June 24--PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, chaired by Governor Chafee, took three votes behind closed doors Monday on issues related to the state's lawsuit against the people and firms who crafted the state's $75-million loan deal to the now-defunct 38 Studios video-game company.
But after the corporation's board of directors met with several state lawyers for nearly an hour, the board voted to seal the minutes and keep the votes confidential so as not "to jeopardize" the state's legal strategy or negotiations.
In February, the board took similar action regarding the 38 Studios litigation, yet declined to reveal the number of votes taken during closed session. Although the state's open-meetings law requires votes in closed session to be disclosed once a meeting reopens, a caveat allows votes not to be disclosed for "the period of time" that could jeopardize legal strategy.
On Monday, the board did not announce how many votes it took in private, but the corporation's general counsel, Thomas E. Carlotto, of Shechtman Halperin Savage LLP, responded after the meeting to a reporter's query, saying three votes were taken. He declined comment on the nature of the votes, though, so it's unclear whether the state is closer to settling with any of the 14 defendants in the sweeping lawsuit.
Eight of 13 board members attended the Monday meeting: Shannon E. Brawley, Nancy Carriuolo, Governor Chafee, Maeve Donohue, Roland Fiore, Elizabeth Francis, Jason E. Kelly and George H. Nee. Absent were vice chairman Jerauld C. Adams, Judith Diaz, Oscar T. "Tim" Hebert, Karl Wadensten and Stanley Weiss.
Commerce Corporation Executive Director Marcel A. Valois and Max Wistow, of Wistow Barylick Sheehan & Loveley PC, who's leading the state's effort to recoup any lost taxpayer money, also declined comment after the meeting.
In open session, the board received a presentation on how current manufacturing trends often require new buildings and not older mill buildings that once housed the state's booming manufacturing industry. Valois said the report highlights the need for state leaders to ensure that Rhode Island has a mix of mill buildings, which companies can renovate if they fit their needs, and open land where new construction can accommodate modern manufacturers' needs for more open floor plans, wider expanses on a single floor and higher ceilings so large equipment fits better.
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