Backlash to how Rhode Island’s governor answered the I-Team's Brian Crandall Wednesday leads to more questions Thursday.
NBC 10's Brian Crandall asked Governor Dan McKee a question regarding potential resignations from RIDOT Wednesday. Dec. 13, 2023. (WJAR)
Dan McKee struck a softer tone at Thursday’s press conference on the Washington Bridge westbound closure than he did the day before.
And out of the gate Thursday, McKee acknowledged people are looking for answers.
“Oversight is on the lips of many and we embrace that, let’s make that very clear,” the governor said.
And when asked about public opinion on potential resignations at RIDOT in the wake of the bridge situation, McKee replied, “It’s a fair question there.”
That answer was a stark contrast to Wednesday, when the governor rebuked Crandall for asking if there had been discussion of the whether RIDOT Director Peter Alviti should resign.
McKee said Wednesday the question was “out of line,” “beyond the pale,” and “inappropriate.”
When asked Thursday about those answers, McKee said, “Yesterday was yesterday. I felt it was important to make sure that people don’t personalize this issue, that we stay very focused on the emergency status.”
“We should be applauding the individuals that made the decision to close down the bridge, to save people’s lives. And anybody who’s going over the top to personalize it, then that’s when I become a little bit, I’m defending the space that I need to defend,” the governor said.
Alviti maintains the now-broken 55-year-old bridge part that forced the closure was fine in a July inspection, that something extraordinary and uncontrollable must have happened since then, and that RIDOT's inspection process worked, as an engineer working on the ongoing reconstruction of the bridge spotted the problem.
“Frustrations are running high,” says Democratic State Representative Enrique Sanchez of Providence.
He is considering going so far as pushing for the impeachment of Alviti.
“I want to make sure there’s accountability at RIDOT and with its leadership and people are getting answers from our government,” Sanchez told NBC10.
“The negligence, the incompetent leadership at that agency have proven to demonstrate why we need to take further action,” he added.
House Republican leader Michael Chippendale is calling for oversight hearings.
“When we look at these and things aren’t adding up, we have to ask questions,” Chippendale told NBC10.
He questions what he calls self-congratulation by the governor's administration, among other things related to the bridge closure.
“I have a hard time believing it failed in just a few short months,” Chippendale said of the bridge part in question.
“We need to get to the bottom of what went wrong, how it went wrong, and how are we going to avoid that happening in the future,” Chippendale told NBC10.
McKee said, “Oversight is going to happen and during that process we’ll make certain determinations in terms of how we got here and why and how we dealt with the issues. I would just tell people they shouldn’t be prejudging this at all.”
House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio said in a statement, “Our chief concern right now is ensuring that RIDOT focuses on the safety of Rhode Islanders and making certain that people can get to work in an efficient manner. The time for scrutinizing the process that led to this bridge closure will come in the near future.”
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