Gaffett hit with second ethics violationFined $250
First Warden Kim Gaffett has been found in violation of an ethics complaint brought against her by a town resident, and will have to pay a $250 fine, according to an Informal Resolution and Settlement approved by the R.I. Ethics Commission this week.
The resolution states that Gaffett violated Ethics Commission regulations “by failing to recuse from participation when her business associate, [Kay] Lewis, a member of the [Block Island Health Services] BIHS board, appeared before the Town Council during the meetings that involved the negotiation of the renewal of the contract between the Town and BIHS.”
The Ethics Commission approved the Informal Resolution at its June 4 meeting.
“What I’ve learned is we must all, and me especially, be very careful,” said Gaffett at a June 5 Town Council meeting. “I’m sorry that it was not intuitively obvious to me that [Kay Lewis] would be a business associate.”
Gaffett said that she was told by the Ethics Commission staff that there is a “zero-tolerance policy. They thought that the minimal fine of $250 was an indication that they did not consider it to be a severe breach.”
The original ethics complaint was brought by Peter Saxon on Feb. 7, which stated that Gaffett was negotiating a management contract with BIHS at the same time BIHS secretary Kay Lewis was helping Gaffett with her re-election campaign.
Saxon had claimed that Lewis was helping Gaffett with election campaign fundraising, but this was denied by Gaffett.
“She [Lewis] was not paid, did not do fundraising, was not the head of my campaign and did not do strategy,” said Gaffett at the council meeting. “She is considered a business associate.”
The resolution defines the relationship between Gaffett and Lewis as follows: “Lewis has served as Treasurer for the Respondent’s [Gaffett’s] campaigns since 2006. Her duties as Treasurer consist primarily of filing the necessary forms with the Board of Elections and managing and paying campaign expenses during elections. Lewis does not engage in fundraising activities on behalf of the Respondent. As a result of the foregoing relationship, the Respondent and Lewis are business partners.”
The resolution further states, “The Respondent did not recuse from matters in which Lewis appeared before the Town Council relative to the negotiations of the [contract] renewal between the Town and BIHS.”
This violation is in addition to a separate $500 that Gaffett had been fined after she voted to appoint her brother-in-law, John Spier, to the town Planning Board earlier this year.
Two island residents filed a complaint in January about the Spier vote. Arlene Tunney and R. Bruce Montgomery claimed that Gaffett violated ethics rules when she took part in the successful vote to appoint Spier to the Planning Board.