Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee acknowledged Tuesday that the involvement of his chief of staff, Tony Silva, in a Cumberland development proposal justifies public scrutiny, but he said Silva did not use undue state influence in advocating for the project.

“No it’s certainly not a non-story,” McKee said, after downplaying the significance of the situation earlier this week. “My name’s at the top of the fold [of The Providence Journal] quite often right now, The fact that a chief of staff is being reported in this way, of course it’s a story and of course it’s a concern.”

McKee added that he was told by the state Department of Environmental Management “that there was no undue influence at all in their opinion on that project, so from that point of view I’m not concerned. Because I believe that the information that I got is correct and that there was not an influence-peddling or some sort at DEM.”

The questions center on how Silva has been attempting to develop a lot on Canning Street in Cumberland that is mostly Wetlands since 2017.

DEM rejected a proposal at the site in 2019, but approved a revised plan earlier this year.

After a Channel 12 report earlier this month, the Silva family dropped its attempts to develop the land and said it would donate the land for conservation purposes.

McKee spoke with reporters during his weekly Tuesday news conference on Smith Hill -- the same day that the state GOP filed an ethics complaint against Silva for not disclosing his interest in a Cumberland parcel after he joined McKee’s administration earlier this year.

WPRI and The Providence Journal reported that Silva, a former Cumberland police chief, met with Cumberland Mayor Jeff Mutter in March -- the same month he became McKee’s top aide -- to advocate for a development on a parcel that is mostly wetlands on Canning Street.

McKee said he had no concern about how Silva met with Mutter.

“I don’t have any concern with that,” the governor, a former Cumberland mayor, said. “I took meetings as a mayor with people all that time. Some people who I was able to help, and some people I had to tell I couldn’t help. That communication is natural and a mayor will take those calls.”

McKee said Silva continues to enjoy his full confidence.

In related news, McKee said he has written to President Biden to indicate Rhode Island’s willingness to accept Afghan refugees.

“To the Afghan citizens fleeing from persecution, we can offer not only a welcoming refuge, but also an opportunity to prosper and contribute to a vibrant community,” McKee wrote.

Ian Donnis can be reached at idonnis@ripr.org. Follow him on Twitter @IanDon. Sign up here for his weekly RI politics and media newsletter.