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McKee’s chief of staff steps down over wetlands controversy

August 30, 2021 GMT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee’s chief of staff, who is under scrutiny for whether he used his political clout to push through a development approval on some wetlands owned by his family, has stepped down, the governor’s office announced Monday.

Anthony Silva maintains that he did nothing wrong in the approval process, but the issue had become a distraction, the Democratic governor said in a statement.

“Tony and I reached a mutual agreement that it is in the best interest of the administration for him to retire from state government effective immediately,” the statement said.

“Right now, his situation is a distraction from the critical work we have ahead. I appreciate that Tony understands the need to remove the distraction to ensure we can continue serving Rhode Islanders effectively,” the governor said.

Silva once had an agreement to purchase the property in Cumberland — where McKee was once mayor and Silva was police chief.

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After the state Department of Environmental Management issued the necessary approvals, the property was purchased by Silva’s son, Ross.

Town officials as well as neighbors oppose building on the land, saying developing it would exacerbate flooding problems in the area, and were concerned that Silva and his family got preferential treatment from the state environmental agency.

The approval has been challenged in court.

Silva in a statement earlier this month said he has had no financial interest in the property since April 2020 and said he did not “advocate for any outcome” with the Department of Environmental Management.

McKee stood by Silva, but last week asked the state attorney general’s office to investigate the matter. The state Republican Party has also filed a complaint with the state Ethics Commission.

Senior Deputy Chief of Staff Antonio Afonso Jr. will assume the role of chief of staff, effective immediately.