East Providence is latest municipality to flag fraudulent Matos signatures

A complete sheet of submissions was discarded by city's Canvassing Office

By Mike Rego
Posted 7/27/23

EAST PROVIDENCE — As previously reported by various media outlets, East Providence was the latest municipality to flag forged signatures and addresses in support of Lt. Governor Sabina Matos' …

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East Providence is latest municipality to flag fraudulent Matos signatures

A complete sheet of submissions was discarded by city's Canvassing Office

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — As previously reported by various media outlets, East Providence was the latest municipality to flag forged signatures and addresses in support of Lt. Governor Sabina Matos' aspiring Congressional campaign.

The signature documents were necessary in Matos' effort to be placed on the September 2023 Democratic Primary ballot for the U.S. House of Representatives District 1 seat left vacated by David Cicilline's recent retirement.

The city's canvassing office, as of Wednesday, July 19, rejected a complete sheet of names submitted by representatives of Matos, a total of 28 names alleged to be of East Providence residents were dismissed, according to Canvassing Administrator Leslie Shattuck-Moore.

Among them that raised concerns were those of all five sitting City Councilors — Bob Rodericks, Frank Rego, Rick Lawson, Frank Fogarty and Anna Sousa — as well as Ryan Queenan, a member of the East Providence School Committee.

East Providence is added to the list of local canvassing departments who found fraudulent signatures, beginning with Jamestown. Media outlets reported two others, Newport and Barrington, had received complaints from residents.

The councilors were first alerted late Wednesday evening, July 19, when media members attempted to contact them for information. Lawson was the first to respond. He then began reaching out to his cohorts, including Rego.

What set the alarm off in East Providence, said local officials, was the signatures and residences of the Councilors. Two of whom — Lawson and Fogarty — had their listed addresses listed as City Hall, 145 Taunton Ave., on the paperwork dropped off for verification by the Matos campaign.

Another tip-off were the signatures themselves. Rodericks was signed as "Bob" Rodericks, though he told his peers he signs all formal documents as "Robert." Rego's was just "Frank" Rego, though he said he signs as "Frank J.," using his middle initial. And Lawson confirmed he signs as "R.A." Lawson, not "Richard" as what was written on the sheet submitted to Canvassing. He added, "I would never put City Hall as my address." Besides his name being forged, Queenan's home address was also incorrect.

Rego, who formerly was chairman of the Rhode Island State Board of Elections, and Lawson each found the situation confounding if only because they along with Rodericks were approached by a Matos campaign worker known to them at the Pierce Stadium Fireworks on July 5 when they each legitimately and properly penned a signature sheet.

Of the whereabouts of that document, Rego said, "We have no idea." Lawson added, "After I signed it, I handed it back and I didn't see it again."

Instead, the one with the forgeries was submitted locally.

Matos needed 500 verified signatures to be included on the Tuesday, Sept. 5, Democratic Primary ballot. Candidates had until 4 p.m. on Friday, July 14, to submit signatures to their respective local Board of Canvassers. The verification process began on Monday, July 17.

Overall, as of Thursday, July 20, Rhode Island Secretary of State Gregg Amore confirmed the Matos campaign had submitted the minimum number of signatures. Amore said Thursday afternoon although Matos still qualifies to be placed on the ballot, the Board of Elections is holding a session for signatures to be challenged on Friday, July 21.

Of note as well, local and state law enforcement officials have been notified about the situation by canvassing officers from Jamestown and East Providence, at least.

Asked about the matter from his perspective as past Board of Election chair, Rego said, "We always had issues where a few signatures were disputed, but nothing to this magnitude it seems. We had maybe one wrong here or one wrong there, but nothing like this."

Rego added the legislation dictating procedures in such events, "Edwards vs. Board of Elections 2003," is "pretty lenient." He said the law around matching signatures and addresses can be liberally interpreted, "but these aren't even close."

— The author of this entry is the brother of the East Providence City Councilor quoted in the story.

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Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.