PROVIDENCE â€“ With the Rhode Island State Police investigating his role in obtaining a concession contract at three state beaches, RI Democratic Chairman David Caprio has abruptly resigned his party post less than six weeks to go before the Sept. 9 Democratic primary elections.
Providence Rep. Grace Diaz, the partyâ€™s vice chairwoman will step into Caprioâ€™s shoes as acting chairwoman. Jonathan Boucher is the partyâ€™s executive director.
Earlier this week, Channel 10 revealed that Caprio, who was the second-highest bidder, was awarded the five-year contract to operate the concessions at Scarborough, Roger Wheeler and Misquamicut state beaches after the top bidder, Democratic state Rep. Peter Palumbo, withdrew shortly after he won it. Then Caprio promptly hired Palumbo to run the concession operation. Caprio incorporated the company that eventually won the contract, DAC Caesar, last year before submitting the bid in July, 2013.
Palumbo told the TV station that financial problems caused him to surrender the contract and he was pleased that Caprio got it and hired him.
Palumboâ€™s bids for the three concessions totaled $1,776,655; Caprioâ€™s
total bid was $1,550,015. When competitors complained, the state police opened what they are calling an â€śopen and activeâ€ť investigation.
Caprio issued a statement Tuesday that did not mention the contract flap or the state police investigation.
â€śThe position of Democratic Party chair is demanding and time-consuming, especially in an election year,â€ť it reads. â€śThere are numerous talented Democrats seeking office. I can not at this time dedicate the necessary time and energy to assist them in their respective campaigns. Accordingly,
I will no longer serve as party chair.â€ť
The party chairmanship is an unpaid position.
Republicans wasted no time in denouncing the deal.
Ken Block, a GOP candidate for governor said early Tuesday morning that the arrangement was a â€śpre-planned bid strategyâ€ť between Caprio and Palumbo and â€śflat-out wrong.â€ť
â€śOnce again, politically-connected insiders are abusing their positions and serving their own financial interests,â€ť Block said in a written statement. â€śThese Democrats engaged in such questionable behavior that there is an open and active state police investigation into their actions.â€ť
â€śThese Democrats are unfairly rigging the game, and shortchanging the taxpayers of our state,â€ť said Block. â€śThere are strong indications of collusion here â€“ it appears there was a pre-planned strategy to influence the outcome of the bidding process and win this contract at a reduced price. As a business owner, I bid on contracts, and this type of behavior is flat-out wrong. As a taxpayer, Iâ€™m sick of watching political insiders rip us off.â€ť
Blockâ€™s Republican primary opponent, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, said the situation â€ścertainly does not pass the smell test. It does not look good and presents a lot of concerns. I am glad the state police are looking into this.â€ť
Caprio, a former state representative, is the brother of Frank Caprio, the former general treasurer who is a candidate for that office once again in the Sept. 9 primary.
A phone message seeking comment from Caprio was not returned on Tuesday.
Follow Jim Baron on Twitter @Jim_Baron.