Woonsocket mayor removed from office on 3-2 vote

WOONSOCKET, R.I. (WLNE) – Woonsocket Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt was removed from office early Thursday morning following a vote by the city council.

The council voted 3-2 to remove the mayor for willful neglect of duty after a formal complaint was filed contending the mayor was not performing her required duties and willfully neglecting ordinances passed by the city council.

Councilor Denise Sierra, who brought forth the complaint, and Council President Dan Gendron both recused themselves from the vote. The majority who voted for the removal said they took no joy in doing so but had to abide by the city charter.

“Disgustingly, I have to vote yes,” said Council Vice President John Ward.

“I took an oath of office, I was sincere when I took it and when I see the law is broken I have to do my job,” added Councilor Roger Jalette

Councilors Valerie Gonzalez and David Soucy voted against removal.

“I want it on the record that this is a massive waste of tax dollars. As our mayor has shown, she is unopposed for a reason,” said Gonzalez.

Baldelli-Hunt was charged by Sierra on nine counts of willful neglect of duties, including not executing a contract with the police union, giving stipends to city employees without council approval, and several other instances of not executing other council-passed ordinances.

The council found the mayor in violation on four of the nine charges. The hearing spanned three days and included 11 hours of testimony and more than two hours of deliberations.

Thursday morning, Woonsocket residents agreed the issues Baldelli-Hunt has been accused of were serious, but called the matter a waste of time, as she is up for reelection in the upcoming November election, where she is running unopposed.

“I just think it’s stupid because nobody’s running against her she’s just going to get back in… It’s a waste of time,” said Jesse Hunt, a Woonsocket resident.

“It’s kind of ridiculous because she’s the only one running for mayor and the next election so she’s just going to be voted right back in. So I don’t know why they did this. It’s like a witch hunt,” added Joyce Boxold, another resident of Woonsocket.

Wednesday night’s events focused mainly on the mayor’s own testimony defending her actions.

“This hearing is about me and I should have the right to have it as long as needed. These charges were brought against me, I did not bring them upon myself,” said Baldelli-Hunt.

The most contentious charge surrounded the police contract, which several council members called the most egregious charge, Ward stating, “standing alone this charge is enough for removal from office.”

Baldelli-Hunt repeatedly testified the contract was “illegal” and that the council did not have the authority to negotiate the contract.

“I personally feel that this union was used for political reasons and that is unacceptable to me,” testified the mayor.

It is unclear if Baldelli-Hunt will appeal the council’s decision, although, she is running unopposed in November’s election and is expected to regain her seat in December.

In the meantime, Council President Daniel Gendron will serve as the interim mayor.

Categories: News, Rhode Island