Disgraced lawmaker attempts to reduce campaign finance fines

** FILE ** Former state Sen. John A. Celona, D-North Providence, leaves Superior Court after being arraigned, in this file photo taken Wednesday, May 25, 2005, in Providence, R.I. The once-powerful state senator at the center of a corruption scandal was sentenced Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2007 to 2 years in federal prison for taking payoffs from the health care industry. (AP Photo/Stew Milne, File)

Members of the Rhode Island Board of Elections initially went behind closed doors to discuss disgraced former State Sen. John Celona’s six-figure campaign finance fines, then had a change of heart when they realized he was asking for a reduction in penalties.

Board of Elections lawyer Raymond A. Marcaccio said he recommended they exit executive session when it became clear Celona was looking to reduce his fines.

In a statement released Friday the board released a statement that said in part: “it became evident to the Board members and legal counsel that the subject matter included a request to reduce his fines and penalties, which is not appropriate for executive session, and the meeting was terminated.”

Celona was present for the executive session and was asked to leave when Marcaccio raised questions about the closed door meeting.

Celona has racked up $178,714 in penalties and fees for being delinquent on his campaign finance reports, according to Richard Thornton director of campaign finance.

He was a key figure in the 2003 federal public corruption case known as “Operation Dollar Bill.” Ultimately, he was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison after pleading guilty to charges he used his state senate seat to profit in business dealings. Celona stepped down form office in 2004.

The statement says Celona’s request will be heard in open session at another meeting of the board.

Tim White ( twhite@wpri.com ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter: @TimWhiteRI

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