WEST — Robert Ritacco, chairman of the Democratic Town Committee and former longtime chairman of the Zoning Board of Review, faces two counts of first-degree sexual assault following a grand jury indictment statewide.
The indictment, which was released Monday, was reported in a press release issued by the state attorney general’s office Monday morning. The charges stem from a state police investigation into alleged events that occurred on May 29, 2021, at the start of Memorial Day weekend.
Ritacco, 52, is due in court on May 23 in Washington County Superior Court in Wakefield. He did not return a text message left Monday afternoon and his cellphone voicemail was full and would not accept further messages. It was unclear Monday whether Ritacco had hired an attorney to represent him in the case.
A person is guilty of first degree sexual assault if they are found to have engaged in sexual penetration with another person and one of the following circumstances exists: The accused knows or has reason to knowing that the victim is mentally incapacitated, handicapped or physically impotent; the accused uses force or coercion; the accused, by dissimulation or by effect of surprise, is capable of defeating the victim; or the accused engages in the medical treatment or medical examination of the victim for the purpose of arousal, gratification or sexual stimulation.
According to the indictment, Ritacco penetrated the victim once with his mouth and once with his penis while the victim, a woman, was physically helpless. The Sun has a policy of withholding the names of victims of sexual assault. The victim did not return a message asking if she wanted to discuss the charges against Ritacco.
First-degree sexual assault is punishable by at least 10 years in prison and up to life imprisonment.
Ritacco, around 2 p.m. Monday, sent an email to members of the Democratic Town Committee announcing that he planned to “take time off” from his role as chairman of the committee, according to Michael Ober, treasurer of the town committee. Executive Committee.
Ober said the executive committee will most likely meet soon to discuss whether Ritacco’s furlough “is enough or if there are other things we can do.” Ober said he would prefer that an interim president be appointed or an election be conducted for the position if the organization’s bylaws permit.
“I want to speak with the rest of the executive committee, but I don’t think he should be chairman any longer,” Ober said.
David Patten, chairman of the Westerly Democratic Town Committee, did not return a message seeking comment.
Ritacco also announced he would be taking a leave of absence from his role as treasurer of the Rhode Island Association of Democratic City and Town Chairs, an organization that represents local party leaders in all 39 municipalities in the state. The organization and its leaders are posted on the Democratic Party of Rhode Island. The display includes a photograph of Ritacco.
Kate Coyne-McCoy, senior adviser to the Democratic Party of Rhode Island, before learning that Ritacco had announced his leave, called for his resignation. She also clarified that the Rhode Island Association of Democratic City and Town Chairs and the Rhode Island Democratic Party are separate organizations.
“We believe that Mr. Ritacco should resign or step aside while these very serious allegations are investigated so as not to distract from the truly critical work being done by the Rhode Island Democratic Party for the people of Rhode Island,” said Coyne-McCoy said in a statement she read to The Sun and other media.
Mike Niemeyer, candidate for State Senate District 38 as a Democrat, released a statement on Ritacco on Monday afternoon.
“In light of news of Bob Ritacco’s indictment by a grand jury for sexual assault, I call on him to resign from the Westerly Democratic Town Committee and any other public office and leadership position he holds. As a community, we must always remain steadfast. solidarity with victims of sexual assault. I call on other Westerly community leaders to join me in calling for his resignation,” Niemeyer said in the statement.
Ritacco served on the Zoning Board of Review for 14 years, including six years as chairman. He resigned from the board in 2015 after the city council held private meetings to review his performance. He was chairman of the board during part of the tumultuous Copar Quarries of Westerly affair, at a time when his candidacy for the post of executive director of the Westerly Housing Authority became controversial. He dropped his name from consideration for the job after accusations of favoritism and cronyism. Ritacco’s public life also includes a stint on city council.
In 2014, questions arose about Ritacco’s business practices when it was discovered that he was marketing himself as an accountant but lacked the proper state credentials. Signs in his Oak Street office and material on his website were changed ahead of a review by the State Board of Accountancy. The Oak Street office is in the same building as his family’s iconic local market, Ritacco.
Ritacco’s position as tax inspector and chief revenue officer for the state’s Division of Taxation ended in 2007 after he was arrested and charged with falsely reporting a crime in connection with the alleged disappearance of his state-issued laptop. The laptop was reported stolen, but later found in the trunk of Ritacco’s car. The criminal misdemeanor charge was ultimately dismissed after a Superior Court judge determined that Ritacco had been charged under the wrong section of state law.
Ritacco is currently listed as an internal auditor/accountant on the Workforce Solutions of Providence website. The quasi-public agency works on economic and employment development with workers and employers and is affiliated with the City of Providence.
Ritacco and his family own several properties in town.