Providence cop connection eyed in mail-ballot probe

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The head of the Rhode Island State Police confirmed Friday investigators are looking into whether two men who were collecting mail ballots at the state’s largest homeless shelter were Providence police officers.

R.I. State Police Superintendent Col. Steven G. O’Donnell told Target 12 officials are investigating “allegations of mail-ballot tampering” at Crossroads Rhode Island during a phone interview Friday. The Providence Police Department has referred all questions to the State Police.

The Providence Journal reported late Thursday that State Police interviewed residents at Crossroads at the urging of Anne Nolan, the organization’s president. A resident at the shelter claimed a man with a clipboard asked him for his ballot several times even after the resident asked him to leave.

David Ortiz, a spokesman for Democrat Jorge Elorza, said the Elorza campaign is not sending volunteers to Crossroads. Cyd McKenna, the campaign manager for independent Buddy Cianci, said she didn’t know if the campaign had sent volunteers to the shelter.

“We have a lot of volunteers here,” McKenna told Target 12.

In a followup statement, Elorza’s campaign called on the R.I. Board of Elections to investigate “ballot tampering” by the Cianci campaign.

“Given your previous campaign history of mail ballot tampering and voter fraud, can you assure Providence voters that there are no unlawful activities occurring from people associated with your campaign this time?” Ortiz said. “If so, what is the oversight involved?”

The Providence Board of Canvassers told Target 12 that 3,095 Providence voters applied for mail ballots, a slight increase from the 2012 presidential election, when 2,881 mail ballots were requested. That year, 2,281 city residents ended up voting by mail.

This incident is the latest in a string of incidents involving the Providence police department, starting with a now former rookie officer who was implicated in a larceny case on October 12. Since then, David Sanchez, 25, of Cranston, was told to turn in his badge, and three other rookies and one veteran officer were punished for various infractions tied to police academy graduation events. And a sixth officer, veteran Nicholas Froncillo, was arrested this past weekend for alleged public intoxication in an Arlington, Texas spa.

Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Twitter: @danmcgowan

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