Sen. Joyce takes steps to make amends for dirty laundry
By State House News Service | January 20, 2016, 15:12 EDT
BOSTON – State Sen. Brian Joyce of Milton has made a $3,367 personal donation to charity to resolve the use of campaign funds to help cover the $5,200 cost of his son’s graduation party at the senator’s home, as well as a $1,250 donation to resolve other issues, including unreported spending and accounting errors.
The state Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) announced the resolution on Wednesday, saying Joyce, a Democrat, had initially covered about $1,800 of the party’s total cost. Use of campaign funds to pay party costs “could constitute personal use within the meaning” of campaign finance laws, the agency wrote in a disposition agreement signed by the senator and OCPF officials and released on Wednesday.
“After this matter was brought to the attention of OCPF, and in an effort to avoid any appearance of impropriety, the Candidate voluntarily agreed to make a charitable donation in accordance with the residual funds clause in the amount of $3,367 to resolve this matter,” the agreement said.
Joyce, who donated $3,367 to The Massachusetts Hospital School, said he had relied on a past OCPF ruling in believing the June 2014 party would “partially qualify” as a campaign event that combined his son’s graduation party with a political “friend-raiser” event. He said he invited “several hundred” people to the event to broaden his base and believed the expenses would “enhance his political future” – a term used in law to describe permissible campaign expenses.
OCPF also announced that a Joyce campaign volunteer has repaid $4,480 after using the campaign’s debit card 15 times over 13 months in 2013-2014 to withdraw that amount in cash for personal use, without Joyce’s knowledge or approval. According to the agency, the volunteer was feeling “financially desperate” and had intended to repay the committee before Joyce became aware of the withdrawals.
Joyce made an additional $1,250 personal payment to charities in his district – $750 to Randolph “No Place for Hate” and $500 to the Friends of the Milton Council on Aging – to resolve other issues. They include discrepancies between reported receipts and expenditures and the failure to report 173 expenditures totaling more than $10,000 made between November 2013 and April 2015, including 26 expenditures of more than $50. The discrepancies are described in an agreement as “primarily accounting errors” that “do not appear to reflect any misappropriation of funds.”
Joyce will make another $1,250 payment to charity if he or his campaign committee fails to fully comply with the terms of the agreement. The payments are part of a resolution reflecting “no admission of liability, responsibility, or wrongdoing by the Committee or the Candidate,” the agreement states.
Joyce’s committee has also agreed that all expenditures will be made using the committee bank account and Joyce will no longer personally pay committee expenses and seek reimbursement, absent prior approval from OCPF. If Joyce plans to lend money to the committee, he has agreed to deposit the funds into the committee account and not pay vendors directly using personal funds.
OCPF concluded that the Joyce committee’s failure to maintain proper records on campaign expenses made using the committee’s debit card or Joyce’s personal use of the committee vehicle between 2013 and 2015 violated two sections of campaign finance law, the agreement said.
OCPF said Joyce has hired accounting professionals to resolve “inadvertent accounting issues” and to manage the committee’s accounts, created a written policy concerning reimbursements, and agreed to file additional reports with OCPF through 2017.
“I feel strongly about election law compliance and my committee will go above and beyond to make sure everyone associated with the campaign adheres to the letter and the spirit of the law,” Joyce said in a statement released by his campaign committee. “I commend the skill of the OCPF’s dedicated and professional staff who made us aware of our own honest mistakes and then recommended fair and common sense ways to keep us from repeating those mistakes in the future.”
Joyce spokeswoman Tara Frier on Wednesday also released a Jan. 11 letter from State Ethics Commission special investigator Scott Cole acknowledging the commission has been reviewing an allegation that Joyce “used his state senate position to receive a substantial discount on the purchase of designer sunglasses from a business in his district.”
“Based upon our review of relevant documentation and interviews of certain parties, we are satisfied that this matter does not require further action on our part,” Cole wrote in his letter to attorney Howard Cooper of Todd & Weld in Boston.
Joyce said newspaper articles had questioned the ethics of his purchase of sunglasses as holiday gifts for his Senate colleagues, and he said the Republican State Committee six months ago called for an investigation into whether he violated campaign finance rules.
“Today, the results of the OCPF investigation have been released with no finding of wrongdoing on my part,” Joyce said in his statement. “As I continue to represent my constituents and serve my clients, I will also attempt to repair the damage these allegations have cost me politically, professionally and personally.”
Just last week, Gov. Charlie Baker joined others in calling for the Ethics Commission to investigate new allegations reported by the Boston Globe that Joyce for years took advantage of an offer of free dry cleaning from a Randolph businessman without reporting the services as gifts. Joyce said the arrangement with his dry cleaner included an exchange of free legal representation.
Written by Michael Norton