March 22, 2019

Tom Riley Removed From City Canvassing Board

Party Affiliation Change Caused Action


Thomas Riley, the long time member and a former Chairperson of the East Providence Canvassing Authority, has been disqualified from holding membership on that board. This action was taken due to a decision Riley made on March 29, 2018. The disqualification became effective as of that March 29th date. East Providence City Solicitor, Gregory Dias, informed Riley in a certified letter, dated April 5th, 2018, that "due to your decision and action to change your party affiliation on March 29, 2018, you are disqualified from holding a membership upon the East Providence Canvassing Authority effective March 29, 2018 when you filed your change of affiliation."

Dias sent the letter because of a recent resignation of one of the three Canvassing Board members. Dias' letter to Riley stated, in part: "Based upon the recent Canvassing Authority letter of resignation received by the City (Kimberly Bass resigned), I inquired of the Canvassing Authority regarding the political affiliation of the remaining members of the Board. The Authority provided me with Elizabeth Peggs affiliation (Democrat) and your recent change of party affiliation dated March 29, 2018 from Republican to Democrat," wrote Solicitor Dias.

The City is bound by State Law and Board of Election regulations to appoint members to a canvassing board according to party affiliation. With the earlier board resignation, the Mayor would have been compelled to pick a replacement with a Democratic affiliation. The party chair is required to submit a list of names.

The Dias letter to Riley also stated that, "Based upon that change, the City reached out to the Board of Elections for a clarification. The Executive Director of the Board referred the City to Rule 5 of the Board of Elections Rules and Regulations for Local Canvassing Authorities-Party Affiliation which reads as follows: 'Members of the Local Canvassing Authority must maintain their party affiliation for the duration of their membership. If a member changes party affiliation during his or her tenure, he or she shall be disqualified from holding membership upon the authority and his or her successor shall be immediately elected. The disqualification of the member shall take effect immediately, upon the filing of the papers changing his or her party affiliation. No further action is required to effectuate the disqualification from holding membership upon the authority.'

Before March 29, 2018, the local canvassing board had one Democrat (Elizabeth Pegg) and one Republican (Thomas Riley). On March 29, 2018, Thomas Riley officially changed his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat. With the local canvassing authority now down to just one member, Elizabeth Pegg, there are two seats that need filling, a Democrat and a Republican.

Questions came up almost immediately upon Riley changing his affiliation from Republican to Democrat. Ward Four City Councilman, Brian Faria posted a social media "screen shot" copy of the actual form submitted by Riley in which he changed his party affiliation.

Riley was first appointed to the canvassing board in 1991. Riley has been on and off the board at different times. Riley has not yet returned requests to comment for this story.


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