Garballey reimburses campaign for Uber rides covered by taxpayer funds

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State Rep. Sean Garballey has agreed to forfeit $10,000 he loaned his campaign after state officials said he broke several campaign-finance laws, including charging his political account for $900 in Uber rides that were already covered by taxpayer funds.

The Boston Globe reported June 21 that over two years, Garballey also didn’t disclose nearly $17,000 in donations he deposited into his campaign — and $14,000 that his campaign spent — all in violation of state law. The newspaper cited an agreement the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance released June 20.

Garballey, a Democrat representing Arlington and West Medford who first won his seat in 2008, will forgive $10,000 in loans he made to his campaign, pay $2,000 in fines and stop using his account to pay for his trips to and from the State House, The Globe reported, citing the agreement. Read it here >> 

As part of the agreement, Garballey also appointed a new campaign treasurer, a role long held by his mother. He is new treasurer is Dean Carman, former town treasurer.

Gets $15K stipend

He regularly charged his campaign for Uber rides to and from work, spending $851 in 2018, though he was receiving a $15,000 legislative stipend that’s based on how far he lives from Beacon Hill. State officials told The Globe that he has since reimbursed his account.

The Legislature established the stipend in 2017 as part of a controversial package of pay raises. The new rules replaced a system of per diems for legislative travel that Garballey had regularly tapped. The 34-year-old had reportedly charged taxpayers for more travel days to the State House over a two-year period than any other state lawmaker, according to a 2017 Boston 25 story. 

Garballey declined to comment about the agreement to The Globe.

Responded immediately

He told YourArlington June 21 that after the law changed two years regarding such expenses, he was unaware that he could not cover expenses for Uber, which he said he took perhaps two dozen times.

"As soon as I was told about the problem [about a month and a half ago], I took action," he said in a brief telephone interview.

He said he often takes the T to Beacon Hill, but in short-notice situation, he takes Uber.

In a statement, he wrote: "I want to thank the Office of Campaign and Political Finance and Director [Michael] Sullivan for their professionalism and thoroughness in this matter. I very much regret that during a very busy campaign there was not a single point of contact for the campaign processing expenses and donations received through different platforms.

"This was and is my responsibility. These mistakes will not reoccur in the future.

"I have nothing but respect and complete support for transparency in our campaign finance system and am pleased that working with OCPF we have been able to better reconcile the contributions and expenditures that were made in this campaign. If anyone would like to discuss this issue, please call me on my cell phone at 781-859-7781."

Cooperation cited

Campaign-finance regulators agreed not to refer Garballey for potential criminal prosecution as part of the agreement. Jason Tait, an OCPF spokesman, told The Globe that officials felt it was the “best resolution in this case, in part because [Garballey] was absolutely cooperative.”

According to his amended campaign finance report, Garballey spent nearly $20,000 in easily fighting off a primary challenge from Lori Lennon last year. He later ran unopposed in November.

In 2017, Garballey had sought the state Senate seat that was left vacant after Senator Kenneth Donnelly died from complications of brain cancer. Garballey later lost in the special Democratic primary to Donnelly’s chief of staff and now-Senator, Cindy F. Friedman. 

This news announcement was published Friday, June 21, 2019.