video: Providence City Council Members Vote to Schedule Jackson Recall Election
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
GoLocalProv News Team
|Councilman Kevin Jackson|
The resolution sets the date of the election for May 2 to allow Ward 3 voters to recall Jackson - or not.
VIDEO: See Special Council Meeting BELOW
Jackson was arrested in May and pleaded not guilty in August to charges of embezzlement and improper use of campaign funds.
He became the target of a recall effort in the fall, and as reported by GoLocal, became the center of "The Biggest Political Brawl" in Rhode Island. (See slides BELOW).
City Council President Luis Aponte vote for the measure along with Council members Michael Correia, John Igliozzi, Wilbur Jennings, Jo-Ann Ryan, David Salvatore and Sabina Matos, Seth Yurdin, and Samuel Zurier.
Council members not in attendance were Carmen Castillo, Mary Kay Harris, Terry Hassett, Nick Narducci, Bryan Principe, as well as Jackson.
Aponte, who spoke with the press following, offered the following statement.
“In compliance with the Providence City Charter, this matter was already on the docket for our regularly scheduled Council Meeting this Thursday, March 16th,” said Aponte. “The confusion around whether a special meeting was needed prior to that is a direct result of a conflict in state election laws and those laid out in the City Charter: state law requires a recall date to be set within 50 days of the signatures being certified, and the city charter provides for 60.”
"While I do question the somewhat harried intervention by the state while we were acting within the parameters of our Home Rule Charter to schedule this election, I certainly respect the process," said Aponte.
Aponte noted that following the vote, that proceedings are still taking place at the Board of Election concurrently.
Campaign Finance Reports Front and Center
As GoLocalProv reported back in 2012, City Councilman Jackson was one of many campaigns who had failed to file their reports and were facing huge fines.
According to the 2012, GoLocal story:
Local Politicians Owe $1.1 Million in Campaign Fines
Walk around the Smith Hill neighborhood in Providence and campaign signs can still be found promoting Daniel Grzych’s failed attempts at various political offices, but Board of Elections reports show that despite running for office every term since at least 2002 – he has run for City Council, Mayor, State Representative five times and State Senate twice – the perennial candidate owes the state $53,909 for failing to file campaign finance reports.
Grzych isn’t the only one.
More than 200 current or former elected officials and candidates, including Congressman James Langevin, Cumberland Mayor Dan McKee, various state lawmakers and three Providence City Councilmen, owe the state $1,191,175 in campaign fines, according to the latest statistics provided by the Rhode Island Board of Elections.
While the fines can be as low as $25 for a first-time offender, records show the 20 biggest offenders owe $929,619 (see right), with some candidates having failed to file reports for nearly a decade.
Currently, the five Rhode Islanders who owe the most to the state are former State Senate candidate Patrick T. McDonald ($114,618), former State Senator John Celona ($87,259), Peter M. Russo ($86,833), Michael James Rollins ($77,226) and Kevin L. Johnston ($76,573). Celona served over two years in federal prison for his role in the 2005 Operation Dollar Bill corruption investigation.
In 2014, Jackson served as co-chair of Buddy Cianci’s third effort to recapture the Mayor’s office. Cianci was a two-time convicted felon and had been forced to resign from office each time. In 2014, Cianci was part of the story in the City’s elections. Also, there was a looming battle for control of the City Council.
Elorza supporters and progressives recruited and ran Marcus Mitchell against Jackson as a write-in candidate. Mitchell spent much of his campaign funds with Independence Strategy in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania — the same firm that did political work with Jackson’s fellow Council member and political foe, Seth Yurdin. Combined, the firm was paid over $25,000 for the two council races.
Mitchell ran an effective write-in campaign but ultimately lost by 55 votes.
Jackson Filed Reports in February of 2016
At the time Jackson filed his back campaign finance reports, he thought it was the end of a long controversy, but the trouble was just about to begin.
As GoLocal reported at the time:
A GoLocal investigation starting in 2011 into more than elected officials and candidates who failed to submit timely campaign finance reports, closed one chapter today as Providence City Council Majority Leader Kevin Jackson submitted all of his reports. Jackson is one of dozens who have been late and been penalized for not complying with the statute.
"I dropped off everything -- I'm up to date with everything. It's a good thing, I apologize for my negligence of not taking care of the issues needed to be taken care of sooner," Jackson told GoLocalProv in a phone interview.
"Hopefully they'll scan and put online shortly. It's all there for people to look at, and you can see that everything's in there is for the community. Things I could have written off, you'll see that I didn't. I personally am glad I can get this burden off my shoulders -- it's not only been a burden for me, but for my family, said Jackson.
As GoLocal first reported in May, Jackson was arrested by the Rhode Island State Police and was later arraigned for a number of charges including embezzlement. Jackson has denied the charges.
As GoLocal reported:
EXCLUSIVE: Providence Councilman Kevin Jackson Arrested
Providence City Councilman Kevin Jackson has been arrested by Rhode Island State Police reportedly for campaign finance violations and financial issues tied Providence Cobras track team, according to sources.
Jackson is the longest serving member of the Council. He was elected in 1994. He now serves as the Majority Leader of the City Council.
Amy Kempe, Public Information Officer for Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, said that the State Police are in charge of the investigation.
"There are four charges -- two misdemeanors and two felonies," said Kempe. "The misdemeanors are giving false documents and personal use of campaign funds. The felonies are for unlawful appropriation and embezzlement."
Kempe said Jackson will be arraigned at 2 p.m. on Wednesday.
Who's in Charge
Political Leadership Battle
After Jackson was charged, Councilman Seth Yurdin fired away and Jackson's lawyer fired right back. Jackson later resigned his post as Majority Leader.
Jackson's lawyer Artin Coloian said the move "sounds like cheap politics."
"My understanding is that Mr. Yurdin is an attorney, and I'm concerned he doesn't understand the presumption of innocence, or he doesn't believe in it," said Coloian.
Jackson, who was arraigned at district court on Wednesday, will formally enter a plea when he is due in Superior Court in July.
Jackson maintained his innocence on charges of misappropriation of funds and embezzlement when he was leaving the courthouse on Wednesday; he later resigned from his leadership posts in the wake of the legal developments.
Yurdin, who was first elected to Ward One in 2006, served as Majority Leader from 2011-2015, when then-Mayor Angel Taveras was in office.
Jackson "Alums" Speak Out
As GoLocal reported, "Providence Cobras Alums Speak Out in Support of Councilman and Coach Kevin Jackson:"
Shortly after Jackson's arrest, GoLocal spoke with a number of the young people he coached. Many of which are top performing athletes or have gone on to successful careers after college.
Providence Cobras Alums Speak Out in Support of Councilman and Coach Kevin Jackson
From the mother of Dakota Dailey Harris, Cobra Alum and competing for the Olympics this summer.
“I’m sorry to hear something happened. From what I knew from a personal perspective, Kevin spared no expense in allowing these kids to achieve, and get the experience they needed. We were truly grateful. There's no other program like it,” said Vanessa Dailey Harris, whose daughter Dakota is a Cobras alum — and an All-American and graduate of the University of Miami this year and competing in the U.S. Olympic Trials this summer.
Jackson Pleads Not Guilty in Superior Court
Providence City Councilman Kevin Jackson pleaded not guilty in Providence County Superior Court on Wednesday August 10.
The following is the grand jury report from the Office of Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin:
The Statewide Grand Jury reported out an indictment charging Kevin Jackson with two counts of unlawful appropriation, one count of embezzlement, one count of filing a false document with a government entity, and one count of personal use of campaign funds.
It is alleged that on or about diverse dates between October 21, 2014 and July 31, 2015, Jackson unlawfully appropriated campaign finance contributions. It is further alleged that on or about September 17, 2013, Jackson filed false campaign finance reports with the Rhode Island Board of Elections, and on or about dates between October 21, 2014 and July 31, 2015, he used campaign finance contributions for personal use.
Further, it is alleged that on or about dates between January 1, 2009 and January 26, 2016, Jackson embezzled funds from the Providence Cobras Track and Field Club, and on or about dates between July 13, 2013 and January 26, 2016, he unlawfully appropriated funds from the Track and Field Club.
The Rhode Island State Police conducted the investigation.
Recall Jackson Started
Recall Effort Files Papers at End of September
At the end of September, Tricia Kammerer dropped off over 300 signatures at the Providence Board of Canvassers which met the threshold to start the lengthy and somewhat arcane process to recall an elected official in the City of Providence -- first reported by WPRI.
Legal Battles Begin
The effort to recall Providence City Councilman Kevin Jackson is the latest Providence political battle. Recently, a group of residents submitted the necessary number of signatures to start the recall process.
The multi-step process initially requires that 300 voters sign the petition. Once the process is qualified, twenty percent of the voters in the Third Ward would need to sign petitions in support of the recall effort.
In a letter to Claudia Haugen, who chairs the Providence Board of Canvassers, Jackson’s lawyer Artin Coloian charges that the process is flawed and has requested a formal hearing.
“He (Jackson) is hereby requesting a hearing to challenge the validity of the documents submitted in support of the above stated Declaration, on information and or belief we have discovered violations which have occurred in this process,” wrote Coloian. “We object to the commencement of the 120-day rule for the garnering of signatures for removal of the office holder, pending the outcome of appeal."
The effort to remove Jackson appears to be lead by Tricia Kammerer (photo above) and Karina Holyoak Wood. Kammerer works for the Warwick School Department and Wood heads the Goldman Sachs' small business program at the Community College of Rhode Island.
Presently, Jackson is facing multiple charges by the Attorney General. A facebook group has been created by Wood and Kammerer to promote the recall effort.
Jackson Fires Back
Councilman Jackson’s Attorneys File 58-Page Lawsuit to Block Recall
Attorneys for Providence Councilman Kevin Jackson have filed a 58-page lawsuit against the City of Providence's Board of Canvassers and the two lead petitioners who organized the effort to recall Jackson.
Attorneys Artin Coloian and Dan Calabro filed the suit in Superior Court, alleging among other things, that Jackson, who has been denied a hearing before the Board of Canvassers is, de facto, being denied due process to raise concerns about how the recall is being processed.
According to the complaint, “The Board’s decision prohibited Plaintiff from any meaningful opportunity to raise the above-cited defects before the Board….the Board is unreasonably allowing a flawed recall petition to proceed against Plaintiff, ignoring the intent of Section 208 of the Home Rule Charter and Section 2-43 of the Code of Ordinances.”
In addition, the suit claims that the Board of Canvassers has not properly promulgated any administrative rules of procedure which would permit Jackson to appeal their decision.
Questions Raised About Signatures
The suit claims that those who signed the recall, when signing, failed to list the ward in which they live in, that a number of individuals who signed the recall papers were not registered to vote, and the suit raises issues of potential fraud.
“It appears that some of the signatures on the Declarations are very similar or identical handwriting, particularly among individuals in the same household," stated Jackson's attorneys.
Recall Jackson Group
Statement by Patricia Kammerer, President of Recall Kevin Jackson
In response to a lawsuit filed against the City of Providence and the two leaders of the Recall Kevin Jackson campaign, one of the two leaders of the group issued the following statement. The other leader of the group is Karina Holyoak Wood.
Statement by Patricia Kammerer, President of Recall Kevin Jackson:
Why Councilman Jackson would file this suit, and create yet more distraction from his responsibilities to his constituents, is a question that many in his ward are asking themselves tonight. One of the reasons residents of Ward 3 are calling for Councilman Jackson’s resignation is because he can’t help but be distracted by having to defend himself against five indictments handed down by a grand jury.
The purpose of this petition is simply to put to a vote whether or not Councilman Jackson should remain in office while under indictment for multiple felonies. Why does Councilman Jackson want to deny his constituents the opportunity to express their views as to whether he should remain in office? If Councilman Jackson thought he had the backing of his constituents, he would allow this vote to proceed. In fact he should welcome this petition, and put this question behind us and prove that he has the support of his constituents.
Instead he is using obvious delaying tactics, and attempting to deny the people he supposedly represents their right to petition and vote.
Due Process - SLAPP Suit
ACLU Weighs In on Lawsuit
The ACLU joined the fray raising questions both about Jackson's due process and whether his suit was, de facto, a SLAPP suit.
FILED BY PROVIDENCE CITY COUNCILOR KEVIN JACKSON
ACLU of Rhode Island executive director Steven Brown issued the following statement today in response to the lawsuit filed yesterday by Providence City Councilor Kevin Jackson, challenging the recall petition process that has been initiated against him by some constituents in his district:
“The ACLU is not familiar enough with the mechanics of the City’s recall mechanism to comment on the specifics of the allegations contained in Councilor Jackson’s complaint. We do agree that certain due process standards are essential before subjecting elected officials to the burdens imposed in having to defend themselves against removal from an elected position they obtained through a democratic process.
“At the same time, we are deeply troubled that, in addition to suing City officials and the Board of Canvassers, which is responsible for overseeing the recall petition process, the lawsuit names as defendants the two private individuals who have been involved in mounting this recall campaign. Their involvement in the suit is completely unnecessary in order for a court to address any legitimate due process concerns raised by the petition process. Thus, the inclusion of these two individuals as defendants strikes us a classic SLAPP suit – an attempt to silence private citizens for seeking to exercise their First Amendment right to petition government.
“As Rhode Island’s SLAPP suit statute notes, ‘full participation by persons and organizations and robust discussion of issues of public concern before the legislative, judicial, and administrative bodies and in other public fora are essential to the democratic process.’ These two Providence residents should not be forced to defend themselves in a court of law for exercising petition rights granted them by the City Charter. The ACLU urges Councilor Jackson to amend his complaint and remove these two private citizens as defendants.”
Jackson Recall Organizers File Motion to Continue Collecting Signatures
The organizers of the effort to recall Providence City Councilman Kevin Jackson filed a motion in Superior Court on Tuesday asking to be allowed to continue to collect signatures to remove him.
Patricia Kammerer and Karina Wood filed the motion a day after their lawyer Dawn Euer filed a motion to "restore their rights," after the Board of Canvassers ruled that they would suspend the signature-collecting period.
The "Recall Kevin Jackson" group argues that those developments "agreed to outside the court...infringe on their 1st Amendment right to petition and are tactics meant to stifle a constitutionally protected right, and bully the individuals involved."
"We stand by the integrity of the 360 signatures that were validated by the Board of Canvassers on October 13th and welcome a swift process to defend the integrity of the signatures we have gathered. Sentiment throughout Ward 3 is so strong for Jackson's removal that we are confident we will gather the the required number of signatures for recall in the 2nd round of signatures," said Kammerer.
On Monday, GoLocal reported that the Board of Canvassers had flip-flopped on their original position in the Jackson case.
The Providence Board of Canvassers has reversed itself on two major elements of the battle over the recall of City Councilman Kevin Jackson.
According to a letter signed by the three members of the Board of Canvassers sent to Jackson’s lawyer late on Friday, the Board will now allow a hearing and hear objections.
“It is critical that there is reasonable due process — Jackson was fairly elected. We have questions about some of the petitions, who signed them, and there are clearly some real questions. Whether there is something fraudulent, that is a question for law enforcement,” said Artin Coloian, one of Jackson’s attorneys.
Caught in the Middle
Jackson Ally and State Representative Aaron Regunberg Speaks Out:
Providence State Rep. Aaron Regunberg spoke out on Facebook on the situation on October 26:
We are deeply troubled that, in addition to suing City officials and the Board of Canvassers, which is responsible for overseeing the recall petition process, the lawsuit names as defendants the two private individuals who have been involved in mounting this recall campaign.
Their involvement in the suit is completely unnecessary in order for a court to address any legitimate due process concerns raised by the petition process...These two Providence residents should not be forced to defend themselves in a court of law for exercising petition rights granted them by the City Charter. The ACLU urges Councilor Jackson to amend his complaint and remove these two private citizens as defendants.” Amen - as do I!