political or business ties.

Fay assigned the lawyers to serve as neutral arbitrators in contract disputes between municipalities and police and fire unions.

In one instance, Fay's own real estate partnership was paid almost $900 in rent for arbitration hearings that were held in a Lincoln building that Fay co-owns with former court administrator Matthew J. Smith.

According to a Journal-Bulletin survey of 34 Rhode Island towns and cities, Fay has ties to five frequently appointed arbitrators....

Attorney general says investigation to continue

Attorney general says investigation to continue

PROVIDENCE --- Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas F. Fay resigned yesterday, capping a year of turmoil in Rhode Island 's court system and heading off an impeachment investigation into charges that he used the powers of his office to benefit himself, his business partners and his political allies.

In a letter delivered to Governor Sundlun late in the day, Fay said that while he had committed no "intentional wrongdoing," he was responsible for an "appearance of impropriety" that had shaken public confidence in the judiciary....

Journal wins Pulitzer for probe of courts

Journal wins Pulitzer for probe of courts

The Journal-Bulletin yesterday won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for its wide-ranging probe last year of corruption within Rhode Island's court system.

The stories led to the resignations and subsequent indictments of Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas F. Fay and the court system's top administrator, Matthew J. Smith.

It was the fourth time the 164-year-old newspaper has won journalism's highest award.

An exuberant celebration broke out in the Journal-Bulletin's high-ceilinged newsroom as the first terse bulletin about the honor was received from the Associated Press.

James V. Wyman, the paper's veteran top editor, leaped up on a file cabinet and told more than 100 staffers that "we would like to dedicate the award to the people of Rhode Island , whose cooperation and support have buoyed and bolstered our efforts throughout...."