PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The R.I. Board of Elections on Wednesday chose not to fine Republican gubernatorial candidate Allan Fung for paying his city’s top developer no rent for his 2016 campaign headquarters, but warned him to be more careful in the future.
The board announced this decision after meeting in executive session Wednesday night. Its vice-chairman, Stephen Erickson, said it was determined Fung’s campaign had made a “reporting error.” The board also indicated it needs to write regulations to define “fair-market value.”
“We made a finding and determination that we would issue a warning that the accounting matters were not handled correctly and should be handled correctly in the future,” Erickson said.
“We made no determination with respect to the question of what fair-market value is of rent because we don’t have any regulations or guidelines at the present time,” he added.
In June, Target 12 documented a series of campaign-finance irregularities involving Fung and Carpionato Properties, which owns the Chapel View shopping plaza where Fung had paid $500 a month for a headquarters during the last three election cycles. They included uncashed rent checks for his 2016 campaign, a rent refund in 2014 and unreported balloon payment this year.
At the time, a Carpionato executive said the refunds were provided because the Fung campaign had made repairs, but Fung ordered his campaign to cut new rent checks. His campaign paid Carpionato $5,500 between June 14 and Aug. 1, filings show.
Two of Fung’s rivals, Democratic Governor Gina Raimondo and Republican gubernatorial candidate Patricia Morgan, both filed complaints over the Carpionato transactions, as did good-government group Common Cause Rhode Island. They charged Fung’s campaign with accepting free or below-market rent from a corporation, in violation of multiple laws.
In a statement, Fung spokesman Andrew Augustus said the campaign “fully cooperated” with the investigation and thanked the board for its “diligent review,” describing the issues flagged as “administrative nuances.”
“This outcome vindicates the campaign and supports its position from the onset that the campaign paid its rent,” Augustus said, adding that Fung “is excited with moving his campaign for governor and the needs of all Rhode Islanders forward.” (Fung’s campaign has since moved out of Chapel View to a different Carpionato-owned plaza in Warwick.)
John Marion, Common Cause’s executive director, questioned the board’s decision. “I think goes beyond reporting errors,” he said. “It’s a question of, did you take something of value that you’re supposed to report? Is it legal?”
The board issued an additional warning to the Cranston Democratic City Committee, which also paid Carpionato no rent for a campaign headquarters in recent years.
Separately on Wednesday, The Associated Press reported that Fung’s campaign failed to report the donation of radio air time for him to appear on a one-hour WPRO radio infomercial hosted by a lobbyist for the trucking industry.
Ted Nesi contributed to this report.