Montalbano’s public statement gives the impression that he thinks $12,000 is a reasonable fine for a minor paperwork error:
I am pleased to have reached a resolution of this matter that is fair and just. The finding of the Ethics Commission in this case – that I failed to complete my paperwork – accurately reflects what happened. I offer no excuses. I have freely admitted this mistake from the beginning, I take full responsibility for it, and I accept the fine of the Commission as appropriate.
To their credit, the Ethics Commission recognized that there was no personal benefit to me or my clients based on my vote last May regarding the constitutional amendment. Further, the Commission agreed with me that there was no conflict between my votes and the public interest, or the Code of Ethics. It was never my intent to hide the fact that the Town, like several other Rhode Island communities, has been my client for many years. Fortunately, in this case, there were plenty of instances on the public record where my work for the Town was freely available in the public realm – including newspapers, on-line and in state and local documents that were readily accessible to anyone. My activity on behalf of my client was out in the open and above-board.
I am embarrassed that I failed to complete the required paperwork. The transparency that these documents are designed to create fosters public trust in the people’s government.
I sincerely regret that by my actions I have contributed to a cynical view held in some quarters that something is just not right in Rhode Island government, and that for some elected officials, private interest takes precedence over the public good. There may be exceptions, but in my experience, the exact opposite is true. I will spend the rest of my career working diligently to prove the cynics wrong.
With this matter closed, I look forward to continuing to do my best to address the people’s business as President of the Senate, and next year, for the 11th time, to face the judgment of my neighbors and constituents.
I think one learns everything necessary from the fact that the first three words of the statement are “I am pleased.”
The press release from Gio Cicione hits some good points, but the party organization still has to improve its understanding of its audience and the facts that ought to be seeded into news reports on political happenings:
Rhode Island Republican Party Chairman Giovanni Cicione says Senate President Joseph Montalbano may have settled his ethics case with the State Ethics Commission today, but the larger problem of General Assembly Democrats using their public office for professional opportunities remains.
“The Senate’s top Democrat’s decision to pay this fine rather than go through a public airing of the ethics violations against him, does not end the bigger problem of leading Democrats viewing political office as a means of enhancing their professional endeavors,” says Chairman Cicione.
Montalbano was accused of a conflict of interest by failing to report tens of thousands of dollars in income from legal work he performed for the town of West Warwick in connection to the proposed site for the failed Narragansett Indian casino while the Senate was holding hearings and voting on the controversial proposal. The settlement, the third highest ever reached by the Ethics Commission, also means Montalbano is dropping a lawsuit against the Commission he was filing in Superior Court. “Maybe this is why the highest ranking Senate Democrat’s approval ratings by Rhode Islanders come in at an embarrassing 16%. Paying a fine won’t restore the trust Rhode Islanders have lost in top Democrats as the poll indicates.”
A Brown University survey out today showed approval ratings for Democrat leaders of the General Assembly to be sinking since an earlier poll last January. In addition to Montalbano’s approval rating, the poll showed Speaker William Murphy’s approval ratings have dropped from 26% to 21%.
Poll numbers are of interest only to those who follow politics closely, and that’s not the crowd on which the RIGOP ought to be focusing (except as a medium for controlling the debate). Somebody working with Gio ought to develop a collection of talking point lists to increase the degree to which newsworthy items can be placed in a context favorable to Republicans. This press release, for example, should have listed names of the ethically challenged Democrats of the past (as Ragin’ Rhode Islander rattled off in the comments to my previous post. The bulk of the press release, however, ought to have noted other suspicious circumstances indicating Rhode Island’s endemic corruption. (The practice of the judiciary hiring relatives of legislators comes immediately to mind, although I’m sure Anchor Rising’s readers have many more that they’d be willing to supply if asked.)