The Rhode Island Board of Elections has found Warwick Ward 6 City Councilwoman Donna Travis in violation of multiple rules regarding disclosing, tracking and spending campaign fund dollars from a period between January of 2014 and June 30, 2017.
The Board of Elections chose to pursue an audit of Travis’s campaign bank account and financial disclosure records when they discovered a variance of $3,841.62 between what was declared in her campaign finance report and what was actually in her campaign bank account for the period ending Dec. 16, 2016.
As a result of the audit, the Board found that, between the period of Jan. 1, 2014 and June 30, 2017, Travis had under-reported campaign contributions by a total of $13,514; under-reported campaign expenditures by a total of $6,875.42; received a total of $1,290 in illegal contributions from “business entities and anonymous contributions” and; had used $543 total dollars of campaign funds illicitly, including to pay “membership dues.”
Additionally, in all there were 20 instances where a contributor of campaign funding was not correctly identified.
Travis, in an interview on Friday, took responsibility for the finance errors and is cooperating with the Board of Elections.
“I honestly can tell you, and I'm sure that there are some who won’t believe me, but I had no knowledge of any of it until the Board of Elections contacted me that there was a problem.”
While Travis said that she doesn’t personally handle her campaign contributions or bank account – she has a treasurer handle that – she said that the blame is solely her own for not being more aware of the situation and keeping tabs to ensure things were being done properly, especially for being unaware she was using campaign funds to pay for unspecified “membership dues.”
“I'm not trying to bail out of it and say it’s not my fault,” she said. “I have to move forward in a new way of doing it, the correct way. I'm not going to throw anybody under the bus or point fingers in any direction. It’s on me.”
The Board of Elections indicated in their findings that “Ms. Travis has at all times been cooperative with the Board of Elections and has timely responded to all inquiries. The Board has determined that the candidate improperly failed to review expenditures, contributions and campaign reports.”
As a result, Travis will have to forfeit $2,790 worth of campaign funds to the state of Rhode Island, and pay a $1,500 fine in three installments – due the last days of March, June and September of 2018 – from her own personal finances. She has forfeited the right to appeal the decision, and must appoint a new campaign treasurer and documentation showing that the accounting errors have been corrected by Dec. 31, 2017.
“The bottom line is I'll take the hit,” she said. “That's fine, I can take the hit. It was nothing intentional, nothing deliberate. It was just a bookkeeping error.”