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TMCNet:  Mattiello's new deputy whip tries to untangle campaign-finance, legal problems [The Providence Journal, R.I. :: ]

[March 28, 2014]

Mattiello's new deputy whip tries to untangle campaign-finance, legal problems [The Providence Journal, R.I. :: ]

(Providence Journal (RI) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 28--PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- On Friday morning, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello's new deputy majority whip -- Joseph Almeida -- appeared at the Board of Elections with an accountant to ask what he had to do to get out from under a campaign-finance mess.


At this point, state Rep. Almeida, D-Providence, owes $1,239 in fines for not filing three of the four campaign fundraising and spending reports due in 2013.

Perhaps more significantly, the Board of Elections felt compelled to refer a campaign-finance case involving Almeida's "misreporting'' of contributions and expenditures to the attorney general for investigation in January.

As the Providence Journal reported at the time: the board's staff reviewed financial documents from July 1, 2008, to Dec. 31, 2012.

Among its findings: Almeida's campaign had failed to report $8,195 in donations and $9,729 in expenses and had issued $3,908 in checks payable to "cash" or Almeida himself with no explanation for the spending.

Almeida could not be reached for comment on Friday. Asked the status of the case in late February, Atty. Gen. Peter Kilmartin's spokeswoman Amy Kempe said: "The office has received the files and is reviewing them to determine appropriate action." On Friday, Kempe said the matter is still under review.

A summary that the Board of Elections' campaign finance administrator Richard Thornton provided The Journal in January said: "On August 27. 2012, I sent Almeida a letter requesting copies of bank records and supporting documentation to conduct an audit. After not receiving all of the information requested, on May 23, 2013, I issued a subpoena to Almeida's bank requesting bank records.

"On October 23, 2013, I sent Almeida a letter detailing the findings of the audit and requested a return response by Oct. 31, 2013 to schedule settlement discussion. No response was received.'' "On November 5, 2013, a second notice was sent. No response was received.'' Among the findings of the audit: "Reporting discrepancies were noted when comparing donations made by PACs to Almeida and Almeida's reported receipt of PAC contributions...'' The "misreported contributions'' included donations ranging from $100 to $1,000 from "Friends of Nick Mattiello,'' former House Speaker William J. Murphy, the RI House Leadership PAC, the Fund for Democratic Priorities, the RI State Association of Firefighters and the Cranston Firefighters PAC, among others.

The board forwarded the case to the attorney general after two unsuccessful tries at requesting settlement discussions with Almeida.

On Tuesday, Almeida emerged from the power struggle at the State House as a key player on newly elected House Speaker Mattiello's leadership team. He was elected senior deputy majority whip, by the House Democratic caucus moments after Mattiello was elected.

The vote for speaker followed the abrupt resignation of former House Speaker Gordon D. Fox after a state and federal raid of his home and office last Friday.

On Friday morning, Robert Kando, the election board's executive director, acknowledged that "it is rather rare'' for his board to refer a case to the attorney general. In this case, he said the board felt it had no choice.

"We wanted to perform an audit. We didn't get...[all of the] information we needed...We had sent some lettesr to him, that he hadn't responded to, asking for information.'' Kando said Almeida came into the Board of Elections about 10 a.m. Friday with an accountant for an explanation as to where the case stood, and then left without taking any further action.

"But I am hopeful he will file the necessary documents with us...and the attorney general I am sure will take that into consideration.'' Mattiello spokesman Larry Berman said the new speaker was unaware of this history.

Berman issued this statement Friday: "Upon learning yesterday about Representative Almeida's campaign finance issues, Speaker Mattiello immediately addressed it with him. Representative Almeida went to the Board to Elections this morning and he informed Speaker Mattiello that he is taking full responsibility. He has retained a new campaign treasurer, who is a certified public accountant, and he is in the process of reviewing past reports. He will soon correct past reporting errors and file new reports that are past due." (Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly reported the last name of Mattiello's spokesman.) This story was originally published at 12:35 p.m. and updated at 1:22 p.m.

Read the Board of Election documents From The Journal archives -- Finance member's tough times ___ (c)2014 The Providence Journal (Providence, R.I.) Visit The Providence Journal (Providence, R.I.) at www.projo.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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