Former state official to pay fine to settle ethics complaint

Brett Smiley a candidate for Mayor of Providence is seen in an August 5, 2021 file photo by Steve Klamkin WPRO News

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A former state official will pay a $4,500 fine to settle an ethics complaint over his solicitation of campaign donations from state vendors for a mayoral run.

Brett Smiley, a Democrat who’s running for Providence mayor, agreed to the settlement with the state Ethics Commission Tuesday. The chairwoman of the Rhode Island Republican Party filed the complaint.

Smiley resigned as director of the Rhode Island Department of Administration early this year. The agency oversees hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of state contracting and spending.

Smiley admitted in the settlement that six separate solicitations from an owner or officer of a company that does business with the state violated the code of ethics, the commission said. He returned the six donations after questions were raised publicly.

Smiley said in a statement Tuesday he returned the contributions as soon as he became aware that the donors had business before the state. He said he “never knowingly solicited contributions from vendors” and never discussed state contracts with any donor.

The complaint was filed in February before Smiley resigned. It called for an investigation into Smiley’s solicitation of donations from state vendors for his mayoral run. Smiley accepted the donations despite telling the ethics commission he would not do so, the GOP said.

The party praised the commission’s decision Tuesday. It said in a statement that Smiley used his power over state vendors to fund his political ambitions, exemplifying “Rhode Island’s unethical insider political culture.”

The code states that state officials can’t solicit their subordinates for political contributions or other financial transactions, including contractors with the official’s agency.