Facing prosecution? Providence City Council candidate accused of campaign finance violations

PROVIDENCE — City Council candidate Gerard Catala has been accused of a slew of campaign finance violations and may now face prosecution.

On Thursday, the state's Board of Elections announced that an audit conducted by its Campaign Finance Division uncovered the violations and referred the case to the attorney general's office for "consideration and possible prosecution."

"The Board is responsible for enforcing Rhode Island campaign finance laws, and will take whatever actions permissible under law to ensure compliance by candidates and committees," the board said in a statement.

A summary of the audit, which covers January 2018 through June 2021, states that Catala took more than $7,000 from his campaign's bank account over the course of 132 transactions but did not disclose those transactions on his campaign finance reports, and those debits haven't proved to be campaign-related.

The board also found that more than $6,000 in deposits were not disclosed on campaign finance reports, and the source of nearly $4,000 could not be identified.

More than $4,000 worth of campaign spending came from Catala's personal funds — another violation of campaign finance law, the board said.

Additionally, the board said that in 2018, Catala failed to file four campaign finance reports, and from 2019 into 2021, seven reports falsely reported no contributions or spending. According to the board, three years' worth of copies of his campaign bank account statements from 2018 to 2020 were also not submitted.

In another instance, a $50 check labeled "donation" was put into a personal account, the board reported.

Catala, who is running for the Ward 9 seat currently held by Councilwoman Carmen Castillo, did not immediately reply to a request for comment. However, the board's report contained his response to the findings:

"Catala indicated his delay in filing his campaign finance reports for 2018 was due to his desire to submit complete and accurate campaign finance reports that wouldn’t need to be later amended. Catala further indicated his 2018 campaign promotional launch included items such as door hangers, bumper stickers, palm cards, business cards, button stickers and more, which cost over $2,000.00, were paid from his personal funds and not from funds available in his campaign account. Likewise, his campaign headquarters, which cost over $2,000.00, was paid from his personal account and not from funds available in his campaign account. Catala claimed that, to the best of his memory, his campaign was 100% self-financed throughout the entire 2018 campaign; and that he didn’t receive his first contribution until November 1, which was deposited on November 5."

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Candidate cited for campaign finance violations