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Providence Journal and Feroce Lawyers Battle Over Errors in Article and Corrections Promised

Thursday, March 02, 2017
GoLocalProv News Team and Kate Nagle

Lawyers representing Rhode Island businessman Giovanni Feroce, and the Chief Legal Counsel for the Providence Journal’s parent corporation, GateHouse Media, have been battling over allegations of errors in an article that was published on January 1, 2017 about Feroce and his company, BENRUS.

After the article was published, Feroce’s attorney Michael Kelly challenged the accuracy of the story and asserted that the article included 17 errors, and requested that the story, “High life crashing down on R.I. entrepreneur Giovanni Feroce,” be retracted and an apology be issued.

Much of the dispute involves a claim in the Providence Journal article that asserted that Feroce’s company was in receivership.

The company was not, and Feroce attests that the printing by the Providence Journal was not only in error, but also damaging.

“Practically, it has impacted certain timelines with capital raising, because a Google search now shows a deceiving headline and misinformation rather than a factual one. On a personal level, fortunately decades of success, commitment, charity, hard work, risk and sacrifice will ultimately shield me from lasting damage. That said, if the misleading context and outright misinformation is intended to hurt me ‘politically,” well then that needs to be seen,” said Feroce in an email to GoLocal on Tuesday.

In a letter sent from GateHouse Senior Vice President, Secretary and General Counsel Polly Grunfeld Sack to Feroce’s attorney Kelly, she denied the request for a retraction and defended the paper’s journalism, but outlined that the company would make corrections.

“Accordingly we will be publishing a correction/clarification of the minor items noted in Exhibit A but will not be publishing a full retraction nor issuing an apology,” wrote Sack.

In addition Sack wrote, “This letter sets forth our position on the matters discussed herein and should not be viewed as an admission of liability or wrongdoing or as limiting, prejudicing or waiving any of our right and remedies.”

In response to the January 31 Sack letter to Kelly, another of Feroce’s attorneys flagged again the importance of correcting the record as it relates to the company’s business health. “While we understand that the Providence Journal may have printed the erroneous information concerning the Court proceeding and characterized the same as receivership proceedings, we are requesting that you acknowledge in the correction that at no time was Mr. Feroce or any of his business entities in receivership. Of all of the issues the Mr. Feroce has with the article, the inaccurate statement concerning the receivership is the most concerning and damaging to him and his entities,” wrote Michael Mineau.

Corrections

According to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, “Respond quickly to questions about accuracy, clarity and fairness. Acknowledge mistakes and correct them promptly and prominently. Explain corrections and clarifications carefully and clearly.”

“I am sure that Gatehouse is somewhat removed from the individual goings on of just one of their assets, so I appreciate their willingness to look at this seriously and make corrections,” said Feroce in an email to GoLocal.

“As far as timeline, I am ok with the process taking its course, however the minute they realized the court’s ‘clerical error’ and I was never in receivership, an immediate correction should have been made, without hesitation and inclusive of emphasis that such an egregious error is to be taken seriously.”

Now over a month after the letter from Sack to Kelly outlining corrections and clarification, it is unclear if the corrections have been published. According to the newspaper’s archives of stories, no corrections have been published online. When asked if the corrections had been published, Providence Journal Executive Editor Dave Butler said, “Feel free to check the paper for what we printed.”

“The Journal has reported on the numerous legal matters involving Mr. Feroce and will continue to do so based on their newsworthiness. Per our policy, we corrected some minor errors in one story. I would call your attention to a story published last Saturday which reported on complaints filed by the state against two of Mr. Feroce’s companies for failing to provide workers’ compensation insurance. We are simply reporting on actions taken by officials. I would suggest rather than relying on letters from his attorney that you examine the actual legal documents,” said Butler. He responded to questions emailed to Sack.

As referenced in Butler’s quote, the Providence Journal wrote another story on February 24, “R.I. charges 2 Feroce companies failed to carry workers’ comp.”

Feroce said that this story is also flawed. “I will say the reporter’s follow up piece again smells of politics and could have included basic information such as pursuant to R.I. Gen Laws §28-29-2, members of a RI limited liability company are not employees under the R.I. Workers’ Compensation Act. Everyone I work with at BENRUS is a shareholder and she clearly knows that from my interview in December,” said Feroce.

Both articles were written by Amanda Milkovits, Journal Staff Writer.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Butler affirmed to GoLocal on Thursday morning that the following corrections have been added to the January 1, 2017 story published by the Providence Journal. These corrections are some but not all of the corrections discussed by lawyers for Feroce and GateHouse’s counsel. They are as follows:

CORRECTION: The June 2015 BENRUS-sponsored golf tournament was at The Preserve in Richmond, Rhode Island. An earlier version of this story misidentified the location.

CORRECTIONS: Because of a clerical error now acknowledged by Superior Court, the original version of this story inaccurately called one of the law suits against Giovanni Feroce a receivership proceeding. Also, in a letter to The Journal, Feroce said Thomas McGovern was his business manager, not his chief operating officer; his company, BENRUS, did not lose a half of a million dollars on a golf tournament because he sponsored the event for “marketing and advertising exposure;” and that a BENRUS store in Rochester was open more than a year, not only a few months. The original version of the story inaccurately said Feroce believes his company will be worth $100 million in five years – not $1 billion– and that he met Alex & Ani owner Carolyn Rafaelian at a URI reunion in 2009, not 2010.

Read the article on GoLocal Prov.

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Rhode Island Nurseries reaches settlement with town

The Newport Daily News

By Derek Gomes | Staff writer Oct 15, 2016

Rhode Island Nurseries reached an $800,000 settlement with the town of Portsmouth to resolve the company’s lawsuit over the abandonment of a planned extension of Heidi Drive that would have accessed a proposed residential development.

The settlement was announced in a prepared statement from Marc DeSisto, the lawyer who represented the town in the case filed in October 2011.

Middletown-based Rhode Island Nurseries will receive the payment, and in exchange, will release the town of liability and dismiss all the claims against it and the members of the 2011 Town Council, which abandoned the extension of Heidi Drive.

Retired state Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank J. Williams, who served as the mediator, and DeSisto recommended the terms of the settlement, according to the statement. It “represents an eminently fair, reasonable and equitable resolution of a long and arduous dispute between these parties, and litigation which has already been pending for more than five years,” Williams said in the statement.

Michael A. Kelly, of Kelly & Mancini in Providence, represented Rhode Island Nurseries and said, “Obviously, both parties are not happy with (the resolution), but that’s the nature of mediation.”

The case had been scheduled for a trial calendar call hearing Thursday in Newport Superior Court, but was pushed back to next week. On Thursday night, the Town Council convened in executive session before unanimously approving the settlement.

Rhode Island Nurseries plans a residential development with 14 homes on a portion of a 76.5-acre tract it owns off Glen Road.

The company had not been able to secure one of the two necessary access points to the planned subdivision. Its proposed use of a planned extension of Heidi Drive to the site was met with opposition by Kevin Tarsagian, who owns Glen Ridge Farm and whose land the extension would bisect. Tarsagian argued that cutting through his land would disrupt the operation of his alpaca farm.

In February 2011, the Town Council voted 3-2 to abandon the extension and to not award monetary damages to Rhode Island Nurseries. Using one available alternative for a second access point would reduce its farmland by 6 or 7 acres, according to its complaint.

An appraiser retained by the company testified at a town hearing that using an alternative second access point would cost an additional $1 million. The company set its damages at $1.2 million, according to previous articles in The Daily News.

The company plans to move forward with the residential development and use Frank Coelho Drive as the second access point, Kelly said Friday. That road runs parallel to Heidi Drive.

“They are definitely going to build,” he said.

By resolving the litigation now, “the Town eliminates a significant risk of higher potential liability to the plaintiff for damages, R.I. Nurseries recovers fair compensation for its loss of access to the Heidi Drive Extension, and both sides avoid the certainty of further acrimony, inconvenience and litigation expense,” Williams said in the statement. “This is what mediation is all about.”

By Derek Gomes | Staff writer Oct 15, 2016

Gomes@NewportRI.com

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The Valley Breeze: Town reaches agreement with Bucci on sewer fees

By SANDY SEOANE Valley Breeze Staff Writer

 

NORTH SMITHFIELD – Businesses at Dowling Village will pay around $200,000 less on their sewer bills from 2014 than originally expected under an agreement reached last month with town officials.

 

The law firm of Kelly and Mancini, acting on behalf of developer Brian Bucci, appealed the assessments on nine businesses at the burgeoning commercial center, questioning the number of EDUs or equivalent dwelling units – a measurement used to assess the fees – that were assigned to the businesses.

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The Hummel Report: Change in Direction

 

A Hummel Report Investigation
August 6, 2015

 

For more than a decade a proposed improvement plan for T.F. Green Airport, including an expansion plan of the main runway, has left some homeowners and businesses wondering if they’d have to move to accommodate the changes. This week: one Warwick business is suing the Rhode Island Airport Corporation, saying RIAC promised to buy its lot on Airport Road, only to pull out of the deal – leaving the business holding a piece of unmarketable property.

Read more

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Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly / Zoning: Intervention – Retaining wall

By Tom Egan

April 29, 2015

 

Where two landowners petitioned to intervene in a Superior Court suit between an abutting plaintiff and the defendant town of Cumberland over a retaining wall on the plaintiff’s land, the Superior Court judge committed no error in finding the petitioners unentitled to intervene as of right or under Rule 24, which authorizes permissive intervention.

Read more

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Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly / Zoning: Quarry – Hearing

By Tom Egan

April 23, 2015

 

Where plaintiff neighbors of a quarrying operation have alleged that the defendant town of Westerly prevented them from voicing their concerns at a public hearing about the quarry, the count against the town must be dismissed for lack of injury.

Read more

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Providence Journal: Warwick Mayor Avedisian proposes lowering permit fees to help growth in city, settle lawsuit

By ALISHA A. PINA
, Journal Staff Writer

 

WARWICK, R.I. — Mayor Scott Avedisian and others have proposed reducing building permit fees to fuel the city’s economy, create jobs and settle a lawsuit previously filed by the Rhode Island Builders Association.

 

The association’s 2010 lawsuit said the permit fees charged in “several Rhode Island communities were not tied to the cost of providing building plan review and inspection services,” the city’s news release said. Avedisian appointed a committee to review the building structure as a result, and had a series of meetings with the association.

Read more

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GoLocalProv: Allens Ave Scrap Yard Exceeds Environmental Standards, Claims Petition

GOLOCALPROV News Team                        

Following the news that the new Paw Sox owners are potentially eyeing the Providence waterfront for a new ballpark, a business owner less than a mile down the street is claiming that an adjacent scrap metal yards presents “a grave public health and safety risk which must be abated.”

 

In a building next door to the scrap yard at Sims Metal Management (SMM) on Allens Avenue, indoor lead levels for dust were found to be fifty times the EPA limit, according to an independent environmental consultant review.
Read more

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Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly: Coventry’s Impact Fees Upheld

But town can’t require new approval process for project’s final phase

 

By Tom Egan

January 15, 2015

 

A Superior Court judge has ruled that the town of Coventry could impose impact fees on the fourth phase of a “Planned Unit Development” approved by the town in 1976.

The plaintiff, which acquired the land in 2005, argued that it had the same vested right to construct the fourth phase — a multi-family apartment complex designated “Woodland III” — as the original owner had to develop the first three phases.

Judge Brian P. Stern agreed.

Read more

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The Valley Breeze: Lincoln changes building permit fee structure

By JESSICA BOISCLAIR, Valley Breeze Staff Writer

LINCOLN – As part of a settlement agreement with the Rhode Island Builders Association, town officials have amended their permit fees, making them more comprehensive and less expensive for builders.

Town Administrator T. Joseph Almond said along with paying $150,000 toward the settlement, the town also agreed to apply a different standard for its permit fees.

This standard, which applies for new construction in town, coincides with the International Code Council’s building code. Read more