By Associated Press - Thursday, January 23, 2020

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello canceled an audit of the Rhode Island Convention Center on Thursday after the top House Republican filed a lawsuit accusing him of abusing his power.

Mattiello has been accused of using the investigation as retaliation for the disciplinary action against his friend James Demers, the Convention Center’s director of security, who was put on leave.

Auditor General Dennis Hoyle sent a letter Dec. 23 informing Convention Center executives that the Joint Committee on Legislative Services had directed him to conduct a performance audit of the center.

Three of the five committee members told WPRI-TV that they had not been consulted about the audit, even though state law says such audits must be requested by a “majority” of the committee’s leaders.

Mattiello defended his right to order the audit during an interview with WPRI on Friday. He said that there was no vote on the audit but that he sees himself as a majority because he is the committee’s chairman.

Committee member and House Minority Leader Blake Filippi filed a lawsuit in Superior Court Thursday accusing Mattiello of ordering “an illegal audit” and denying him his right to vote.

The Convention Center Authority’s board, which oversees the convention center, unanimously voted the same day to not comply with the audit until it was authorized by the committee.

Shorly after, the speaker’s office released a one-sentence letter cancelling the audit.

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