One incident shouldn’t taint a legacy

Posted 4/18/24


That was the word that came to mind when the news hit social media that the city’s longest serving mayor, Scott Avedisian, had left the scene of a minor accident at the drive thru of …

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One incident shouldn’t taint a legacy



That was the word that came to mind when the news hit social media that the city’s longest serving mayor, Scott Avedisian, had left the scene of a minor accident at the drive thru of the McDonald’s on Post Road. The particulars of the incident which the media furiously fed on and have been reported in detail are that Avedisian rear-ended a car in the drive thru lane, which in turn hit the car in front of her. Fortunately, no one was hurt and he immediately motioned to the two women to pull their cars to the side of the lot. The women assumed they would be exchanging information or at least waiting for an officer to arrive. But that didn’t happen. According to the police report, Avedisian left the scene and not only did the women get his registration, but one of them followed him to his home where she photographed the vehicle registered to the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority.

You knew the story would mushroom.  Avedisian has been a high visibility player on the Rhode Island political scene ever since winning election as mayor in a Democratic controlled Warwick more than 24 years ago. He got his start to elective office on the city council as the Ward 1 Councilman. He was “the kid” on the council and some of his fellow council members, in particular Linda Sullivan, took him under their wing.  Lincoln Chafee, a Republican, was in the corner office at City Hall. He had won the mayor’s seat in a three-way contest, splitting the Democrats.

Avedisian could have been reelected councilman, barring any scandal, for as long as he wanted. But then fortunes changed.  With the death of U.S. Senator John Chafee, then Governor Lincoln Almond named Lincoln Chafee to complete the term of his late father. With a vacancy for mayor, then City Council President Gerald Gibbons stepped up to fill the post. In the following election Avedisian, ran for mayor and won… and won… and won. He gained statewide stature.

Avedisian understood to be reelected as a Republican in a Democratic city he had to be popular with the people and keep the Democrats happy. He did a good job of it. The initiatives he failed to get through the City Council such as a lease of Conimicut Lighthouse and the sale of the vacant Aldrich Junior High School to a charter school were surely disappointments. He got things done. He kept the unions happy.  He didn’t rock the boat; there was peace. He considered to be a candidate for state office and for congress. He didn’t move. He played it safe.  In 2018 Gov. Gina Raimondo tapped him to be the president and CEO of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority.  He purposely timed his departure as mayor so as not to trigger a special election, thereby saving the city money and enabling then City Council President Joseph Solomon to complete his term and go on to win election as mayor that fall. It was another safe move.

What played out at McDonald’s, and I recognize he has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges of leaving the scene of an accident, are inconsistent with Avedisian’s better judgement. It has fueled rumors over his singular car crash more than a year ago and why police didn’t dig deeper into that incident that sent him to Kent Hospital with a broken arm, but no blood/alcohol tests.  He is now at a place where every move will come under public scrutiny.

In resigning from his post at RIPTA he has taken the right step. It leaves the spotlight entirely on him – where it belongs - not on the agency or a legal battle and those looking to throw him out.

He’s on his own, although many of the friends who have been with him all these years are still at his side. The challenge now is not only to ride out court proceedings but to put his talents to good use going forward. His legacy shouldn’t end with a stop at McDonald’s.

Side up, Avedisian


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