Mayor Elorza urges City Council to schedule recall vote for Councilman Jackson

City Council Majority Leader Kevin Jackson stands in between Mayor Jorge Elorza and Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan. (Photo by Dan McGowan/WPRI)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza is calling on members of the City Council to attend a special meeting Monday to schedule the recall election for embattled Ward 3 Councilman Kevin Jackson.

The meeting was scheduled by five members of the council because Sec. of State Nellie Gorbea has said the May 2 special election must be scheduled by Monday in order to comply with state election law. But council meetings require at least eight participants in order to make a quorum, and it is unclear whether enough members be in attendance.

“Providence residents, specifically those in Ward 3, deserve an open, transparent and timely election process,” Elorza said in a statement. “I applaud the members of the Providence City Council who took action to ensure compliance with Rhode Island state law. I urge the other members of the council to respect this special meeting and show up on Monday to make sure the election date is set without delay.”

The rare Saturday evening statement from the first-term Democrat appears designed to send a message to City Council leadership, which declined to schedule a special meeting to handle the Jackson matter. Instead, Councilors Sam Zurier, Seth Yurdin, Wilbur Jennings, David Salvatore and Nick Narducci, filed a petition with the city clerk to schedule the meeting.

Gorbea has said the election needs to be set by Monday because state law requires ballot questions to be approved at least 50 days before any vote and the city charter requires recall elections to be set between 30 days and 60 days after the Providence Board of Canvassers certifies the necessary voter signatures to trigger a recall vote. May 2 is exactly 60 days after the signatures were certified.

Even if the council doesn’t have a quorum, the R.I. Board of Elections has already scheduled its own special meeting to set the special election. The Providence Board of Canvassers is also scheduled to meet Monday to the single ballot question, which will ask Ward 3 residents to vote up or down on Jackson’s political future.

Jackson, a 58-year-old Democrat, 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.

On Friday Jackson reiterated his intent to challenge the recall proceedings.

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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