Cumberland Farm’s Lawyer and Cranston Judge Denies Campaign Donation to Councilman

Saturday, February 10, 2018
GoLocalProv News Team

Councilman Farina and Judge Bolton
New twists emerge in Cranston.

The tangled web of relationships surrounding Cranston municipal judge and Cumberland Farms attorney John Bolton is getting even more complex.

Bolton is representing the effort by Cumberland Farm to locate a store in the Edgewood section of Cranston — simultaneously he serves as a municipal court judge for the City and he has been a prolific donor.

Bolton said he has not given to any Cranston elected officials since he was named to the court in January of 2017. “As I have told your colleague numerous times now, I did not contribute to Councilman Farina in November 2017, nor have I made any contributions to Cranston officials subsequent to my appointment as a Municipal Court Associate Judge in January 2017,” said Bolton in an email to GoLocal on Friday.

But, Rhode Island campaign finance reports show that Bolton gave Council President Farina $500 in November 2017 -- which the reports filed with the state show was received and deposited -- and Bolton’s wife, who had never given any campaign contributions to any Rhode Island campaigns, has become an active donor to Cranston officials in 2017. Bolton's wife is not barred from making donations. Neither Judge Bolton nor Colleen Bolton would respond to requests for comments about her new political financial activism just as he had pledged not to give to Cranston officials.

According to campaign finance records of the state, beyond the $500 donation that John Bolton gave to Farina, Collen Bolton sent $1,100 to elected Cranston officials. Mayor Allan Fung received the lion's share - he received three separate donations from Colleen Farina totaling $850. She also donated $250 to Cranston Councilman Christopher Paplauskas -- all in 2017, and her only political donations on record. 

Bolton refused to respond to a number of emails asking if the donations from his wife undermined the claim that he no longer gave donations to Cranston officials.

Colleen Bolton begins to give to Cranston Officials as husband pledges not to

The Mysterious $500 Donation from John Bolton to Councilman Farina

According to the campaign finance report submitted by Farina on behalf of his campaign, Judge Bolton donated $500 on November 9, 2017 and it was deposited on November 11, 2017. All of the data for the donation was included in Farina’s campaign report including Bolton’s home address, employer and work address.

But now, Farina and Bolton denied that Bolton made the donation.

“No mystery just entered incorrectly. I have spoken with the BOE about the error, based on their suggestions I am going to review all the data from my November fundraiser before I amend the report. I had 157 people and almost as many checks so it will take a few days,” said Farina in an email to GoLocalProv. Farina refused to provide details.

Farina repeatedly refused to answer who prepared the campaign report, refused to answer if he has any business relationship with Bolton, and refused to explain how an “extra” check could be reported as received and deposited. 

Mysterious donation from Bolton to Farina - both deny the donation

In addition, Farina refused to provide copies of his campaign’s bank statements to GoLocal.

Judge Bolton also said the reporting was in error. “I would suggest that any questions you have regarding Councilman Farina’s campaign reports are more appropriately addressed to Councilman Farina," said Bolton.

According to Farina, since GoLocal’s article on Friday, he has notified the RI Board of Elections.

Board of Elections Outlines the Issue

"Occasionally, a campaign finance report may be filed that is missing information and/or that contains inaccurate information. Provided the misreporting is not done willfully or knowingly, the report may be amended to cure the deficiencies without penalty. (Note: the amended report may be subject to a late filing penalty if the information contained within the amended report is “materially changed” from the original report.)," said Richard Thornton, Director of Campaign Finance.

“The determination whether or not a filer willfully or knowingly filed an inaccurate or incomplete report would occur after an investigation by the Campaign Finance Division and upon a decision by the Board. If the Board determines there is reason to believe a violation has occurred, it has the authority to levy civil penalties as well as the authority to refer the case to the Office of Attorney General for possible civil or criminal prosecution,” added Thornton.

On Friday, GoLocal reported on Bolton’s prolific campaign donations to politicians both in Cranston and across the state. He has donated to donated to numerous campaigns including those in Cranston.

GoLocal wrote:

If the proposed Cumberland Farms is approved by the Cranston Planning Board at its March 6 meeting, then the City Council will review the proposal.

Residents opposed to Cumberland Farms are crying foul.

"He’s [Bolton] made some hefty contributions to the council members who voted him in as judge. Those same councilors are now sponsoring his Cumberland Farms proposal," said Lisa Gibbs, and Edgewood resident and member of the group “Edgewood Doesn't Want Cumberland Farms. "May not be illegal, but it’s ugly."

Bolton is big-time political donor in Rhode Island. He has given nearly $15,000 to a range of elected officials including $1000 to Cranston Councilman Michael Farina, of which $500 came in November of 2017 just as the process was moving forward on Cumberland Farms' application.

Bolton has also donated $3,875 to Cranston Mayor Allan Fung. And, Cranston Councilman Christopher Paplauskas has received $100 from Bolton — as well as $250 from another member of the Bolton household, Colleen Bolton in November of 2017. 

In addition, Bolton has funneled dollars through his law firm’s political action committee. Over the past decade, the firm’s PAC has given more than $100,000 to a range of politicians.

"I will say that in the past I have donated to nearly every member of the City Council, both past and present members. I fail to see what conflict issue [is being raised]," said Bolton.

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