Johnston Board of Canvassers rejects Cardillo complaint for third time

Rhode Island's state Board of Elections will likely reexamine the case


State Rep. Ed Cardillo stood up at the end of Tuesday’s hearing.

“An absolute joke!” He said loudly, following the Johnston Board of Canvassers’ third rejection of a residency complaint he filed against his nephew and opponent, fellow Democrat, Dennis Cardillo Jr.

Before stepping quickly out the door with his attorney, Rep. Cardillo pledged to again appeal to the Rhode Island state Board of Elections.

“We will file an appeal tomorrow,” he said.

The incumbent state representative for District 42 (Cranston, Johnston) alleges his nephew does not live at the address he provided on state election forms — 1757 Plainfield Pike. In fact, he alleges his nephew and opponent for the Democratic primary does not live within District 42.

Dennis Cardillo Jr. admits he does not live at the Plainfield Pike address. His father Dennis Cardillo Sr. (Rep. Cardillo’s brother) answered the door at the home last week.

Dennis Cardillo Jr. says he now lives at an address that he does not want to publicly disclose, but within the district. He has made counterclaims of harassment against his uncle and political opponent.

“No one should ever go through the scaring situation that my wife, infant child, and myself have gone through,” he said via email. “The injustice that has been done to us by Edward Cardillo Jr. is unfathomable, unethical, and potentially illegal.”

Dennis Cardillo Jr. says he can provide 27 forms of evidence proving he lives within the district. Neither board has considered his evidence, since the complaint has been rejected at each hearing, with little to no public discussion.

Rep. Cardillo first filed a complaint with the Board of Canvassers early last month. Following a brief hearing, the board rejected the complaint with little discussion. That decision was appealed, and the Cardillos both appeared for a second time before the three-member board. With even less discussion than the first hearing, the board once again quickly rejected the appeal.

So Rep. Cardillo took his complaint to the State Board of Elections (BOE). The state board heard his complaint last week, and following a unanimous vote, sent it back to the Johnston Board of Canvassers, insisting the board hear the complaint again, but this time, keep a better record of the discussion.

“The minutes that were presented do not set forth the basis for the denial of the challenge to the voter registration,” said attorney Raymond Marcaccio, legal counsel for the BOE. “ At least from my view of it, it appears to be a motion which then was carried, indicating that the challenge was denied without any reason … See what the basis was and the possibility of remanding it so that the local board can articulate the reason for its decision. Otherwise, based on this record, it very well may be that this board will have to hear this de novo (from the beginning) … We don’t know the basis of it. We don’t know what evidence was considered.”

The Johnston Board of Canvassers reconvened Tuesday afternoon for a 1 p.m. hearing. After listening to town attorney William J. Conley Jr. explain the complaint and the legal burden for “reasonable suspicion” for 25 minutes, the town solicitor then spent 30 minutes reading the complaint verbatim.

“I invite the board now to discuss among themselves … the contents or questions or anything you want to bring to the attention to one another,” Conley told them following his explanation.

The Board of Canvassers, didn’t speak until about 55 minutes into the hearing. Their discussion lasted less than a minute.

Only one member asked a question connected to the affidavit submitted by Rep. Cardillo, which alleged his nephew has been living outside the district.

Member Sular Batista asked to whom the car (shown in photos presented by a private investigator as part of the complaint affidavit) was registered. Dennis Cardillo replied that the car was registered to his father.

“The evidence speaks for itself,” said Board of Canvassers Chairman Joseph Falvo.

Falvo repeated his statement.

“The evidence speaks for itself,” he said, but was interrupted by Batista who made a motion to reject the residency complaint.

“Based on the evidence presented, I don’t think that they meet the burden of the case,” Batista said.

Batista, Falvo and board member Doreen Pezza voted unanimously to reject the complaint.

During last week’s appeal before the state BOE member William E. West questioned whether the Johnston board had reviewed any of the evidence submitted.

“From a practical standpoint, I don’t see how anyone at that meeting could have reviewed any of the documents that were provided in 11 minutes,” West said at the state BOE hearing. “Given the fact that the council had to explain to them the standard ... it seems to me that there was no rational basis for the board’s actions … To have a 10-minute meeting on a packet of information that would take you a half an hour to look at, just seems to me … I think we need to give them their due process.”

From just a cursory review of the draft minutes from the first two hearings in Johnston, West said that “in the minds of anyone who had witnessed that, it was a forgone conclusion before it even started.”

Rep. Cardillo agrees. He said the board members have been told to vote a certain way, and have not given his complaint true consideration.

“I don’t know what the basis was,” Marcaccio told the BOE. “It should be specified on the record.”

The minutes of Tuesday’s meeting will be longer, however the portion containing the board’s public discussion of the matter, will once again be extremely short.

Last week, West asked a hypothetical question of the BOE’s legal counsel. He asked if Johnston held the hearing quickly (which they did, less than a week later), and rejected the complaint again (which they did, unanimously), then would the state Board of Elections hear the case?

“That would be the final determination, and that would be ripe for review by this board,” Marcaccio answered.

Dennis Cardillo Jr. released a statement following Tuesday’s hearing.

“I am glad that the Board of Canvassers paid close attention to the details as my name is Dennis Cardillo Jr. and the car photographed at my mother’s residence was actually my father’s car registered under his name Dennis D. Cardillo,” he wrote, via email. “Not one photograph showed my personal car parked there through the two months of surveillance. I believe that the board was extremely diligent and reviewed all material thoroughly. I am relieved that the Board of Canvassers sided in my favor for a third time. I do want to stress the fact this most definitely appears to me to be a form of spite by the current Rep Ed Cardillo. At each meeting, there has been several comments made by him that were way out of context where he even made negative comments towards the Board of Canvassers. By bringing these frivolous and childish claims forward he has essential (sic) been wasting tax payers dollars at each meeting. Are his actions even in the best interest of the community or just of his own?”


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