Rep. Carnevale: I covered my face due to allergies

Rep. John Carnevale wrapped his face while undercover surveillance cameras were rolling.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – State Rep. John Carnevale, under fire this week after a Target 12 investigation raised questions about whether he lives in his district, has sent a letter to his constituents defending himself.

Carnevale, D-Providence, acknowledged in the letter that undercover footage shows him wrapping his face in what he says was a towel after he appears to spot surveillance cameras. But he insisted he did so because of his allergies.

“At the time of the secret filming I was at the property to cut the front lawn and upon walking out of the front door observed a man using a weed whacker across the street,” he wrote. “Observing the dust and pollen in the air around the unknown man reminded me to re-enter the house and wrap a towel about my face to filter the dust/pollen from the air.”

“I routinely do this due to my severe allergies which so many of us suffer from,” he continued. “I then exited the house, moved my vehicle and cut the lawn.”

Target 12 first reported Monday that months of surveillance showed Carnevale spending much of his time at a Johnston property outside his district that he owns but failed to disclose to the Rhode Island Ethics Commission as required. He belatedly corrected nine years of ethics filings just as the story was about to air.

Target 12 also revealed two ex-tenants at Carnevale’s claimed residence, 150 Barbara St. in Providence, said they were instructed to claim he lived there if asked, even though they say he did not. He also signed a mortgage document in 2007 pledging to make the Johnston property his primary residence.

“I find it to be unprofessional that Channel 12 would produce an article trying to give our neighborhood the impression that I am hiding because I wrapped a towel about my face to protect my health,” he wrote in the letter, dated June 14, the day after the story aired.

Carnevale has refused to answer Target 12’s questions for more than a week. In the letter he claimed an intrusion onto his property, though the undercover surveillance was conducted from public property.

The constituent letter made no mention of Carnevale’s nine-year failure to disclose the Johnston property to the Ethics Commission, nor did it address the ex-tenants’ testimony or the mortgage document.

Carnevale did not specifically say whether he plans to seek re-election this fall, though earlier this week he told reporters he will run again. The deadline for candidates to file is June 29.

“I will continue to keep you advised of issues at the State House as I have always done and I look forward to continuing to serve you,” he wrote.

It’s unclear who paid for the printing and mailing of Carnevale’s letter. It is written on what appears to be official General Assembly letterhead and does not say it was paid for using his campaign funds.

The letter arrived in District 13 mailboxes as the Providence Board of Canvassers prepares for a Tuesday hearing where it will decide whether to investigate the validity of Carnevale’s voter registration. The complaint was brought by the Rhode Island Republican Party after Target 12’s report aired.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes The Saturday Morning Post and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

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

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