By Seth Daniel
Former Library Director Bob Rice Jr. pleaded â€œnot guiltyâ€ to 21 counts of larceny, embezzlement and fraud during his arraignment Wednesday, April 6th, in Bostonâ€™s Suffolk Superior Court.
However, it wasnâ€™t what he said during the 10-minute arraignment, but rather what he said afterward in the hallway to reporters, that is likely to spark a number of controversies.
Speaking pretty much against the advice of his attorney, Stephen Tassinari, Rice at first told reporters â€œNo comment.â€
However, in a strikingly similar way to which he did an interview to a Lowell newspaper last year, he suddenly turned course and began talking, saying that he had been set up by Mayor Tom Ambrosino and City Auditor Laurie Giardella.
â€œThe allegations are a twisting of everything I was trying to do there at the Library in the 27 years I was there,â€ he said. â€œ[The allegations] are politically motivated and they stem from a great conflict I had with the City Auditor (Laurie Giardella), who we all know is the mayorâ€™s girlfriend, and she despised me and she despised the Library and felt she had a hand of control over my department and every other department in the City.
â€œIn my opinion she felt she should have a hand of control over every department in the City,â€ he continued. â€œCity ordinances give her no power of control over any department.â€
When asked about the allegations made by police and the District Attorneyâ€™s office that he bought items with City funds and sold them on the Internet, he said that all of it would be explained.
â€œThat will be all explained during the testimony that is upcoming,â€ he said.
When asked to clarify that statement, about whether he put City funds in his private bank account, Rice seemed to want to throw the Library Trustees under the bus.
â€œWhat I did is no different than what the Library Trustees do with their book sales at the library,â€ he said.
Dumbfounding reporters, he was asked if the Library Trustees were putting money into their private accounts from the proceeds of Library book sales.
â€œThe Board of Trustees has an illegal bank account and still has an illegal bank account,â€ he said. â€œYou might want to look into that.â€
Before he could say anything more, he was whisked away rapidly by his attorney, who said, â€œThatâ€™s enough.â€
Before Rice got into the Library Trustee issue, the Journal asked him about taped confessions that he gave to police investigators once it was discovered that he had possibly been defrauding the City. Police have indicated in court documents that, when confronted, Rice confessed to all of the alleged crimes and offered to pay restitution and resign.
Rice said that was not the case.
â€œThatâ€™s not correct,â€ he said. â€œI told them I did have funds belonging to the City I had to give back.â€
He gave no more elaboration on the subject aside from that.
Prior to that impromptu press conference, the court session was rather mundane with Clerk Magistrate Gary Wilson setting the time frame of the case after Rice made his not guilty pleas. Incidentally, former Revere City Councillor Al Fiore served as the clerk during the session.
The trial is tentatively set for Jan. 9, 2012.