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Lt. Gov. McKee fined $250 for failing to disclose out-of-state trips

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Lt. Gov. Dan McKee has agreed to pay a $250 civil fine to resolve a complaint before the R.I. Ethics Commission over his failure to disclose outside-funded travel on his annual financial disclosure forms.

Target 12 revealed last month that McKee, a second-term Democrat, did not report a 2017 trip to Asia on which the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Boston, an arm of the Taiwan government, spent $3,500 paying for his travel, hotel and food. McKee later said he did not report two other, smaller trips that were also paid for by outside entities.

McKee quickly amended his filings to include the three trips, but Brandon Bell, the former R.I. Republican Party chairman who is now the GOP’s acting general counsel, filed a complaint with the commission, arguing that failing to penalize McKee would suggest the panel was unconcerned with disclosure lapses.

At a meeting Tuesday, the commission and McKee agreed to a settlement that calls for him to pay a $250 fine over the trips. McKee reserved his right to argue for a smaller penalty.

McKee, who met privately with the commission at Tuesday’s meeting, said he was “happy” with the outcome. He declined further comment, but has previously said he misread the forms and made an honest mistake.

Bell was also pleased with the decision. “It’s a good day when a public official in Rhode Island is held accountable for violating the ethics code,” he said in an email.

Also Tuesday, the commission voted to investigate whether Sen. Valerie Lawson, D-East Providence, violated conflict of interest rules by voting on a recent bill to extend union contracts indefinitely in light of her position as a vice-president of the National Education Association Rhode Island teachers union.

Lawson has said she was given informal guidance that she was allowed vote on the measure because of the so-called “class exemption” — which lets lawmakers who are part of a much larger class, such as union members, vote on legislation that could affect them. But the state GOP has argued Lawson should have recused herself.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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