EDITORIAL: Diossa’s ethical disclosure failures are troubling
Friday, August 12, 2022
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James Diossa, the affable former mayor of Central Falls, struggled to properly complete the Rhode Island Ethics Commission’s annual financial disclosure statement.
The failure to properly disclose interests in a medical marijuana business and to properly disclose more than two dozen trips while he was mayor raises concerns about transparency and jurisdiction.
His responses to questions about those failures also raise questions about his judgement.
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Diossa is now a candidate for the position of general treasurer. One of the office’s most critical roles is managing the state’s $10 billion super-vulnerable retiree pension fund — which is only about 60% funded and has suffered losses over the past few years. the last year – like most pension funds.
A story two weeks ago by GoLocal disclosed that Diossa had not disclosed that he served on the board of a company that was applying for one of the state’s compassion center licenses.
Diossa not only failed to disclose his interest, but his response showed his lack of understanding of the disclosure requirement and basic facts.
In a statement to GoLocal, Diossa said he didn’t need to disclose his interest.
“I removed my name from the application in 2021 before the state made the decision to grant or deny the application. Also, the state did not license the compassion center, so even though I am listed as a board member, the entity was never incorporated and the board never met . As such, it does not fall under state disclosure requirements. Ethics laws aim to prevent conflicts of interest. I never acquired any conflicting interests because the request was never approved, and therefore I never acquired any power,” Diossa said.
Diossa’s statement is not correct.
The company was, in fact, incorporated — see here. And further, the ethics commission’s financial disclosure requires the official to disclose the financial interest involved, not just whether the official “has acquired power.”
The absurdity of the answer demonstrates Diossa’s incomprehension or raises questions about his sincerity.
Setting aside the fact that a mayor of a town of 25,000 in financial distress made 26 trips and ten of those trips were overseas, including China, East Timor, England, in Taiwan, Israel, etc., Diossa’s inability to provide transparency is deeply concerning.
On Thursday, GoLocal reported that in its financial disclosure statement for 2020 — Diossa’s final year as mayor of Central Falls — reported 26 trips.
This data dump raises a number of issues.
First, the Ethics Commission is clear that the information disclosed in the annual financial disclosure statement reflects this year – and this year only.
Diossa doesn’t know how to fill out the form, even after eight years as mayor, or it raises questions about something more nefarious.
He threw away a list of trips, did not disclose the dates of the trip, and in doing so raised significant concerns about the costs associated with traveling to the city of Central Falls.
According to his entry on his disclosure form, he traveled to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A third paid $3,500 for the trip. Diossa does not disclose the dates of the trip and declined to disclose if there were any additional costs that cash-strapped Central Falls had to pay for the junket.
In 26 cases, it appears that only part of the cost of the trips was disclosed. GoLocal asked Diossa on Tuesday for additional travel details. Specifically, the dates of the trips and the total costs, including the City of Central Falls contribution, and why the trip was necessary.
Diossa declined to answer questions, and his campaign sent out a statement that read in full, “These are trips that took place during the eight years James Diossa served as mayor of Central Falls. During these trips, the mayor benefited from insights and connections that made him a better leader for the city. »
Diossa owes Rhode Island a clear explanation of his involvement in the cannabis company, and there must be a full accounting of the costs associated with his disclosure of dozens of trips.
An editorial is the opinion of a publication – specifically, ownership.
Although based on facts and reports, it is an opinion intended to discuss critical community issues. Often, the review is written with the intention of positive change.
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