New House leader faces campaign finance scrutiny

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – One of the members of the leadership team chosen by Rhode Island’s new speaker of the House has been facing scrutiny over his campaign finance filings since 2012, according to the R.I. Board of Elections.

Rep. Joseph Almeida, D-Providence, was tapped as the new House deputy majority whip on Tuesday by incoming Speaker Nicholas Mattiello. Officials at the elections board said claims against Almeida, a South Providence Democrat, were referred to the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office for prosecution in January, following more than a year of correspondence with the lawmaker.

“The matter is pending before the office,” Amy Kempe, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, told Target 12 on Thursday.

Mattiello’s spokesman Larry Berman said the new speaker didn’t know about Almeida’s campaign finance issues until he was informed about them in an email from Target 12.

“He was not aware,” Berman said. “There will be no changes at this time, but Speaker Mattiello will address this with Almeida and require that he appropriately address this issue.”

Board of Elections records indicate Almeida did not provide explanations for $3,908 in checks that officials say were written to Almeida himself or “cash.” Records also show Almeida had $8,195 in unreported campaign donations and $9,729 in unreported expenditures.

The Democrat, who has been elected to serve South Providence for a total of 14 years over two separate stints, blamed the discrepancies on “bad bookkeeping” and argued that he did nothing that would warrant criminal charges.

According to the Board of Elections, Almeida didn’t reply to a number of letters sent over the last 18 months asking him for his bank records. Officials said the board also made  requests for “settlement discussions.”

Almeida, 56, said the campaign finance issues should not change Mattiello’s decision to add him to his new leadership team.

“I don’t think so,” he said.

Board of Elections Executive Director Robert Cando said his office has referred “two or three cases over the last couple of years” to the attorney general for prosecution.

Almeida, a retired Providence police officer, is also a member of the House Judiciary Committee and the House Rules Committee.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

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