Zurier pushing for more transparency from City Council

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – About a dozen Providence residents asked the City Council Finance Committee on Tuesday to approve resolutions calling for councilors to post their quarterly campaign finance reports and annual financial disclosures on the city’s website.

The resolutions, introduced by Ward 2 Councilman Sam Zurier, were discussed during a public hearing at City Hall. No votes were taken Tuesday.

One of Democrat Zurier’s proposals would require each City Council member to have their campaign finance reports dating back to Jan. 1, 2014 posted in a “prominent position” on the council’s website. The other would require the mandatory financial disclosure each councilor files with the R.I. Ethics Commission to be featured on the council’s website.

“Given the recent indictments, City Council members should be eager to clear the air,” resident Sally Strachan told the committee. “You need to make a clear statement to citizens, to businesses in the city as well as those considering a move to the city, and to state lawmakers that Providence will no longer tolerate the slow-drip erosion of corruption and criminal behavior.”

The proposal comes in the wake of former City Council President Luis Aponte being indicted on four charges related to his alleged misuse of campaign funds last month. He has pleaded not guilty, but did resign from his leadership post. Also last month, City Councilman Kevin Jackson was recalled from office, nearly a year after he was arrested for allegedly embezzling from a youth sports team and misusing his campaign funds. He too has pleaded not guilty.

All candidates for political office have their campaign finance reports entered into searchable database on ricampaignfinance.com. Financial disclosures are also public records, but they must be requested through the Ethics Commission.

Tricia Kammerer, who led the effort to recall Jackson from office, told the committee “too often indictments have been met with a roll of the eyes and hopefully those times are behind us.”

“These resolutions are really simple common sense way to encourage a culture of compliance by our elected officials in the city of Providence,” she said.

Zurier has also introduced an amendment to the city’s code of ethics that would suspend councilors who fall behind on filing campaign finance reports from leadership positions and committee assignments. His proposal would also suspend councilors from leadership position and committees if they are indicted on felony charges. A public hearing was held on that proposal last month.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan