By NOAH BOWSER
With the Board of Canvassers refusing to consider the residency qualifications of Senate District 29 Democratic candidate Michael C. Carreiro on procedural grounds, citizen activist …
With the Board of Canvassers refusing to consider the residency qualifications of Senate District 29 Democratic candidate Michael C. Carreiro on procedural grounds, citizen activist Rob Cote says this is a matter of forgery and he intends to pursue his complaint with the state Board of Elections and the Attorney General.
On Thursday tensions ran high in Warwick City Hall as the board of canvassers convened to consider complaints brought against Carreiro, president of the Warwick firefighters, by Cote and District 29 Democratic candidate Jennifer Rourke that he is not a resident of 30 Bunting Rd. in Warwick as stated on his declaration papers.
As evidence Cote was prepared to show the board statements and text message screenshots from Carreiro’s wife that her husband has not lived at his Warwick address since June 7th.
Cote said Carreiro perjured himself and, in addition forged his wife’s signature on his nomination papers. In Cote’s opinion this elevates the issue from the question of his residency to that of perjury and forgery and a matter to be investigated by the state Board of Elections and the Attorney General.
Cote told the board, “If Mrs. Carreiro told the truth that means Mr. Carreiro perjured himself.” In other words, Carreiro’s wife stated that Carreiro hasn’t lived in their Warwick home since the beginning of June while Carreiro states the contrary. Statements from both parties were made under oath and because opposite stories are told, one party must have made a dishonest statement. That said, finding out which party is telling the truth about Carreiro’s residence will reveal two things: Carreiro’s eligibility for the Democratic nomination, and who made a dishonest statement under oath and committed perjury.
“This brings the integrity of the election into question,” Cote said.
Addressing the board, Rourke presented an analogy between these complaints and complaints lodged against former state Representative John Carnevale 6 years ago. Rourke stated that the complaint against Carnevale was not only acknowledged and acted upon by the presiding board, but also used as grounds for the criminal prosecution of the candidate. She reasoned this served to show that complaints such as those being made against Carreiro have been observed and respected in the past to the extent that they initiate criminal proceedings. She said this emphasizes how serious the complainants are and highlights the need to establish the truth about Carreiro’s residence before the primary vote in September.
Following Rourke and Cote’s statements, the board made their responses. Comprised of Chairman of the Board Ed Murphy and Board vice chair John DelGuidice, and joined by Assistant Solicitor Peter F. Skwirz for the purposes of consultation, the board concluded that they do not have the jurisdiction to rule on Carreiro’s residence based on the provided information.
This decision can be summed up by an exchange that occurred between Chairman of the Board Ed Murphy and Assistant Solicitor Skwirz. Murphy asked, “Does the board have any right to rule on this matter?” to which the assistant solicitor replied in the negative. In the coming minutes, the board elaborated, with DelGuidice saying, “I don’t want a technicality to get in the way of democracy” in response to the complaints about Carreiro’s residency.
Following the board’s ruling Cote pointed out what he considers inconsistencies arising from the deadlines to question a candidate’s residency.
Specifically, Cote said that under the law residency challenges must be filed 90 days before the election, which is misaligned with the fact that Carreiro and Rourke’s nominations were not yet official 90 days before the upcoming primary. He also said that the board of canvassers doesn’t have to provide citizens with requested documentation until 10 days after a request is made, yet complaints about signatures must be filed within 3 days of the signatures’ submission.
Aside from the issue of residency, Cote and Rourke called into question the signatures on Carreiro’s nomination paperwork, citing text messages from Carreiro’s wife asserting that, despite her name appearing on the paperwork, she never signed. In regards to this, Cote said, “You have an element of a criminal aspect right here. The wife reached out to me. We sent her a picture of the declaration papers and she said ‘no.’ I asked if she gave him permission to sign the papers and she said ‘no.’” Cote says that Carreiro does not have a power of attorney arrangement with his wife, which precludes him from signing any paperwork on her behalf.
When this was brought up at Thursday’s hearing, Assistant Solicitor Skwirz responded by saying, “this board doesn’t investigate crimes,” in response to the allegations of perjury.
Between questions of Carreiro’s residence and questions of his wife’s signature on his nomination paperwork, Cote contends three felonies have been committed. The first is that Carreiro swore under oath that he lives in Warwick when he actually lives in North Providence. The second, Cote says, is that “when you fill out your nomination papers, I have to swear under penalty of perjury that I witnessed every single person sign those papers. He (Carreiro) signed that he witnessed every person sign those papers, but he did not.” The third felony is forgery given the claims that Carreiro or someone else forged Carreiro’s wife’s signature on the nomination paperwork.
With a multi-faceted series of complaints that could potentially fall into the domain of many different decision-making bodies, the question becomes: where do these complaints go from here? Cote says, “this is a real easy common-sense solution. You bring them both in the room and you ask them under oath, ‘did you sign these papers or not?’ are these your signatures or not?’ the next thing the handcuffs come out and they exercise the law that is on the books.”
As of Tuesday Cote had not filed a complaint with the state Board of Elections. He said he planned to pursue the matter