Featured Letter: Gaffett responds to ethics complaint
This letter was written to the Rhode Island Ethics Commission and copied to the Block Island Times. It is also a response to Peter Saxon’s ethics complaint about First Warden Kim Gaffett:
Dear Chairman Cheit:
Please accept this letter as Respondent’s Answer to Complaint No. 2013-3. I do not believe that this is a legitimate or responsible complaint. I cannot determine which provision(s) of the Rhode Island Code of Ethics this complaint is targeting, nor has Mr. Saxon identified which provision he believes I have violated. Further, Mr. Saxon appears not to have taken any steps towards identifying the facts regarding my recent election campaigns, or how the Block Island Medical Center is funded.
I trust that the following statements of fact will help illuminate the reality that I have not breached the R.I. Code of Ethics as appears to be alleged by Mr. Saxon.
Kay Lewis, a personal friend, has acted as my Campaign Finance treasurer since 2006. She has had two responsibilities. First and foremost, to track and file the required R.I. Campaign Finance reports for my election activities in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012. Second, she kept the checkbook balanced and made sure that my election-related bills were paid.
Kay Lewis has had no fundraising responsibilities. In the most recent election (2012), I received 11 donations totaling $1800 (this is a matter of public record) and each of those donations was made by acquaintances directly to me. None of the donations were received through Kay Lewis’s efforts.
For the past four elections I have run as an Independent candidate. I have never had a campaign chair or strategy committee. In addition, my style is not to seek advice on campaign letters or ads even from my closest friends.
The Town of New Shoreham owns the Block Island Medical Center facility. The Town provides funding for that facility and supports the provision of health care for Island residents and visitors with an annual line-item budget amount. This amount ($86,800 in FY13) was one of eight “Community Support” line-items voted on at Financial Town Meeting by the voters of New Shoreham (see attached page from Town of New Shoreham FY13 Operating Budget). To the best of my recollection, Town of New Shoreham voters have supported the Medical Center with a budgeted line-item (ranging from $80k - $100k) since the late 1980s. This amount is not a negotiated amount other than in the sense that it can be adjusted/approved/rejected by the voters.
The Town of New Shoreham contracts with a non-profit organization (Block Island Health Services, Inc. (BIHS)) to manage the Medical Center facility and provide health care. The Town has had a contract with BIHS to manage the Medical Center at least since the late 1980s. The most recent contract spanned the five-year period from 2006 – 2011. Since the expiration of that contract in June of 2011 the Town and BIHS have been developing a new contract – with the essential provisions of the expired contract continuing in place to ensure continuity of service. The elements of the pending new contract under discussion revolve around scope of service and specific operating and communication details. The established rent for the facilities assessed by the Town to BIHS – $1 – has not changed in 25+/- years.
All contract discussions between the Town and BIHS regarding the Agreement to manage and operate the Medical Center have been open – well-attended – meetings with full participation of Town Council members and BIHS Board Members, as well as the Town Manager and, BIHS’s Executive Director (prior to July 2012).
The suggestion that I as member of the Town Council, and Kay Lewis as a member of the BIHS Board, were/are involved in some unethical activity is not only false, it is outrageous and demonstrates a lack of understanding of how the Medical Center facilities are operated.
Based on the above statements, I ask that the R.I. Ethics Commission dismiss Complaint No. 2013-3. Further, I suggest that this complaint contains false statements, demonstrates no evidence that Mr. Saxon even attempted to seek out and document such basic facts as the expiration date of the lapsed Town/BIHS management agreement; and relies on supposition and imagination in characterizing the position of Kay Lewis in regard to my reelection campaign. Given these facts, I ask that you not only dismiss the complaint but also find that it is “frivolous, unreasonable, or groundless” and assess Mr. Saxon with a civil penalty as allowed under RIGL 36-14-12 Investigative powers of the Commission (d).
In the alternative, perhaps the Commission could amend the complaint based on information discovered through the investigative process (RIGL 36-14-12 Investigative powers of the Commission (c)(5)) and find Mr. Saxon in violation of the RI Ethics Code (RIGL 36-14-5 Prohibited Activities (k): “No person shall knowingly and willfully make a false or frivolous complaint under this chapter.”
Thank you in advance for your time reviewing this response. I look forward to having this matter resolved. If you have questions or need further clarification I can be reached at 401-595-7055, or through the Town Clerk’s office at 466-3200, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.