Council President Damali Vidot and Councillor Roy Avellaneda have been battling over a campaign finance violation issued by the state to Vidot earlier this year, with both having radically different views on the matter.
This week, the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) released its fall report that contained the paperwork on the violation by Vidot, which was hammered out last June between OCPF and the Vidot Campaign.
Officially, the OCPF found that Vidot and her campaign did not initially report at least $1,341 during campaigns in 2016 and 2017, and received $180 in cash contributions without keeping appropriate records. Some of the cash contributions were received at a raffle, according to OCPF, and political committees are not allowed to hold raffles.
The resolution was that the Vidot Committee amended its reports and the candidate agreed to forgive $1,000 in loans that she made personally to her committee as punishment.
Vidot said it was simply oversight, and the fact that she is new to politics.
“Basically, I’m new at this whole politics thing and last year in the midst of the re-election, our campaign missed some deadlines,” said Vidot this week. “It’s not that we didn’t want to file it. My treasurer works a full-time job and I was buy and we didn’t get it done. When we did, we made an error and didn’t capture some items. It wasn’t a case of there being any money missing or anything like that. OCPF notified me in May of the problem and we worked it all out by June…The whole reason I got into politics is I don’t like the things that happened that weren’t transparent. I would never do something that was hiding money people gave me. I have cried at a $20 donation…Everything balanced out. There was not missing money. Every dollar donated to me went to mailers, phones, office space, and what it was supposed to go to.”
However, Avellaneda, who Vidot said reported the matter to OCPF, had a far different view of the matter. It was something he first brought up at a Council meeting a few weeks ago, but was not allowed to talk about due to being ruled out of order.
By his count, Vidot should have paid penalties of more than $8,000 had the law been enforced to the letter.
“The law was broken,” he wrote. “Actually, laws plural, were broken. Specifically, Mass General Laws pertaining to campaign finance… The City of Chelsea regularly fines its residents on any number of issues from not having an up-to-date resident parking sticker, trash bags overflowing, and not shoveling snow on sidewalks within 48 hours… Wait more than 30 days (to pay) and the City Clerk sends notice to the RMV to suspend your driver’s license and registration.
Yet here we had an elected official not being disciplined by the City Clerk for non-compliance of state finance laws deadlines, which when finally filed, showed unreported donations and expenses. One could argue that this is a show of favoritism towards an individual because of the position they hold. My call to have the City Council address this with the City Clerk was not only voted against, but Vidot’s supporters deflected and made personal attacks on me.
So much for transparency. So much for insuring the integrity of the electoral process in Chelsea.”
Vidot said that Avellaneda is incorrect about the City Clerk’s and City Solicitor’s role in the matter. She said they did contact her several times about filing the report, and that if she did not file, they would have to turn it over to the state for levying fines.
At that point, Vidot said they did file, but they filed it incorrectly.
“Roy puts at fault the state, the City Clerk, the City Solicitor and everyone else,” she said. “The City Clerk and City Solicitor reached out to me several times, and when I filed it was out of their hands. Roy needs to just back up. We could get so much done if he played nicely…The focus needs be on the 02150 where it should be…If there’s any fault, it’s with me.”
Avellaneda said he takes offense to not being allowed to discuss the matter in public at the Council.
“While President Vidot can use her powers as president to both impede motions and orders that she doesn’t agree with and stifle discussion on the floor of the City Council Chambers, she cannot stop my ability to reach out to the Citizens of Chelsea,” said Avellaneda.
Vidot said she is taking as a learning experience, and noting that it is a confusing process for a lot of candidates. She said will be calling for a joint City Council/School Committee subcommittee that would host an OCPF seminar on campaign finance.