Cranston Mayor Allan Fung’s response to a police controversy could damage his political prospects, according to Brown University political science professor Wendy Schiller. Schiller said it will take time for the fallout to settle from a state police report, which alleges the mayor interfered in the Cranston Police Department.
Mayor Fung has declined, at least for now, to release the report, pointing to confidentiality issues. Schiller said that could be a mistake.
“He needs to come up with more information and a better explanation, because then I think when people have doubts and they're not cleared up, they linger and linger and linger, and it’s get harder and harder to convince people you haven’t done anything wrong,” said Schiller.
Meanwhile, the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is calling on Fung to release the full report.
“In a recent statement, you said that your ‘intention has always been transparency about this report,’ " the ACLU said, in a letter to Fung, "Because the Access to Public Records Act does not in any manner stand in the way of the report’s disclosure, and withholding it runs counter to your stated interest in transparency, we urge prompt release of the report this week.”
The mayor's office has been asked for comment on the ACLU letter. We will post a response if we get one.
The ACLU said that given the public interest in the report -- and the $500,000 cost to the public of preparing it -- relying on the open records law to withhold the results would be "completely inappropriate."
A summary of the state police report points to deep problems within the Cranston PD under its former leadership. It also cites political interference by Fung and his staff.
The report was slated to be the subject of a closed executive session between Mayor Fung and the City Council on Wednesday, but the meeting was postponed. According to a notice by the city clerk, Fung and the council agreed to delay the discussion until a legal decision is made identifying with parts of the State Police report "must remain confidential."
Democratic councilors have called for the public release of the report, calling on Fung to answer questions about political interference and other problems cited in the document.
But Fung says confidentiality issues make it necessary for him to move more slowly in releasing the report. The mayor has asked the state attorney general’s office for an opinion on which parts of the report can be publicly disclosed.
The ACLU said turning to the AG's office for an opinion is “likely to delay – for weeks, if not months – public access to this critical report. However, the public deserves answers now.”
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