PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – In an effort to promote transparency, the Providence Ethics Commission voted Wednesday to begin publishing elected officials’ annual financial disclosures and quarterly campaign finance reports on the city’s website.
Both sets of filings are already public records, although the R.I. Ethics Commission does not publish financial disclosures online. The R.I. Board of Elections has a searchable database of campaign finance reports for all politicians and political action committees that dates back to 2002.
The filings from Mayor Jorge Elorza and the City Council will be published on the Ethics section of the city website.
All elected officials in Rhode Island as well as members of the majority of public boards and commissions are required to file a financial disclosure with the state Ethics Commission each year. The short form requires them to disclose their family income sources and debts, executive positions they or their family members hold, out-of-state travel provided to them because of their public position and their business interests. (You can view the 2016 disclosures filed by Mayor Jorge Elorza and the City Council here.)
All candidates for office and political action committees are required to file quarterly campaign finance reports with the Board of Elections. The filings disclose all contributions and expenses made from candidate or PAC’s political account every three months.
The city Ethics Commission’s decision to publish financial disclosures and campaign finance reports comes in the wake of two City Council members getting charged with campaign-related crimes over the last two years. Councilman Kevin Jackson was arrested in 2016 on charges that he embezzled from a youth sports organization and misused campaign funds. Councilman Luis Aponte was charged earlier this year with embezzling from his campaign fund. Both men have pleaded not guilty.
Jackson was recalled from office in May. Aponte, who was council president at the time of his arrest, resigned from his leadership position, but he remains on the City Council.
City Councilman Sam Zuirer has introduced a proposal to begin publishing financial disclosures and campaign finance reports on the City Council website, but the matter has not come to a vote. The council page now includes a link to the Board of Elections’ website.