The Mitchell Administration has conducted its review of the missing Ernestina wood and at least on the surface, there appears to be no criminal wrongdoing.

There does appear, however, to be some missteps by ranking, experienced former officials that lead to serious questions about how property is stored and ultimately disposed of, and whether there is a proper mechanism for keeping track of it all.

Wood that may or may not have belonged to the state was given away by then-DPI Commissioner Zeb Arruda to Freetown resident Shawn Davis, who in turn sold the wood to other interests. The report says the wood had little value. Guess we'll never know now.

The report also raises the question of whether ownership of the lumber was ever properly transferred from Dickenson Development to the state for use in rehabbing the Ernestina. It appears there is no paper trail and no solid evidence to indicate that it had in fact happened.

Mitchell 5-16

The Administration's report shows a serious lack of interest in the wood by everyone except Davis, who hounded Arruda's predecessor Ron Labelle to be allowed to take it or to bid on it. No one else seemed to care much about it. What did Davis know that no one else got?

In any event, an administration's investigation of itself must be taken at face value, and as we have advocated for some time there needs to be an independent review. District Attorney Tom Quinn has been presented with the evidence collected by the Administration but must do a more thorough investigation of his own.

We will await D.A. Quinn's findings.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. 

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