Solicitor’s opinion leaves East Providence election cycle at two years

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EAST PROVIDENCE — The election cycle in East Providence will remain the status quo after the City Council received and seemingly accepted the opinion of Solicitor Tim Chapman at its meeting Tuesday night, June 3.

At the behest of Ward 4 Councilor Chrissy Rossi, Mr. Chapman formulated his opinion, presenting the brief that evening and deeming the four-year term referendum approved by voters in November of 2012 as legally invalid at the moment.

City Solicitor Tim Chapman offered an opinion at the June 3 Council meeting leaving terms for elected officials at two years.

City Solicitor Tim Chapman offered an opinion at the June 3 Council meeting leaving terms for elected officials at two years.

“It’s been kind of a circle-jerk if you will as to whether or not the council members would be running for four years as voted on by members of the public or if we will be running for two years” Mrs. Rossi said Tuesday.
“And it is the solicitor’s opinion that because our delegation did not ratify the legislation at the State House last year or this year that we will be running for two-year terms.”

Saying that the “specific question on the issue of two-year or four-year terms is a power of the General Assembly,” Mr. Chapman said he could find no evidence of the entire state legislature as having ratified the vote during the ensuing 2013 session.

He noted the House of Representatives took up the referendum and passed it earlier last year, but it apparently never made it to the floor of the Senate to be either reconciled with its counterpart legislation from the lower chamber or voting on as a concurrent piece. The ratification, obviously then, never made it to the desk of Governor Lincoln Chafee for his signature.

“In my opinion, as it currently stands now, it’s two years,” Mr. Chapman added.

What that means for sitting and aspiring politicians in East Providence is they will continue to seek spots on the Council and the School Committee for two-year spells unless something happens on Smith Hill and fast, considering the 2014 session has about only three full weeks remaining and the Assembly is hard at work with more pressing budgetary matters at the moment.

The current Council would have to resubmit the referendum for approval and expect the state legislature to expedite the process post haste. That seems unlikely, especially taking into account the next time the Council could do so would be at its June 17 meeting, barring the call for a special session. The deadline for candidates to submit election papers this year is Wednesday, June 25.

Supporters of the four-year item, which was approved by a 55-45 percent margin (9,337-7,692 votes), pointed to the stability it would create among elected officials and lengthen their chance to govern without the pressure of politics or an election every other year.

Detractors were opposed to a great extent due to the lack of any recall mechanism and there not being staggered terms between the five council or committee members.

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