Former RIPTA CEO Scott Avedisian pleads no contest in drive-thru hit-and-run case

WARWICK, RI – Former Rhode Island Public Transit Authority CEO Scott Avedisian pleaded no contest Wednesday to leaving the scene of an accident that caused damage in late March.

Avedisian previously pleaded not guilty on April 3 to one misdemeanor charge. Avedisian, previously Warwick’s longest-serving mayor, was told by a Kent County district judge that if he does not break the law while on probation, the charge will be expunged from his record.

According to police records, Avedisian was driving his RIPTA-issued black Ford SUV the night of March 27 when he went to the McDonald’s drive-through on Post Road in Warwick. The black SUV rear-ended a car, which then hit the car in front of them. Avedisian got out of his car and told the other driver to exit the drive-thru and pull into the parking lot. Avedisian then drove away, Warwick police said. Avedisian, 59, allegedly failed to notify police of the crash, provide information and render aid, according to court documents.

Victims of the crash told police his eyes were bloodshot and red, but he had not been charged with driving under the influence.

Police knocked on Avedisian’s home shortly after the accident, but he did not answer. According to the police report, the car’s engine was still warm.

After mounting criticism, Avedisian resigned from RIPTA on April 11. In his resignation letter to Gov. Dan McKee, Avedisian wrote that he regretted that “the good work of the agency’s employees is being tarnished by my actions.” RIPTA’s board of directors approved a separation package for the former CEO on April 16, which included a total of $67,823 in installments over the coming months. That amount consists of 13 weeks’ wages plus unused vacation time. Neither Avedisian nor the agency he previously led since 2018 can make disparaging or derogatory comments about the other, and under the separation agreement, Avedisian is barred from pursuing legal claims against RIPTA.

RITA Chief Financial Officer Christopher Durand took over as interim CEO while the agency searched for a new permanent leader. The transit agency is facing a host of challenges, including a driver shortage, a budget shortfall and a political controversy over potentially moving the bus interchange from Kennedy Plaza in Providence.

Avedisian could not immediately be reached by the Globe on Wednesday. His attorney, John Harwood, told WPRI he was willing to put the case behind him.

“When you’ve been in public service for many years, sometimes it’s good to take your foot off the accelerator, catch your breath, make sure you’re healthy and make sure your life gets going on the right foot . direction,” Harwood told the TV news station. “And I’m sure he has and will continue to do so.”

Harwood told WPRI that Avedisian will likely move forward with a role in the pricing sector.

“I think in the very near future there will be something he’s drawn to, and I think he’ll be a productive person in whatever he chooses to do,” Harwood said.

Alexa Gagosz can be reached at [email protected]. follow her @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.