Commission vote will allow lawmakers to fix errors in financial statements

The Rhode Island State House.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — With one in four lawmakers having to amend their financial disclosures recently under penalty of perjury, the Rhode Island Ethics Commission voted Tuesday to authorize a one-time grace period for all officials in Rhode Island to fix any inaccuracies in their statements.

Lawmakers now have until July 18 to make the necessary corrections. Because of the decision to implement the grace period, the commission dismissed a complaint that the Rhode Island GOP filed against Rep. Anastasia Williams.

Last month, Eyewitness News reported that Williams twice failed to list any income on her disclosures – errors that commission official say have since been fixed.

The commission’s decision comes as lawmakers consider a bill backed by both House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed that would restore the commission’s power to police the General Assembly, something that was dismissed by a 2009 court decision.

The current version of the bill would establish a campaign season blackout period during which ethics complaints could not be filed – something both Mattiello and Paiva Weed say would prevent political mudslinging. But the commission is now considering imposing the blackout period through its own regulations, rather than have the legislation do so.

The commission voted Tuesday to start the process of creating a 90-day blackout period, saying it will seek public comment.

The proposed rule “does laser-target this perception out there that there are third party complaints that are politically timed,” said Jason Gramitt, staff attorney at the Ethics Commission.

The commission also voted to move ahead with an investigation into a complaint filed against Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien – alleging he hired a tenant of his to a city position.

In a statement, the mayor said the allegations were politically motivated and he looks forward to working with the commission to help clear the air.

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