Greater City Providence

Oopsie! Apparently the RI Senate thinks Drunk Driving is no big deal.

RuggeiroSurely you’ve heard that Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio who represents the North End of Providence and North Providence was arrested for driving drunk and refusing a breathalizer early Wednesday morning.

As WPRI reports:

Ruggerio stopped his car, a black Buick sedan, in the middle of the road instead of pulling over to the side and later failed a field sobriety test, according to the arrest report. Patrolman Walter Larson, the arresting officer, said Ruggerio had bloodshot, watery eyes, “heavily slurred speech,” “a strong odor of consumed alcohol” on his breath and swayed from side to side.

Ruggerio has been described as “taking full responsiblity for his actions.” However, WPRI quotes him as saying:

“Last evening the vehicle I was driving in Barrington was pulled over by the Barrington Police. I declined a breathalyzer test.” He did not say whether he was inebriated at the time.

The vehicle you were driving in? No Senator, you were pulled over because you were driving drunk. Though you refused a breathalizer hoping to you could beat the rap. That does not full responsibility make.

Ruggerio went on to say:

“I accept full responsibility for my actions last evening and regret how this may impact my family, my constituents, my colleagues and the Senate. I look forward to resolving this matter and continuing to serve my constituents as vigorously as I have for the past 32 years.”

No, stop. Serving in the Senate is a privilege, and Senators (and Representatives and all elected offials) need to be held to a higher standard. You are trusted to represent the rest of us to govern the state, and then you go and drive drunk though Providence and the East Bay putting at risk the lives of those you claim to serve. I don’t care how long you’ve served, you’ve broken the public trust and if you were taking full responsibilty for your actions, you would step down.

You know what else someone who is taking full responsibilty does, they apologize. Nowhere in Ruggerio’s statement do I see the words “I’m sorry.”

But why should Ruggeiro resign, none of his colleagues seem too concerned about what he has done. Here is Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed’s statement as reported by RINPR:

“Leader Ruggerio is addressing the legal issues which arose last evening. This obviously concerns me, but I am reassured by the fact that he is accepting full responsibility for his actions. I am confident that this issue will not distract him from his duties and that he will continue to be an effective leader in the state senate.”

Madame President, he has not taken full responsiblity, he has not directly apologized, and he is a lawmaker who has broken a very serious law and put the lives of many Rhode Islanders at stake in doing so. Is appearing in court and maybe a few weeks in “rehab” really enough for you?

No one else in the Senate or in the Democratic Party as a whole has stepped up to address the fact that drunk driving is a serious offense. What if he had been running through the streets of Barrington shooting a pistol randomly? If no one was hurt, would that be OK? Oopsie, stuff happens? Because that is basically what he did with his car, no one was hurt so it was an oopsie.

We’re never going to get our house in order if we allow our elected officials to not be held accountable for their actions. Senator Ruggerio should actually take full responsiblities for his actions and resign, making room for someone who deserves the public’s trust.

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • “the vehicle I was driving in Barrington was pulled over by the Barrington Police”

    Or, to paraphrase Tom Waits, the Camaro has been drinking, not me.

  • This is getting better:


    BARRINGTON, R.I. — A North Providence state senator threatened police officers with legislative retribution Wednesday and tried to pull strings to get Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio off the hook after Ruggerio was pulled over and later charged with drunken driving, according to a Barrington police report released Friday after The Providence Journal filed an Open Records Request.

  • Also a tap on the wrist from Senate leadership. Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed’s latest statement as reported by WPRI:

    I would like to say that I am pleased to see that Senator Ruggerio has accepted responsibility for his actions. No one is above the law and everyone – including elected officials – should be respectful of individuals in the law enforcement community, particularly when they are doing their jobs. Although there seems to be a difference of opinion on the details of that night, Senator Ciccone has expressed regret for his actions that evening as well.

    How is refusing a breathalizer because you know that will save you from a criminal drunk driving conviction accepting full responsibility for drunk driving? And if their is a difference of opinion regarding what Ciccone did, then what exactly does TPW think he is expressing regret for?

    The flagrant disrespect for the rule of law by Ruggerio and Ciccone is one thing, the utter lack of leadership by the Senate President is another thing altogether.

  • I mean these aren’t a couple of little kids who got into a tussle on the playground, and Teresa Paiva Weed needs to do more than play the part of their mommy assuring us that the are vewy vewy sorry. The only thing these two are sorry about is that this made the papers.

  • And the Journal digs up another police report. This one saying that Ciccone also appeared intoxicated and that police had to drive him to the police station.

    A report previously withheld by Barrington police, from Sgt. Gino Caputo, recorded that Sen. Frank A. Ciccone III appeared inebriated, told officers he was calling “important people” such as “state police majors,” and told an officer giving Ruggerio the field-sobriety test “OK, this is enough.”

    And, because Ciccone seemed too drunk to drive Ruggerio’s car, Caputo wrote, an officer gave the senator a ride to the police station.

  • Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed announces at afternoon press conference that Senator Ciccone has agreed to step down from Finance Committee leadership.

    Paiva Weed did not mention Sen. Ruggerio which just furthers my assertion that the Senate thinks drunk driving is no big thing. Ciccone threatens the police, loses his Committee leadership, Ruggerio drives drunk, he could have killed people, nothing, remains Majority Leader. This is our General Assembly.

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