R.I. Labor Chief, Beacon Mutual Whistleblower, Moves On

January 16, 2008

Rhode Island Governor Don Carcieri has named Sandra Powell as interim director of the state Department of Labor and Training.

Powell replaces Adelita Orefice, who had run the department since 2004.

Powell has spent 19 years at the department in workforce development programs.

Carcieri says Orefice will take over as deputy secretary of the Office of Health and Human Services.

Carcieri praised Orefice for her work with the DLT, saying she played a vital role in the reform of Beacon Mutual Insurance Co., the state’s dominant workers’ compensation insurer. The labor department head sits on the board of Beacon Mutual.

Back in June, Carcieri withdrew the renomination of Orefice for the labor post before it came up for a Senate committee vote.

At that time, Carcieri said he withdrew Orefice’s nomination after receiving word that a prominent union leader with ties to former Beacon Mutual management had convinced Senate leadership to vote against her.

Carcieri accused the Senate of planning to reject Orefice’s nomination in retaliation for her decision in 2006 to disclose the result of a damning internal audit at Beacon Mutual. That revelation led to a number of investigations and the expulsion of several union leaders, including George Nee, from the insurer’s board of directors. Beacon Board members, including Nee, were paid $20,000 per year.

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