House Majority Leader John DeSimone is the latest Democrat to be hampered by allegations of improper conduct as the Rhode Island Progressive Democrats have filed a complaint with the Rhode Island Ethics Commission alleging the longtime Providence lawmaker was paid by an organization that benefited from legislative largess and that he failed to disclose back taxes he owed the city and state.
“Rep. DeSimone’s activities relating to United Providence mirror those of former House Speaker Gordon Fox and former House Finance Chairman Raymond Gallison,” said a news release from RIPDA. “Like former Speaker Fox, who was fined by the Ethics Commission in connection with the Providence Economic Development Partnership, Rep. DeSimone has failed to disclose legal fees received from a Providence municipal agency partnership. And like former Chairman Gallison, who was fined in connection to AEP, Rep. DeSimone has failed to disclose income received from an organization receiving significant annual state appropriations.”
United Providence was a partnership between the Providence School Department and the Providence teachers’ union, which employs DeSimone. The effort received grants for $100,000 from the legislature in 2013, 2014 and 2015. In 2016, United Providence was slated to receive another $100,000 from the legislature until it was learned the group had become defunct. DeSimone was the registered agent for United Providence when it was formed in 2011.
RIPDA is also taking issue with DeSimone’s failure to disclose back taxes he owned the city and state. DeSimone was late in paying the property tax bill on his Smith Street law office every year since 2008 and also on his home in the years 2006, 2009, 2014 and 2015, according to RIPDA.
“Because of his repeated failure to pay his taxes on time,” said the RIPDA news release, “DeSimone has regularly been thousands of dollars in debt to the City of Providence – a fact that he was legally required to report in his annual financial disclosure statements to the Rhode Island Ethics Commission, which calls for disclosure of all debts in excess of $1,000 ‘to any person, business entity, financial institution or other organization’ beyond a few specific categories. Yet DeSimone, in disclosure after disclosure, repeatedly failed to list this information.”
DeSimone also failed to pay his state taxes on time in 2012, according to RIPDA. “While DeSimone’s troubles with municipal taxes were widely reported on this spring, this state tax issue has not previously been covered,” according to the news release. “During the 2016 legislative session, DeSimone was the lead sponsor for legislation that would put a 10-year statute of limitations on the collection of state taxes.”
Said Nate Carpenter, communications director for RIPDA, “Ethics Commission disclosure statements are an important part of maintaining transparency and oversight in our state government. Mr. DeSimone’s voters, and the people of Rhode Island as a whole, have a right to know that their House Majority Leader has repeatedly been indebted to the City of Providence and State of Rhode Island because of his failure to pay his taxes, and that he has regularly received income from an organization receiving significant state appropriations. It is a very real concern that for so many years DeSimone chose to hide this information from the public by failing to honestly answer questions on his financial disclosure statements. This is a crucial matter for the Ethics Commission to investigate—especially considering the recent scandals we have experienced in Rhode Island along very similar lines.”
DeSimone could not immediately be reached for comment.