Jerry Elmer, CLF Staff Attorney
(April 11, 2007) The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) filed a motion in Superior Court today seeking permission to take sworn deposition testimony of Rhode Island House Speaker William Murphy and others. The motion comes in the wake of sensational and politically charged allegations of improper activity by the Speaker in the Champlin’s Marina case in which the Block Island marina is appealing a decision by the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) to deny Champlin’s application to expand its marina into Great Salt Pond.
On Thursday, April 5, CRMC Chairman Michael Tikoian testified in Superior Court that he had been told by CRMC member Thomas R. Ricci that Ricci had been contacted by House Speaker Murphy while the Champlin’s application was pending before CRMC. Tikoian testified he was told by Ricci that after the conversation with Speaker Murphy Ricci was “committed to a particular plan” for Champlin’s because “the Speaker got a family member [of Ricci’s] a job and that person needed health benefits.” Tikoian testified that another CRMC member, Jerry Sahagian, stated that he was also called by the Speaker’s office. Both Ricci and Sahagian were members of the CRMC subcommittee that heard Champlin’s application and both voted in favor of a large expansion of the marina.
“The public deserves to know whether or not Speaker Murphy improperly used his office to influence a pending vote,” said CLF Staff Attorney Jerry Elmer. “A deposition will allow us to find out what really happened.”
BACKGROUND: The current hearing in the Champlin’s case has been going on since Monday, March 19. The hearing in this case is the first time in the history of Rhode Island that the Superior Court has permitted an evidentiary hearing in an appeal under the state’s Administrative Procedures Act that governs appeals from CRMC and other state agencies. A deposition is a court-related proceeding in which an attorney examines a witness; the witness is under oath and the proceedings are recorded by a court stenographer.