Skip to main content

Four Year Terms Followup - Should They Stay or Should They Go?

To paraphrase the popular 80's band The Clash, If they go there may be trouble and if they stay it may be double.

While the four year terms come closer to being finalized six years after being passed by the voters, the latest furor has been how the likely codification of the four year terms would apply to the current city council. Would the current council stay an additional two years or would the four year terms take effect for the 2018 election? This is of particular interest to those who have announced intentions to seek council seats this year, including Bob Rodericks and Nate Cahoon.

Rodericks released a statement to us stating "I appreciate mayoral candidate Chrissy Rossi again bringing up the issue of City Councils ignoring voter results. But I disagree with saying that the solution is to revert the calendar back to seek a remedy. Mistakes were made by prior governmental officials, at the City or State or with both. The answer isn't to say that Bob Rodericks, Ricardo Mourato, Nathan Cahoon, Joshua Pereira, Michael Elias and any other announced candidates for City Council are prohibited from seeking office this year."

Some, including many of the supporters of the would-be 2018 challengers have also taken to social media to comment including alluding to the possibility of lawsuits. Mr. Cahoon however has taken a more congenial approach in a statement on his Facebook page "I've seen talk of lawsuits, public fights, etc. But who does that serve? The people? Not hardly."

There have even been suggestions of re-seating the previous City Council elected in 2014. Including Representative Gregg Amore in a comment on Cahoon's post "I am of the opinion that the only fair way to move forward is to hold the 2018 elections for a 4 year term. If that is not an acceptable option then the 2014 Council should be re-seated immediately to finish their rightful term. I don't think anyone thinks that is a sound idea but it would be adhering to the will of the people, despite that council's inaction on the matter." How a re-seating of the previous council would work is uncertain, since one now holds office as a state representative.

On social media, there have been an equal measure of those in favor of retaining the current council, citing that this was supposed to be effective "without further action" according to the ballot question. Those in favor have also cited a Cranston case that removed an appointed City Solicitor from office that was allowed appointment despite not meeting the requirements due to a misprinted City Charter that had been codified to reflect a charter change that had failed. The case CA-04-4045 supports the notion that a misprint even if it was thought correct at the time, does not hold any weight and that once an error is discovered the correction becomes immediate. The solicitor in that case was not allowed to continue to serve, despite the arguments by the then Mayor of Cranston that she should be allowed to continue until the end of his term. Also of note, Tom Riley, a Canvassing Board member with over a decade of experience stated at the last council meeting "you folks should not be placed on the ballot".
While the Council will take this up again at their next meeting, supporters of four year terms and of the current council staying on board will likely be buoyed by a Law Department opinion that we have been made privy to.


"I have reviewed the language of Ballot question #4 from the East Providence Ballot question ballot which was passed by the voters in East Providence in the November 2012 general election.

Based on that review, I have determined that the election was valid and certified by both the East Providence Board of Canvassers and the Rhode Island Secretary of State. I have also reviewed the ballot question itself and the section of the East Providence City Charter that the ballot question proposed to amend to determine the appropriate language change and placement of the amendment.

As a result of my review, it is my legal opinion as an East Providence City Solicitor that Municipal Code Corporation, the East Providence City Code Publisher, should amend Article II. City Council, Sec. 2.1. Number, selection and term to read as follows:

Sec. 2-1. Number, selection and term.
The council shall have five [5] members, one to be elected from any by the electors of each of the four [4] wards of the city, and one to be elected at large for a term of four (4) years or until a majority of the newly elected council have qualified and have taken office.

This amendment took effect for the 2014 election and shall therefore be applicable to every election thereafter."


The author of the opinion, Robert Craven, is the city's resident litigator in the Law Department with a specialty in administrative law. He served as legal counsel to the Rhode Island Board of Elections from 1995 to 2001, likely a reason why he was tapped to review the matter.

It is with little doubt that many city residents, especially the potential council candidates will be following the next council meeting closely.