9 Providence councilors vote to set date for Jackson recall election

Providence City Council chambers. (Photo by Dan McGowan/WPRI 12)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – It took all of three minutes to schedule the recall election for Councilman Kevin Jackson.

After a weekend of behind-the-scenes deliberation about whether they would attend a special meeting Monday, nine members of the Providence City Council voted to set a May 2 special election date for Ward 3 residents to vote up or down on Jackson’s political future.

In the end, Council President Luis Aponte and Councilors Seth Yurdin, Sam Zurier, Jo-Ann Ryan, Michael Correia, John Igliozzi, Wilbur Jennings, David Salvatore and Sabina Matos attended the vote.

Absent members included Jackson, Nick Narducci, Carmen Castillo, Mary Kay Harris, Terry Hassett and Bryan Principe.

“Kevin Jackson is a friend of mine, has been a friend for many years,” Aponte said after the meeting. “I’m somewhat heartbroken that we’ve gotten to this point.”

The special meeting was called by Yurdin, Zurier, Narducci, Jennings and Salvatore after Sec. of State Nellie Gorbea said the special election needed to be set by Monday in order for it to comply with state law and the city charter. Narducci signed his name on a petition to force the meeting, but told his colleagues he was leaving for vacation and would not be able to attend the vote.

As of Saturday, several councilors were still undecided about attending the meeting Monday. But a forceful statement from Mayor Jorge Elorza urging council member to attend appeared be a turning point. By Sunday evening, the majority of the council had confirmed to Eyewitness News they would attend the meeting.

“The people had spoken,” Zurier said. “They’d signed the petition. Why would this not be easier than it was? I don’t know the answer to that question. But I know we were backed up against a deadline. So we did what we thought was necessary.”

Jackson, a 58-year-old Democrat, has represented Ward 3 since 1995. A group of more than 2,300 voters in his neighborhood signed a recall petition after he was arrested by State Police last May and indicted by a statewide grand jury last July.

Jackson 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.

The Providence Board of Canvassers is expected to meet Monday afternoon to certify the single-question ballot for the May 2 election.

Jackson is still in the process of challenging the recall effort. He has a complaint pending before the R.I. Board of Elections regarding the initial 300 resident signatures that prompted the recall vote and has said he intends to challenge the larger batch of signatures that forced the special election.

In a statement, Recall Kevin Jackson, the group leading the recall effort, said it was pleased the election has been scheduled.

“This legally required action clears the way for voters of our ward to remove Councilman Jackson from office and restore honest representation,” the group said.

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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