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Michael Flynn’s Rhode Island Hall of Fame Inclusion Prompts Resignations

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At least five board members who oversee the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame have resigned from the organization after Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser under Donald J. Trump, was chosen to be inducted in 2024.

In resignation letters seen by The New York Times and in interviews, the board members said that Mr. Flynn, who has embraced conspiracy theories and is a prominent election denier, should not be recognized by the organization.

The hall of fame was founded in 1965 and recognizes people from Rhode Island “who made significant contributions” or who came to prominence for work they did while they lived in the state. Inductees in 2023 included Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson, the first Black person and the second woman confirmed to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and J.L. “Lynn” Singleton, the president and chief executive of the Providence Performing Arts Center.

Mr. Flynn, who is from Rhode Island, was among those chosen to be inducted into the 2024 Hall of Fame class in a Dec. 13 vote by 19 board members. A cascade of board resignations followed, The Providence Journal and The Boston Globe first reported.

John Tarantino, a lawyer, and Bea Lanzi, a former state senator, resigned in a letter to Lawrence Reid, the president of the hall of fame’s board, and other board members. A copy of their joint letter, which was dated Dec. 14 and was provided to The Times on Friday, said that the vote result was “both disappointing and astounding to us.”

“There is an overall right and wrong in the universe, and what has happened here, in our view, and according to our moral compasses, and consciences, compels us to resign,” the letter said.

Ms. Lanzi did not respond to messages, and Mr. Tarantino declined to comment.

“When we learned last month that Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was a nominee, you and the Board were advised specifically and in detail why we believe that he is not worthy of induction and why his induction would likely cause real and dramatic harm to the organization,” their letter said.

They also said that their donations to the organization may only be used for charitable purposes and not “to deal with any legal fees, crisis management, public relations fallout, or other negative reactions the organization may face because of Lt. Gen. Flynn’s nomination and induction.”

Mr. Reid declined to comment. Mr. Flynn did not respond to a request for comment.

The board did not confirm publicly what was the total number of resignations.

Patrick T. Conley, a lawyer for the hall of fame’s board and its former president, told NBC 10, a local news channel, that six board members had resigned and that Mr. Flynn had accepted the nomination.

Mr. Conley defended Mr. Flynn by noting that he had received a presidential pardon, after he had twice pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. “When asked about Flynn peddling conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, Conley told NBC 10 he didn’t want to get into that,” the news channel said.

Mr. Flynn is a prominent denier of the 2020 presidential election results and suggested in December 2020 that Mr. Trump could deploy the military to rerun the presidential race in battleground states.

Mr. Trump appointed Mr. Flynn after the general had espoused questionable views, falsely stating that Shariah, or Islamic law, was spreading in the United States and saying that the United States should work with any willing allies, including President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, in a “world war” with Islamist militants.

Mr. Flynn has also embraced QAnon theories and pushed other fringe ideas. In a January 2022 interview with the right-wing conspiracy website Infowars, Flynn accused George Soros, Bill Gates and others of creating the coronavirus so they could “steal an election” and “rule the world.”

Ann Marie Marzilli Maguire, the board’s treasurer and a former paralegal, said she resigned after the vote.

“This is wrong,” she said in an interview on Tuesday. “This is not what the organization stands for.”

Steve Aveson, a board member for 19 years, also resigned after the vote. Mr. Aveson, a former television news anchor and correspondent, said in a text message that he was “heartbroken over what this has done” to the hall of fame.

One of the resignation letters, from Denise Aiken, a former state representative, said, “I find that I am unable to be associated with an organization that would choose to honor a criminal who failed to keep this oath to the Constitution of the United States.”

“I just couldn’t see placing that particular nominee on the same footing with so many fabulous people that have been honored in that way over the many years that it’s been in existence,” Ms. Aiken told The Providence Journal.

Ms. Aiken, when reached by telephone on Friday, declined to comment or provide a copy of the letter quoted by The Journal. But she said the newspaper’s report had “everything you need to see.”

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