M. Charles Bakst from the Providence Journal said, "All Harwood has to do is stop acting like a brooding dictator, make himself consistently available to inquiring reporters, provide every record sought, guarantee that all other General Assembly data will be available, arrange for independent audits of Assembly spending, lead a crusade for progressive, caring legislation, and ease the ever increasing restrictions on journalists covering the House chamber. Harwood also spends thousands in political funds on pro-sports tickets he gives to constituents. He calls it charity." Citizen Ralph Greco said, in part about Harwood, "Harwood is an example of the rampant self-interest that blackens the reputation of Rhode Island near and far."
Citizen June Spink wrote in part to the Providence Journal - Speaker Harwood abused power in his appointment of Rep. Donald Inman, his personal friend and ally in the House, to be interim secretary of state. This appointment is in direct violation of the revolving door statutes that Inman had promoted as a legislator. Also Mr. Harwood's attempt to intervene as an attorney on behalf of his clients put him in direct violation of state ethics laws prohibiting legislators from representing clients before state agencies. [Harwood has power over the budgets of state agencies.] Mr. Harwood does not respect the state statutes or the rulings of the Ethics Commission. Also Harwood vowed to change and then stated he would support a bill to strip the Ethics Commission of authority over where public officials can practice law. Read about the hell that broke out with the Ethics Commission when, in part, an ethics complaint was filed against Harwood.
Short circuiting a bill requiring independent, annual audits and a full-fledged performance audit every third year, Harwood picked a one time audit from an auditor beholden to Speaker Harwood with the audit being designed for the outcome Harwood was looking for.
Without admitting guilt, in 1994 he paid $5,000 to settle an Ethics Commission complaint that, in the 80's, he sponsored legislation to enrich himself and his clients in personal injury suits. Over the years, there's been a ton of controversy about Harwood's political slush-fund spending and, more recently, his stewardship of the legislature's budget. A 2001 Journal series depicted General Assembly spending as extravagant, with Harwood treating the State House as a private, secretive fiefdom, replete with no-show or seldom-seen jobs.