Carcieri admits breaking ethics rules in hiring niece

    By Nbc 10 News

    PROVIDENCE -- Gov. Don Carcieri admitted Monday that he broke state anti-nepotism laws in hiring a niece and will pay a $2,500 penalty to settle a complaint with the state Ethics Commission.

    The settlement came after the commission decided to investigate whether Carcieri broke the law by hiring his niece, Stephanie Accaputo, in his constituent affairs office in November 2002.

    Carcieri initially claimed that hiring his niece was not in violation of ethics rules. He had argued the definition of a family member was unclear until the Ethics Commission updated it in 2007.

    Ethics Commission prosecutor Dianne Leyden disagreed.

    "But clearly my interpretation as the prosecutor in this case was that it a violation then -- it would have been a violation then -- and that we would have recommended he not hire her," Leyden said.

    Accaputo resigned from her job Friday.

    Leyden said it is important to enforce anti-nepotism laws to keep a politician's family members from profiting from public service.

    "The governor, if you recall, stated that he checked with all his people back when the hiring occurred and that everything was fine. Well, it wasn't. And that was brought out, and he admits, in retrospect, that it was a violation," Leyden said.

    In a written statement, Carcieri said he did not intend to violate the law but that once the law was clarified, he admitted he was in violation.

    Carcieri said he would not comment further.

    The latest fine marks Carcieri's fourth settlement for ethics violations. Leyden said Cariceri has a record of violating state ethics laws.

    "It's an obvious track record. There are four complaints, two were consolidated. So, we have three cases, three fines have been paid, and we still have two more years to go," Leyden said.

    In 2005, Carcieri paid $750 after he accepted free tickets from a bank to a New England Patriots football game while that bank had a significant business relationship with the state. Carcieri also was accused of failing to file a financial disclosure statement on time.

    Last year, Carcieri was fined $1,000 for illegally soliciting state employees for campaign donations. State law bars elected officials in Rhode Island from asking workers they supervise for campaign funds.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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