Rhode Island development officials spark outrage in Philly

Alleged demands for fresh coffee, Diet Coke; inappropriate comments highlight bizarre trip to Bok Building

David Patten and James Thorsen
David Patten and James Thorsen (WJAR-TV)

Two Rhode Island officials may have taken New England saltiness a bit too far while on a trip to Philadelphia to research a possible development project, sparking outrage and investigations.

Lindsey Scannapieco, managing partner at Scout Ltd., which oversees the redevelopment of Philadelphia’s Bok building, had offered a tour to the Rhode Island officials — David Patten, the director of the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance; and James Thorsen, the now-former director of the Department of Administration— in hopes of securing funding for a project in Providence, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

But the Ocean State officials’ alleged behavior during the visit was deemed “bizarre, offensive, and unprofessional,” prompting Scannapieco and colleague Everett Abitbol to document the incidents in an email that eventually reached the Rhode Island governor.

The email contains the following details of the visit, according to the outlet: 

  • Ahead of the tour, Patten allegedly demanded fresh coffee, a croissant, and a cold six-pack of Diet Coke, giving Scannapieco a three-hour deadline to convince them to provide $55 million in funding. 
  • During the tour, Patten made inappropriate comments about Scannapieco’s appearance and questioned the absence of her husband. He also made offensive remarks to other individuals, including a health-care professional and an Asian-American staffer.

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  • Patten and Thorsen reportedly made demands and asked for gifts from the various tenants they visited, raising ethical concerns. 

Patten is currently on paid administrative leave, while Thorsen resigned before the trip and now works in the U.S. Treasury Department.

The revelations have triggered two investigations, one led by the Rhode Island state police and another by the governor’s office. 

Scannapieco said she was disappointed with the officials’ behavior and emphasized her commitment to maintaining Bok as an inclusive and safe space for the community. She said she hopes the incident does not jeopardize the funding and support for the Rhode Island development project.

An attorney representing Patten attributed his behavior to a mental health event characterized by acute stress. Patten had experienced significant personal losses in the years leading up to the trip. 

The involved parties have yet to comment on the matter.

— Ted Glanzer