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State lawmaker charged campaign for $900 in Uber rides already covered by taxpayer funds

State Representative Sean Garballey.Handout

An Arlington legislator 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.

Over two years, state Representative Sean 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, according to an agreement the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance released Thursday.

Garballey, a Democrat 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, per the agreement.

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Garballey regularly charged his campaign for Uber rides to and from work, spending $851 in 2018 alone — even though he was already receiving a $15,000 legislative stipend that’s based on how far he lives from Beacon Hill. State officials said 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.

Reached by phone, Garballey declined to comment on the agreement, referring to a written statement, in which he seemed to tie the violations to a disorganized political account.

“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,” Garballey said. “This was and is my responsibility. These mistakes will not reoccur in the future.”

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He said he will keep working with campaign finance regulators to “better reconcile” his campaign donations and spending. “I have nothing but respect and complete support for transparency in our campaign finance system,” he said.

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

As part of the process, Garballey also appointed a new campaign treasurer, a role long held by his mother.

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.


Matt Stout can be reached at matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout.