ABC6 Investigation of Botched Coventry Election Sparks Action - ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather

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ABC6 Investigation of Botched Coventry Election Sparks Action

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By ABC6 Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis  

mcurtis@abc6.com

Breaking News: The Coventry Board of Canvassers will meet in emergency session on Wednesday May 21, after an ABC6 News investigation underscored a botched attempt to fill a vacant Town Council seat for District 5.

The Coventry Town Council lost a member in March, when the District 5 representative moved away and resigned.

Officials combed the town charter on how to replace him, and found that since he quit less than 12 months before the next election, they would not need a special election to replace him.

But now ABC6 News has learned that someone altered the town charter. In truth there should have been a special election, since the vacancy happened just over 6 months prior to November. The doctored town charter moved the threshold from 6 months to 12 months, with a ballot initiative from voters as required by state law.

Because of the mix up, the District 5 seat is still vacant and people are angry.

"We have no one to go to, to voice our concerns, our issues or our suggestions. Because there is no one to vote for us," said Nancy Sullivan, a Coventry taxpayer who has complained about the vote and lack of a special election..

Indeed, a review of Coventry ballots since 2000, shows that voters never even considered this change to their charter. Town leaders believe it was an accident.

"I think it's a clerical accident, I don't see any maliciousness here. I've looked at it for a couple of days since Friday, when I found out about it. And I don't see any criminal intent whatsoever," said Tom Hoover, Coventry Town Manager.

ABC6 Chief Political Reporter mark Curtis said, "Politics has entered the picture. Of the four remaining council members, two are Democrats and two are Republicans. And they have deadlocked on how to fill this vacant seat."

Some lawyers want a special election, and soon.

"This could be done very expeditiously. People would immediately get to go out and vote, and that's what a Democracy is all about, you know," said attorney Nick Gorham of Coventry, who is monitoring how the Town responds. 

Town leaders are worried that a special election would cost 7 thousand dollars, and the public would still have to vote again for the same Council seat in November." 

The Coventry Board of Canvassers will meet at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Coventry Town Hall, to weigh its options, including the possibility of a special election. 
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