PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza spent part of his day raising campaign funds Monday, all while his taxpayer-funded SUV was parked in front of the downtown office he uses to solicit contributions.
Several photos of the mayor’s vehicle and his police escort appeared on social media Monday and a spokesman for Elorza confirmed the mayor “did a couple hours of call time,” the term political operatives use for fundraising.
There is no policy that prohibits the mayor from using his city vehicle – known as “City One” – for political functions, but previous mayors have made attempts to distance their campaigns from city business.
Reached Monday, Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare said the mayor has a police detail assigned to him “24/7,” a policy that has been in place for more than a decade. He said he understands that requiring a police officer to remain with the mayor while he raises campaign funds may generate negative publicity, but maintained that the decision is strictly for security purposes.
“You can’t not be the mayor when you are doing political [activities,]” Pare said.
It is unclear who took the pictures of Elorza’s city vehicle parked outside the Park Row offices of CFO-Compliance, but they were quickly shared on Facebook and Twitter by several Providence firefighters. Elorza and the firefighters have clashed for several months over the city’s decision to move from four platoons to three as part of an effort to reduce callback overtime.
CFO-Compliance was founded by Brett Smiley, a former mayoral candidate who now works as Elorza’s chief operating officer. Elorza has paid the firm $35,000 since last November, according to a WPRI.com review of campaign finance records filed with the R.I. Board of Elections.
Elorza had $84,617 in his campaign war chest as of June 30. He still owes himself $26,406 from personal loans he made to his campaign last year.
Complaints about a sitting mayor using his city vehicle for political purposes are nothing new, but they typically come during campaign season.
Elorza’s immediate predecessors, Angel Taveras and David Cicilline, were both criticized for using city vehicles during their campaigns for governor and congress, respectively. But both Taveras and Cicilline purchased campaign vehicles as part of their effort to avoid perception problems.
Unlike Taveras and Cicilline, Elorza is not currently running for higher office. He earns an annual salary of $112,500.