Warwick councilwoman responds to conflict of interest complaints

Warwick City Councilwoman Donna Travis, on the left, will pay a fine for ethics law violations.

WARWICK, RI (WPRI) — Warwick City Councilwoman Donna Travis said she misconstrued an ethics filing question about her involvement with a non-profit that leases a building from the city.

The Rhode Island Ethics Commission is expected to examine a pair of complaints filed against Travis, who admits she did not disclose that she is President of Jonah Inc, a nonprofit that describes itself as “a diverse community outreach and education organization” on its Facebook page.

Jonah has a 10-year lease for $1 a year with the city for 830 Oakland Beach Ave. Travis, who has been the council president, did not recuse herself from council votes involving the lease, and also sponsored a resolution to extend the lease.

On her 2015 Ethics Commission financial statement Travis wrote “none” on question 9, which asks if she or family members “held a management position or were a director, officer, partner of trustee” with any profit of non-profit organization.

“I misconstrued question 9 as being directed at disclosing any financial interest,” Travis wrote in an answer to the complaint. “The information omitted is of my involvement in non-profit corporations from which I derive no benefit.”

Travis also requested that she be “allowed to file an Amended Response to question 9 that will include [her] non-profit, non-paid positions.”

Travis chose not comment following a request from Target 12.

Her attorney Robert Flaherty said he would be surprised if the complaint advances to a full investigation.

The case is expected to be on Tuesday’s Ethics Commission agenda in what is called an Initial Determination.

That stage involves commission members meeting in executive session to determine if there is probable cause to conduct a full investigation.

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