Council candidate Thibodeau calls for reversal of endorsements

Council candidate Thibodeau calls for reversal of endorsements

Says opponents' failure to file reports makes them 'law-breakers'

CUMBERLAND - At-large Town Council challenger Bob Thibodeau is calling on the Town Democratic Committee to remove its endorsement of his two Democratic opponents, incumbent Jim Higgins and contender Peter Bradley, after learning that both ran up fines of more than $4,000 for failing to file campaign expense forms for more than two years.

"This is a big deal, this is what's wrong with Rhode Island - honesty," Thibodeau told The Breeze this week.

"We've got to clean up our state, and if our leaders can't be counted on to do it, nobody can," he said.

Thibodeau, who served 14 years on the School Committee, is calling Higgins and Bradley "law-breakers" who "messed up multiple dates."

By not filing for two years, he said, voters were denied the opportunity "to follow the money trail" of who donated to their campaigns and how money was spent.

Bradley ran two years ago for re-election to his District 4 seat, which he lost to Scott Schmitt.

Higgins, who enjoys top vote-getter status, has served several years as the council's president.

Charles Wilk is a fourth Democrat in the September runoff with Thibodeau, Higgins and Bradley. Two winners will compete against Republican Art Lambi in November. Voters will choose two.

Thibodeau began raising concerns just as Bradley and Higgins were making arrangements to pay off their debts.

Within the past 10 days, both sought and received reductions in the fine owed.

Higgins now has until July 18 to pay $850, and Bradley paid off a reduced $900 fine this week.

Waivers were granted based on hardship, according to Richard Thornton, who heads up the campaign finance arm of the Board of Elections.

Bradley stopped filing after his Oct. 30, 2012 statement, a few weeks after he was replaced on the Town Council by Schmitt.

There was $2,040 in his account.

On Monday, July 7, he filed six statements: his statement for 28 days after the 2012 election, a 2012 fourth-quarter statement, four quarterly statements for 2013, and the first two quarters of 2014. His account has stood at $956 since the Dec. 4, 2012 filing.

He told The Breeze this week, "I thought I was done when I lost the election." He added, "Everything I needed to do I took care of and I'm all up to date."

The previous week, on July 1, Higgins, an attorney, filed the same missing reports and is showing $194, the amount he's had since he last filed in September of 2012.

Higgins told The Breeze that he "made a mistake," that he suggests is mitigated by the fact that he was accepting no funds nor spending any money.

"I've filed all the reports since I became aware of it," he said, noting "there was no activity whatsoever involving funds."

Higgins said he suspects that because he changed his address, reminder notices weren't reaching him.

"I'm in compliance now and I think that's what's important."

Affidavits for exemptions from filing for non-active candidates are available but were not used by Higgins or Bradley.

Asked to comment about the endorsements, Bruce Lemois, who heads the Democratic Town Committee, declined, saying the executive board feels this is an issue between candidates and the state Board of Elections.

At the Board of Elections, Thornton maintains a lengthy list of candidates who've failed to file reports despite swearing to obey election laws on an affidavit all must file.

In recent years, Thornton has been trying to put more teeth into the law through legislation that would bar a candidate from running if he or she owed filing fines. That's a change in the law that Thibodeau says he's supporting and has already contacted Cumberland Reps. Mia Ackerman, Karen MacBeth and Jim McLaughlin and Cumberland Sen. Ryan Pearson in search of support.

Comments

The Democratic Town Committee should meet and re-vote .I am sure the committee did not know they were endorsing candidates with multiple fines from the RI Election Board.
I believe that no one should be endorsed in the at large council race in light of these violations.......