WOONSOCKET – More than a month after his accounts were terminated, firearms dealer Paul Connolly says Sovereign Bank denied its actions were related to his line of work, but the bank has still not given him a reason for cutting him off.
The proprietor of Bullseye Shooting Supplies said he spoke on the telephone this week with Steve Almagno, Sovereign Bank’s retail district executive for Rhode Island.
“He said, ‘I can assure you we didn’t let you go because of the business you’re in,’ but he wouldn’t tell me why,” said Connolly. “They’re not going to admit to kicking me out because I’m in the gun business.”
The story of Connolly’s abrupt split with Sovereign Bank has received wide exposure since it was first published by the web site Watchdog.org recently. Connolly says he received a letter signed by the Social Street branch manager around April 3 explaining that the bank was terminating its accounts with him. No reason was given, leading Connolly to believe that the bank ejected him for political reasons in the wake of a series of mass shootings that have renewed debate over gun control across the nation.
Connolly ended up moving more than $300,000 to Navigant Credit Union, including money held in personal accounts, after receiving the letter.
Reached by phone, Almagno declined to talk about his conversation with Connolly. Mary Ellen Higgins, Sovereign’s director of public relations, also declined comment.
“Sovereign Bank does not discuss client accounts,” she told The Call via e-mail.
Connolly credited State Rep. Doreen Costa (R-North Kingstown) for supplying him with Almagno’s contact information. An outspoken advocate for gun rights, Costa pledged to extract a public explanation of Sovereign’s actions after learning of Connolly’s experience with the bank.
“What they’re doing is not illegal, but it’s certainly unethical,” she says.
Costa said she confronted the branch manager, who signed the original letter Connolly received. She said the manager claimed she did not understand the nature of the letter, despite having signed it, a claim Costa said she finds disingenuous.
Costa said she has also made numerous phone calls to bank representatives in attempts to arrange a meeting with an executive in a position to explain why Bullseye Shooting Supplies was apparently singled out. So far she has been unsuccessful, but Costa said, “I’m not done yet.”
Costa said she has also reached out to Woonsocket Rep. Stephen Casey for support. Casey appeared as a guest of Daybreak Southern New England on radio station WNRI Thursday along with Connolly, and disclosed for the first time that he has arranged for his peers in the legislature to try shooting guns. Casey said the idea was to offer fellow legislators an opportunity to learn about firearms first-hand as they face important decisions about gun control proposals.
Costa has threatened to rally a boycott of Sovereign Bank among Second Amendment champions who hold accounts with the bank if she doesn’t get an explanation for terminating Bullseye’s accounts. She and Connolly both say a few sympathetic friends have already pulled their accounts, but Connolly doubts the protest will get very far or do Sovereign much harm.
“There isn’t anything that’s going to come of this, except for a few people who are going to leave and Sovereign is going to lose a little bit of business,” he says.