Two senior Rhode Island officials were accused of misconduct for allegedly being ‘blatantly sexist’ and ‘racist’ during a work trip to Philadelphia in a bombshell email made public last week by the Rhode Island attorney general.
David Patten and Jim Thorsen went on a work trip to Philadelphia on March 10 to tour a historic building, which had been redeveloped by a firm they were considering awarding a $55million contract to in Rhode Island.
Before they arrived, Patten is accused of sending a text to their female host, a managing partner at the firm, that read: ‘Please have fresh coffee (with milk and sugar) and the best croissant in Philadelphia ready for me upon arrival… You have three houses to convince us to give you $55M.’
During the trip, Patten was also accused of telling his host, ‘If I knew your husband wasn’t going to be here I would have come last night’; saying he hates China before turning to an Asian-American woman and saying, ‘No offense, hun’; demanding a closed Michelin star restaurant open to serve him lunch; asking a doctor if he ‘had ethnicity’; joking multiple times about receiving gifts; mocking the homeless in front of them, calling somebody’s dog overweight; demanding the host’s tenants give him souvenirs, including sneakers, vegan cheese and hand blown glass.’
Neither of the two men remain in their state role.
David Patten and Jim Thorsen went on a work trip to Philadelphia during which they were accused of being sexist and racist
One of the most significant allegations was that Scout managing director Lindsey Scannapieco (pictured) was sexually harassed by David Patten
Patten is accused of sending a text (pictured) to their female host, a managing partner at the firm, demanding coffee, beers and Diet Coke
The pair were received on the day by Lindsey Scannapieco, the managing partner of the development company Scout, and her colleague Everett Abitbol, both of whom later detailed their experience in an email to the Rhode Island governor’s office.
Patten was alleged to have been the primary perpetrator of misconduct – Thorsen was accused of standing by and allowing it to continue.
Patten went on medical leave on March 13 and is currently on administrative leave, a spokesperson for the Department of Administration told the Washington Post.
In March, Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee announced Thorsen would be ‘returning to the US Department of Treasury’. The spokesperson said that the decision was made in February before the trip.
In July 2021, Scout was awarded a contract to produce a redevelopment plan for the Cranston Street Armory, a historic building in Providence similar to one the firm had already developed in Philadelphia, known as the Bok Building.
It was once a Philadelphia school building and had been redeveloped to be a community space that houses more than 250 businesses, artists, makers, entrepreneurs and nonprofits.
The proposed visit was intended to give Patten and Thorsen a better sense of previous projects the firm had undertaken – and to introduce the two officials to the Bok building’s range of interesting tenants.
At the time, Thorsen was director of Rhode Island’s Department of Administration and Patten served as the director of the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance.
David Patten (pictured) went on medical leave on March 13 and is currently on administrative leave, a spokesperson for the Department of Administration
The proposed visit was intended to show Patten and Thorsen a previous project in Philadelphia that Scout had been involved in. Pictured is the Bok Building, home to around 250 businesses, artists, makers, entrepreneurs, and nonprofits
The email that details the extent of the alleged misconduct was finally released last week by the Rhode Island attorney general – and came months after local Rhode Island news outlets, Target 12 and The Providence Journal, requested the email via records requests, which were denied.
Last Wednesday Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha ruled in favor of Target 12 and The Providence Journal in their open-records complaint.
‘We are writing to you to outline a series of bizarre, offensive and unprofessional actions from the Director David Patten and Jim Thorsen on their visit to Philadelphia on Friday March 10,’ the email began.
‘We are embarrassed, shocked and quite frankly at an impasse for how to work with people who are so blatantly sexist, racist and unprofessional. This reflects incredibly poorly on the State of Rhode Island and their leadership,’ it went on.
‘The visit was frenetic and our team tried our best to keep the tour organized and professional. We do not understand if there is a mental health challenge underlying this behavior, drug or alcohol use, or frankly just a complete lack of competence about how to treat and interact with people,’ wrote Abitbol and Scannapieco.
In the three-page email, they also provide a fairly in-depth overview of various acts of alleged misconduct.
They said that they were called on late March 8, Wednesday, notifying them that Patten and Thorsen would be coming to the city on the morning of March 10, Friday.
‘We organized an incredible day for them to see and understand Bok and our development approach,’ the developers wrote.
The email that details the extent of the alleged misconduct was finally released last week by the Rhode Island attorney general – and came months after local Rhode Island news outlets requested the email via records requests. Pictured is the the top of the complaint
In the three-page email, Abitbol and Scannapieco also provide a fairly in-depth overview of various acts of alleged misconduct
One of the most significant allegations was that Scannapieco was sexually harassed by Patten.
‘What Director Patten said to our managing partner Lindsey Scannapieco was unacceptable and clearly sexual harassment. While getting coffee just as the day began, Director Patten made comments to Lindsey directly about her appearance and going so far as to say “Lindsey, where is your husband? Why is he in Australia? Good thing your married or I would move to Philadelphia” and “if I knew your husband wasn’t going to be here, I would have come last night,”‘ read the email.
Another allegation was in relation to the text message from Patten, received at 12.01am on Friday morning, which read in full: ‘So am I. Please have fresh coffee (with milk and sugar) and the best croissant in Philadelphia ready for me upon arrival. Director Thorsen likes Diet Coke. Have a cold six pack waiting on the table in your conference room. You have three houses to convince us to give you $55M.’
That was proceeded with a winking face emoji.
One incident of alleged racism occurred when Abitbol and Scannapieco brought the two officials to visit the Jefferson Wyss Wellness Center, a refugee and immigrant community in Bok.
The email complaining about the officials’ conduct was sent by Everett Abitbol, who was present during the tour, and works as Director of Hospitality and Development for Scout
Patten is accused of speaking disparagingly about homeless people in their presence and mocking a doctor at the clinic.
‘The situation really escalated when hearing Dr. Atshuler’s passion for helping those less fortunate, Patten asked “When you go to the bars at night, you must have to swat off the women.” Dr. Altshuler responded “No, I am happily married,”‘ read the email.
Patten then allegedly asked the doctor, ‘You’ve got some ethnicity in you?’
The official went on to ask the doctor if he was Italian. When told that he was Jewish, Patten responded that he knew Jews while growing up in Brooklyn, the email claims.
In another alleged racist incident, Patten told somebody working for Diadora – an Italian sportswear company that also rents space in the building – that he hoped their shoes were not made in China because he disliked Chinese people. He then allegedly turned to an Asian-American woman and told her, ‘No offense, hun.’
Abitbol and Scannapieco claimed in the email that the US CEO of Diadora contacted them later to say he witnessed and was offended by Patten’s conduct, and that he had an Asian-American wife and children.
The developers also said that Patten and Thorsen forced them to make a closed Michelin star restaurant in the building open to serve them lunch, saying: ‘Well you can call in a favor in you want $55M in funding.’
‘We arranged for a private lunch which has never happened in the history of the project,’ they said.
In March, Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee announced that Thorsen (pictured) would be ‘returning to the US Department of Treasury’
Other allegations included in the email included:
‘Condescending remarks to two makers in the building (glass blower and vegan cheese maker) where there were questions about paying above a minimum wage and shock that these businesses made any money or could pay rent.
‘Patten at almost every visit insisted on taking something from the tenant home with him, whether that be vegan cheese, hand blown glass or a pair of sneakers. At each instance when doing this he made all very uncomfortable as he forced his requests on people who have a relationship and trust with us. At each instance of taking something he turned to Thorsen and said something to the extent of “I don’t have to declare this right” in which Thorsen replied “its de minimis”.
‘Asks the coffee shop for vanilla syrup. The owner says that they do not carry vanilla syrup – only simple syrup. Followed by “well the next time I come you need to carry vanilla syrup” – and reminds the owner four times.
‘Telling someone their dog was “overweight” and that “he knows because he used to train dogs.”‘
The pair ended their email by accusing the Rhode Island officials of being bullies.
‘Waiving [sic] $55million in our faces as if this is what we are receiving and benefitting is insulting, misinformed and quite frankly a tact of exerting power and control over someone that is disgusting,’ read the email.
Scout said to DailyMail.com in a statement on Tuesday that it hopes its likelihood of being awarded the contract to develop the Cranston Street Armory is not impacted by recent events.
‘We hope this unfortunate incident does not distract in any way from accomplishing this important project that will have a significant positive impact for so many Rhode Islanders,’ read the statement.