PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The chairman of the Rhode Island Republican Party said Wednesday he’s filed a formal ethics complaint against Rep. Anastasia Williams for twice failing to list her employment with the city of Providence on a mandatory financial disclosure form.
In 2012 and again in 2015, Williams wrote “N/A” under the section of her yearly Rhode Island Ethics Commission disclosure form that asks elected officials to list their sources of income – even though she has worked for the city government since 1993. Her annual salary was $57,195 as of March 15, payroll records show.
GOP Chairman Brandon Bell told WPRI.com the complaint also involves Williams’ initial failure to disclose that she is chairwoman of the John Hope Settlement House, a nonprofit that received a $300,000 grant from lawmakers in this year’s state budget.
“When legislators make mistakes, they need to apologize for them, not attack those who expose them,” Bell said in an email. “Rather than apologize, Williams went on the House floor yesterday and trashed the media scrutiny she has received for failing to properly file documents she certified under penalty of perjury were complete and accurate.”
He added: “If she believes that the media scrutiny of her is unfair, she should welcome an opportunity to be scrutinized by the Ethics Commission.”
In an interview Tuesday, Williams acknowledged that she made an “error” when she first filed her 2015 financial disclosure, attributing it to “multitasking,” but noted that she corrected it on May 9. She also said she was unaware of any error in her 2012 filing. Williams took to the House floor a short time later to criticize the story.
Bell said that while other lawmakers have also amended their filings, he was motivated to take the step of filing a formal complaint against Williams because of her speech Tuesday attacking the media for reporting on the matter. “She could have apologized,” he said.
Williams, 59, said she had not been notified of the complaint when asked by Eyewitness News for a comment at the State House Wednesday afternoon.
“What ethics complaint? I have no idea about an ethics complaint,” she said. She declined an offer to be shown a copy of the complaint, citing an upcoming committee meeting.
Asked about Bell’s charge, she said: “I did not violate any law.”
When asked again about her 2012 ethics filing, which still has not been amended, she declined knowledge of the form. She again declined an offer to see the document in question, then walked onto an elevator.
Jason Gramitt, staff attorney at the Ethics Commission, said the agency has up to three days to review complaints once they are filed to determine if they will be accepted, and said he could not discuss whether Bell has filed a complaint until that process is complete.
Grammit also said Williams’ 2012 disclosure form had not been amended as of midday Wednesday. Therefore, Bell argued in his complaint, “The ethics violation is ongoing with respect to 2012.” He alleged Williams has violated a state law and three ethics regulations.
Larry Berman, a spokesman for House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ethics complaint.
Williams, D-Providence, was first elected to the General Assembly in 1992. As of Friday she was one of 29 lawmakers who had amended their Ethics Commission disclosures since the surprise resignation of former House Finance Committee Chairman Ray Gallison earlier this month.
While most of those amendments involved minor changes – in many cases, disclosing income earned for serving as a representative or a senator – the additions made by Williams were more extensive, involving both her main source of employment as well as her ties to John Hope, which has received $950,000 from taxpayers over the last three years.
Rep. Gregory Costantino, D-Lincoln, amended his filing on May 12 to disclose that he also serves on the John Hope board.
Another lawmaker who made significant additions to his filing is state Sen. Jamie Doyle, D-Pawtucket, who disclosed additional personal debts after Eyewitness News discovered multiple tax liens on his home and business properties last week.
The Ethics Commission disclosure form says that when individuals sign them they are attesting, “I certify under the penalty of perjury that this Financial Statement is a complete and accurate response to all of the questions presented.”Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes The Saturday Morning Post and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and InstagramPerry Russom contributed to this report.