Facing tight timeline, Gorbea asks Board of Elections to step in on Jackson recall

City Councilman Kevin Jackson

UPDATE: The Board of Elections has scheduled its meeting for Monday. The Providence Board of Canvassers has also scheduled a meeting Monday.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea is asking the R.I. Board of Elections to meet Monday to schedule the special recall election of Ward 3 City Councilman Kevin Jackson, a request designed to prevent Jackson’s colleague’s from running out the clock on the effort to remove him from office.

In a letter to the board Thursday, Gorbea explained that a May 2 special election must be scheduled by Monday night in order for the election to be in compliance with the recall process laid out in the city charter and state election law.

“The people of Providence’s Third Ward deserve the opportunity to determine this matter through a transparent and timely electoral process,” Gorbea wrote in a letter to the board. “Our office stands ready to prepare a ballot in accordance with the specific language detailed in the city charter. There is no reason to cause any further delay.”

The city charter requires that a special election must be held no less than 30 days and no more than 60 days after the necessary signatures to prompt a recall vote are certified. State law requires the special election question to be certified with at least 50 days’ notice.

May 2 is the 60th day after the certification of the recall signatures. Monday would mark the 50-day deadline, according to Gorbea.

The Providence Board of Canvassers certified more than 2,300 signatures last week, triggering a special election where voters will be asked to vote up or down on Jackson’s political future. The board asked Council President Luis Aponte to schedule a special meeting in order to schedule the recall vote, but he said Wednesday and again Thursday he didn’t plan to hold a meeting before March 16.

Jackson, 58, has represented Ward 3 since 1995. He was arrested by State Police last May and indicted by a statewide grand jury last July. He has pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors allege he embezzled $127,153 from the Providence Cobras youth track-and-field team, an organization that received more than $67,000 in taxpayer-funded city donations between 2005 and 2015. He is also accused of using $12,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses.

Following the arrest, Jackson resigned as majority leader of the City Council, but did not step down from the council altogether. He has regularly appeared at council meetings and committee meetings in the nine months since he was charged.

If the election is scheduled for May 2, Ward 3 voters will be asked to vote up or down on Jackson’s political future. If he is recalled from office, a special election to replace him will be scheduled.

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