Johnston resident Ryan Rao, age 31, has been charged with disorderly conduct after losing his temper and yelling obscenities at employees in the town’s Tax Assessor’s office. Rao pled not guilty at his arraignment last week and is awaiting a pre-trail conference on Sept. 14.
On Tuesday, July 31, Rao walked into Town Hall and confronted Tax Assessor Kimberly Gallonio. After moving to Johnston from Providence, he felt he was being overtaxed by the communities and wanted answers.
According to Gallonio, though, Rao was inconsolable. He became hostile and aggressive, telling the assessor and her colleagues that they were “stupid” and “incompetent,” using expletives while he told them to “shut up” and banging his hands on the counter.
“You couldn’t talk to him. He wouldn’t listen to anything we had to say,” Gallonio said. “He was belittling everyone.”
Rao’s attorney, Thomas Briody, declined to comment on the case.
Rao first contacted the department by telephone, prompting a clerk to call the Providence Tax Assessor’s office. Gallonio said that when they called Providence, the clerk there was already aware of his complaint and said he was unpleasant in their dealings with him as well.
Rao changed his registration to the town of Johnston in September. Car taxes are issued as of Dec. 31, so the full year’s bill came from Johnston. Rao alleges he had already paid taxes in Providence and thought he was being overtaxed. The paperwork he showed Gallonio did not have dates on it, though, so she couldn’t verify when the last time was that he paid taxes in Providence. Rao allegedly was not satisfied with that response.
“He was treating us like he was superior to us. I know people get upset, but we try to explain everything. He was just rude,” Gallonio said.
She says Rao slung additional insults at the office workers and pointed in Gallonio’s face, prompting them to call police.
“The girls felt an immediate threat at that time,” said Mayor Joseph Polisena, who was later notified of the event and said he planned to step up the police presence in Town Hall as a result.
Patrolman Joseph McGinn responded, along with Lt. Robert Abbruzzese, though Rao had already left the premises. According to McGinn’s police report narrative, he attempted to contact Rao at his residence, to no avail. Later that day, he observed Rao’s vehicle on Federal Way and detained him, placing him under arrest for disorderly contact. At police headquarters, McGinn said Rao “admitted that he was ‘out of line’ due to waiting in line all day at various places attempting to get his car tax matter resolved.”
Also, according to McGinn, “He expressed to me that the town employees were not ‘very helpful,’ which is when he became enraged out of frustration.”
Gallonio has worked in the department for 17 years and said she expects that residents can become emotional when it comes to taxes. Especially in these challenging economic times, she said she often has to explain bills in detail, but never before had dealt with a taxpayer who was so irate.
“He was horrible,” she said.
While the town awaits the results of the Sept. 14 conference, Polisena contacted Rao’s employer, Roger Williams Medical Center, where he is a resident physician. The hospital issued a statement on the issue, confirming that Rao is a third year medical resident completing his training at Roger Williams.
“We are aware of this matter and have dealt with it internally,” read the statement.