A MassDOT electrician arrested Wednesday for allegedly driving under the influence in Providence has been suspended without pay after he reportedly struck multiple cars in his state-owned vehicle after leaving a North Attleboro job site, according to an official’s account.
Rhode Island State Police arrested the man, identified in e-mails between senior MassDOT officials as Robert Chaves, on suspicion of drunk driving in the vicinity of the Lower South Providence neighborhood.
MassDOT officials were notified of the arrest at around 12:25 p.m. after Chaves was ordered off a job site Wednesday morning when he got into a verbal altercation with a state contractor over that worker’s “method of installation,” according to a written description by a MassDOT official of the sequence of events.
The details of the incident were revealed in a chain of e-mails between MassDOT management inadvertently sent to the News Service as they discussed the latest information available to them and a public response should they get questions from the media.
The Rhode Island State Police confirmed Chaves’s arrest to the News Service early Wednesday evening on charges of operating under the influence, and said the prisoner was still being processed as additional charges were considered. Damage to the vehicles hit by Chaves was minor, according to police, and no one was injured.
Acting Massachusetts Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver, District 5 Highway Director Mary-Joe Perry and MassDOT spokeswoman Jacquelyn Goddard were among the officials on the e-mail chain.
Goddard, when contacted by the News Service, declined to discuss the details of the incident or the identity of the state employee involved.
“MassDOT is aware of this incident of very serious and unacceptable behavior, and has taken immediate steps to suspend the Highway Division employee in question from work without pay until the results of the law enforcement investigation become available,” she said in an official statement.
MassDOT District 5 engineer Bill Travers relayed one version of the morning’s events in an email to other MassDOT management as told to him by Chaves’s supervisor Michael Mulkhern. Based on that account, Chaves was working on a traffic loop installation project in North Attleboro Wednesday morning when he began “yelling and cursing” at one of the contractors.
Mulkhern “de-escalated” the situation and ordered Chaves back to the electrician’s depot in Middleborough.
After the incident was reported to the District 5 office, Mulkhern relayed orders to Chaves that he report to district offices in Taunton, but Chaves showed up again near the job site in North Attleboro before being told a second time to go to Taunton.
Instead of going there, it appears that Chaves drove to Rhode Island and Rhode Island State Police called the District 5 office to report that he had been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence after striking several vehicles, according to Travers’ e-mail.
According to Travers, the MassDOT vehicle Chaves was driving sustained “minor damage,” but was towed by state police to a lot in Providence because it had run out of gas.
Chaves, according to the e-mails, has been employed as a MassDOT electrician since August 2016.
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