Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin today filed a petition for a writ of quo warranto with the Rhode Island Supreme Court seeking a ruling from the Court regarding the length of term for the current-serving members of the East Providence City Council and East Providence School Committee.
On November 6, 2012, East Providence voters were presented with the following question: "Shall the Charter for the City of East Providence be amended to establish four (4) year terms for members of the council and members of the school committee?"
East Providence voters approved the question and the Charter Amendment became effective upon passage without further action.
Despite the passage of the Charter Amendment, on November 4, 2014, East Providence voters cast ballots for all City Council and School Committee seats. The November 4, 2014 ballot expressly advised East Providence voters that the candidates for City Council and School Committee would serve two-year terms.
On November 8, 2016, again despite the passage of the Charter Amendment, East Providence voters cast ballots for all City Council and School Committee seats. The November 8, 2016 ballot expressly advised East Providence voters that the candidates for City Council and School Committee would serve two-year terms.
The matter came before the Attorney General on April 9, 2018 through a citizen complaint indicating that the City of East Providence would not hold an election for City Council in November 2018 based on the determination that the Charter Amendment, as approved on November 6, 2012, is effective and that City Council members elected on November 8, 2016 were elected to four-year terms.
That determination disregards and conflicts with the November 8, 2016 ballot expressly advising voters that City Council members would be elected to two-year terms.
After reviewing the issues, Attorney General Kilmartin has invoked the original jurisdiction of the Rhode Island Supreme Court to resolve the irreconcilable difference between the four-year terms the East Providence Charter provides and the two-year terms that was explicitly before voters in 2014 and 2016.
"Public confidence in our elections is paramount to our democracy, and uncertainty of this nature must be resolved quickly and in a manner which maintains public confidence in our elections and government. The voters of East Providence have a right to have this resolved, as do those who may consider running for public office," said Attorney General Kilmartin.
Quo warranto is an action that tests one's right or title to public office. Under Rhode Island law, a quo warranto action may be brought by only two persons: the Attorney General or a person who claims a right to the challenged office. Because no person may claim a right to the challenged City Council or School Committee seats, in order to present this issue to the Supreme Court for a determination, the Attorney General must bring this action. This action in quo warranto challenges the right or title of the present City Council and School Committee members to hold their office after the expiration of the present two-year term. The present City Council and School Committee members have been named in this Petition in order to ensure that each member has notice and an opportunity to be heard.