RI ethics panel opens probe into new prison director’s out-of-state travel

RI ethics panel opens probe into new prison director’s out-of-state travel

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Despite winning confirmation this month to become Rhode Island’s permanent prison director, Wayne Salisbury is still facing fallout from his fight with the correctional officers union.

The R.I. Ethics Commission voted Tuesday to open an investigation into a complaint the union filed against Salisbury, alleging he violated state law by failing to detail out-of-state travel in his required annual disclosure forms.

Rhode Island Brotherhood of Correctional Officers president Richard Ferruccio filed the complaint earlier this month. It came after a Target 12 investigation revealed Gov. Dan McKee’s pick to lead the R.I. Department of Corrections last year took several trips paid for by third parties and failed to disclose them, as required, on his annual state ethics form.

“The omissions represent a serious breach of the ethical standards required by public officials,” Ferruccio wrote in the complaint.

The complaint was filed as part of the union’s aggressive public campaign against Salisbury, leading up to his Senate confirmation hearings to become the permanent prison director. He’d previously served as interim director since January 2023, and the union argued prison conditions and safety had deteriorated under his leadership.

Salisbury’s supporters have argued he’s the best choice to implement prison reforms related to discipline and rehabilitation, and that he’ll bring the Adult Correctional Institutions into the 21st century.

During his confirmation hearings, Salisbury acknowledged he’d omitted certain travel from his ethics form. After Target 12 inquired about the missing travel, he quickly amended his papers to reflect six trips he made last year that were paid for by third parties.

“I was thoroughly embarrassed when I got the call and needed to report that on my ethics form,” Salisbury said during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on June 11. “I was totally unaware it was a question. As soon as I was made aware, I contacted the Ethics Commission.”

Despite the union concerns, Salisbury garnered overwhelming support in both the Judiciary Committee and the full Senate and was confirmed on a 32-4 vote.

The ethics panel will now examine whether Salisbury violated the state ethics code and determine whether he should face any penalties. That determination will be made at a future meeting.

Eli Sherman ( is a Target 12 investigative reporter for 12 News. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook.

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