Avellaneda Asked to Amend his Campaign Report

City Council President Roy Avellaneda has been asked to amend his Campaign Finance Report by the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) due to two infractions of the law that involved an endorsement letter from the Chelsea Homeowners Association in the 2019 City Election. He was not fined by OCPF for the discrepancies, but asked to re-file the report with the proper accounting. Avellaneda characterized it as an accounting error, and one he quickly fixed. Councillor Damali Vidot criticized Avellaneda for the error, saying it shows that the Homeowners Association is just a front for developers and Avellaneda, who is a real estate agent. The letter from OCPF came on Dec. 9 and cited him for inaccurate disclosure and excess in-kind contributions.  For the first infraction, the endorsement from the Chelsea Homeowners Association came for Avellaneda and Councillors Naomi Zabot and Melinda Vega-Maldonado, as well as Candidate Mark Rossi. Avellaneda’s Committee had a letter printed up at a cost of $1,620 and sent out to 2,000 homeowners. The other endorsees were to report their portion of the expenditure as an in-kind contribution, and Avellaneda was to report it as a full payment to the printer. “Your Committee should not have disclosed this activity as direct expenditures to the other candidates’ Committees but, rather, as a single expenditure to Sterling Printing in the total amount paid directly to that company for the mailing,” read the OCPF letter. “The three other Committees, who were aware of the mailing, should have then reported the portion of the mailing allocable to them as in-kind contributions from your Committee. Your Committee’s year-end report included only $500 paid to Sterling Printing for the Chelsea Homeowners Association mailing. The actual invoice for this mailing, however, was $1 ,620.05. Your Committee under-reported this expenditure by $1,120.05.” The excess in-kind contribution came for the mailing benefitting Candidate Rossi, as OCPF determined the contribution amounted to $742 for him, and Avellaneda was only allowed to make a donation of up to $100 in-kind to him. The amount of contribution for Vega-Maldonado and Zabot was $67.50. The remediation to fix the finance report was for Rossi to pay the Avellaneda Campaign $642, and for the other two councillors to report the $67.50 on their reports as in-kind contributions. The letter indicated that there would be no fine and that the Avellaneda Committee had quickly fixed the problem, but when faced with such things in the future, it should reach out to OCPF for guidance. “Because we expect that the appropriate remedial action has been or will be taken, and because we believe that this letter will ensure future compliance with the campaign finance law, OCPF has determined that no further action will be taken at this time,” it read. “Should your Committee wish to send a mailing in conjunction with other committees in the future, you should contact our office for guidance.” Councillor Vidot – who has taken criticism from Avellaneda for a few of her OCPF violations – said the matter was serious and if she can be criticized, so should Avellaneda. “The Homeowners Association has advocated against affordable housing,” she said. “Some of that group has been very classist – that if you’re a tenant you don’t have a voice in the City. Of course we want more homeownership, but we have to deal with what’s here…This proves to me the Association is a developer front organization. “That is the type of politicization of these processes that undermine the integrity of the organizations,” she continued. “We’re playing politics and I haven’t even mentioned he’s a real estate agent. It’s about puppeteering outcomes and undermining the community.” Avellaneda said the matter was simple housekeeping issues that involved accounting – changing one ledger item to another. He said when the Homeowner’s Association endorsed he and the others, he asked if they could send out a letter. Instead of the organization doing it, Avellaneda and the other candidates produced it, with approval, and sent it out. “I should not have in my report written it as an in-kind donation to these Committees,” he said. “I should have written the cost in my expenses to Sterling Printers. It was simply an accounting adjustment switching it from one line item to another on the ledger…It wasn’t like I was hiding contributions or not reporting expenses or donations. I will go on record again and say they looked at me and there was very little here. She has been fined time and again. She failed to report and entire fundraiser at the Merritt Club that had expenses and donations.” He said in the past, Vidot has been the beneficiary of a similar letter sent out in 2015 to benefit multiple councillors and candidates. He said Vidot ought to think about re-filing her reports from back then to reflect an accurate accounting. He said there are likely similar issues with that letter, issues like the ones he just fixed. Vidot said those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones – alleging Avellaneda has long targeted her with OCPF complaints. “It’s karma,” she said. “He said in 25 years there was only one City Councillor that had violated these Political Finance rules. Now, I guess there are two.” Countered Avellaneda, “If she wants to play that game and make me look like a bad guy, it falls flat and I’m amused by it all…At the end of the day, there have been 38 City Councillors that have served and she still remains the only one to be fined by the (state) OCPF.”

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