Andrew Annaldo, the longtime chairman of the powerful Providence Board of Licenses and a top Rhode Island political insider, plans to leave the board after it came under sharp criticism from city officials for its handling of the latest case involving an underage stripper at Cheaters Gentleman's Club.
In a telephone interview, Annaldo says the criticism of the board was "not at all" a factor for why he asked Providence Mayor Angel Taveras not to re-appoint him when his current term expires in January.
"I'm unaffected by that kind of stuff," Annaldo says, adding that he was nonetheless gratified by how the City Council "repudiated" a short-lived attempt by Council Majority Leader Seth Yurdin to remove the nearly $20,000 in annual compensation for License Board members (The chairman receives almost $27,000).
Annaldo says he asked Taveras not to re-appoint him because he's busy with other activities, including his businesses, real estate investments, and lobbying practice. Being chairman, he says, "It's a lot of work .... I just can't commit another three years to do it again."
Yet other sources say Annaldo feels he was thrown under the bus by Taveras and other city officials in connection with the Cheater's case.
Annaldo, a storied political figure in Providence, is a former Ward 14 city councilor (representing, at the time, parts of Elmhurst, Mount Pleasant, and the North End), who unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 1990 and remains close to House Speaker Gordon Fox (a previous member of the board). Annaldo says he has served on the Board of Licenses since 1997, acting as chairman for about a decade.
His plan to leave the board was first tweeted Thursday night by WPRI-TV's Maura Kennedy.
The five-member Board of Licenses is the city's gatekeeper for a host controversial issues involving alcohol, nudity, late operating hours, adult entertainment and the like. It makes thousands of decisions a year.
The board last month hit Cheaters with a $5000 fine and suspended its license for 45 days for hiring a 14-year-old as a dancer and permitting soliciting. Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare reacted by saying he was "extremely disappointed" the punishment wasn't tougher.
Taveras, whose Democratic gubernatorial campaign was the beneficiary of a September fundraiser organized by Annaldo at a private residence in Cranston, later called for a one-strike policy to be used against adult establishments that hire minors or permit prostitution. Annaldo told WPRI's Dan McGowan (see previous link) that he wasn't briefed in advance on the mayor's proposal.
Then on Monday, Yurdin outlined plans to eliminate the five-figure annual compensation for License Board members. In a statement, Yurdin said, “This Board has a responsibility to make decisions in the best interest of the public. By allowing an adult entertainment club with flagrant violations—including the hiring of a 14-year-old girl—to remain open, the Board has failed to serve the city and its residents. It is unclear why taxpayer dollars should be used to compensate a city Board that is unwilling or unable to properly discharge its duties."
Annaldo called Yurdin's proposal a form of coercion and said the board wouldn't accept it. Yurdin wound up pulling his plan Thursday evening.
Annaldo defended the compensation received by board members, saying it's justified by the amount of work they do. "It's a high responsibility," he says. "It's thousands of jobs that depend on the decisions that we make."
He declined to endorse a choice as board chairman, calling that a choice for someone else to make.