In a sharp reversal from a vote one day earlier, the Providence Board of Canvassers found Thursday that state Rep. John Carnevale, a four-term member of the House of Representatives, is not a registered voter in Providence.
The decision means that Carnevale can not pursue his re-election campaign, unless he makes a successful appeal of the board's rendering.
"I understand the board had to make a tough decision, and they had to look at the evidence, and I respect, so I'm going to confer with my counsel and we'll see about an appeal," Carnevale said. He said a decision will be made by Friday on whether to appeal the decision to the state Board of Elections.
On Wednesday, the two-member Board of Canvassers split on attempts to introduce more information in weighing Carnevale's case. The tide shifted after Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza issued a sharp statement, expressing "deep disappointment" in Board Chairwoman Claudia Haugen and calling on her to consider a greater volume of testimony and documents.
In a statement distributed by his campaign spokeswoman, Speaker Nicholas Mattiello called on Carnevale to not appeal the board's decision: "As I stated earlier this week, I believe Rep.Carnevale's actions were unacceptable and I made it clear he would not be part of my leadership team going forward," Mattiello said. "The Board of Canvassers has made a decision in the public's best interest that should not be appealed."
State Republican Chairman Brandon Bell, who filed the complaint challenging Carnevale's voter registration, called the Canvassers' decision a victory for the citizens of Rhode Island. He was seconded by GOP lawyer John Pagliarini, a state senator from Tiverton.
"This is about law and order," Pagliarini told reporters after the decision. "This is that you have to live in your district, and we should not tolerate behavior that is unbecoming a member of the General Assembly."
Said Bell, "This should send a loud and clear message: zero tolerance. This is corruption, and there should be zero tolerance for this type of activity."
Bell faulted Mattiello for not moving more quickly to criticize Carnevale. As he has said before, the GOP chairman said changes are needed in the House leadership to improve state government.
Following an undercover report by WPRI-TV that raised questions, Carnevale maintained he resides in Providence. On Thursday, the two members of the Board of Canvassers said the weight of evidence indicated otherwise.
During the hearing, Lt. Richard Fernandes of the Providence police said it was "extremely" odd that Carnevale asked police to issue him parking tickets at his Providence address. Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare said he considered the request an effort to "to use" the Providence police. Carnevale offered a different account, saying that he had trouble with a motor vehicle and had asked police not to ticket the vehicle.
In a statement, Elorza said he was pleased the Canvassers considered additional evidence and testimony before making their decision.
This post has been updated.