Fact Checking Joe Botelho’s Statement on ‘Fake News’
I want to note that prior to releasing his statement to the press, Mr. Botelho released his statement on Facebook. There I respectfully asked him some questions regarding his statement and some of these incongruities. Mr. Botelho decided to smear me as opposed to answer them, which left me to find the facts on my own. Here are the results of my research and review.
Statement: “The fact of the matter is, that party caucuses and meetings are specifically exempt from the open meetings law so there was nothing nefarious about it.“
Explanation: Mr. Botelho is correct that party caucuses and meetings are exempt from OMA, however the East Providence City Council is non-partisan and does not have partisan caucuses such as Providence and other cities with larger partisan councils do. Secondly, it was not a stated meeting of the Democratic City Committee. Also to note, the very link to the OMA laws that Mr. Botelho posts states “For purposes of this section, any political party, organization, or unit thereof meeting or convening is not and should not be considered to be a public body; provided, however, that no such meeting shall be used to circumvent the requirements of this chapter.” The last line is crucial, one cannot simply claim a party meeting to circumvent the fact that they gathered a quorum of the city council together in an attempt to make decisions outside of the public’s view.
Statement: “Second, Councilman Faria wanted to make appointments that myself and Mr. Britto found totally unpalatable, and when myself and Mr. Britto related that to him, we didn’t hear from him for weeks.”
Explanation: No one outside of the participants knows what happened at the meeting, however this confirms appointments were discussed. Mr. Brian Faria claims that his father DCC Chair John Faria was dictating appointments, Mr. Botelho is now claiming that Brian Faria was asking for appointments he and Mr. Britto did not like. Again we will have no way of knowing what happened at this secret and in my opinion, illegal, meeting.
Statement: “Brian Faria was shopping his vote for Mayor in exchange for appointments, I was attempting to solicit an opinion form the State Attorney General’s office relative to allowing all five members of the “city council elect” to gather in executive session to coherently set up the government for the upcoming term. The AG’s office ultimately refused to opine on the matter leaving us all in limbo.”
Explanation: Councilman-Elect Botelho was quoted in the press as follows:
“The way the law is currently written, I suppose we could discuss these matters directly after we are sworn in, but who would preside over such a meeting, since the mayor would not yet have been appointed?" Mr. Botelho added.
"We owe it to the people of this city, the due diligence of proper deliberation while following the law. And that’s what we’ll do," he concluded.”
Mr. Botelho now says he wanted to have an executive session prior to inauguration, but that doesn’t answer the question he himself posed at the time of who would preside. An executive session would also run counter to the OMA which Mr. Botelho said he was intent on following. This press statement also calls into question his explanation now of a party caucus. If he wanted to have a law abiding meeting about the appointments with all five members, why the caucus, which left out fellow Democrat Jim Briden. Mr. Botelho also neglects that Mr. Brian Faria did not get his appointments despite supporting Mr. Briden for Mayor, so he must not have done very good shopping.
Statement: “For example, one of the most political appointments outlined by state law relate to the cities’ Canvassing authority, as the law calls for members of all recognized political parties in the State of Rhode Island to be represented on that board. Mr. Peter Barilla, a Democrat, whose term had expired, was up for reappointment, and although there was already a Republican on this board, Mr. Faria, along with Mayor Jim Briden and Councilwoman Anna Sousa voted for Republican Tom Riley, a Brian Faria ally, over the objection of myself and Mr. Britto.”
Rating: Mostly False
Explanation: Firstly, anyone who understands the importance of the canvassing board would downplay politics in the positions, not up-play it as Mr. Botelho does in his statement. The board is three members of which one must be a Democrat and one a Republican (sorry third parties and unaffiliateds), the balance had historically been that in East Providence, it was two Democrats and one Republican but that is not a statutory requirement. When Mr. Barilla’s term was up, Mayor Briden, not Councilman Faria, nominated Tom Riley, who had served on the board for many years prior. This move, despite the implication by Councilman Botelho, did not violate the rule of having a person from each party as there is still a Democrat on the Canvassing Board. This statement is both factually incorrect in some places such as the claim of all recognized parties getting a seat and sins by omission by leaving out that Mr. Riley was not Councilman Faria’s choice and while it did replace a Democrat with a Republican, the insinuation that this was an illegal disruption of the two party rule is erroneous as the Democrats are not guaranteed two seats, only one.
Statement: “Furthermore, just a few weeks later, Mr. Britto and myself placed former City Manager Richard Kirby’s name the docket for reappointment to that position as we felt he was unjustly fired by the previous council. Expecting an affirmative vote based on Mr. Faria’s campaign rhetoric, myself and Mr. Britto were astonished when Mr. Faria along with Mayor Briden and Anna Sousa voted against Kirby’s appointment.”
Explanation: Councilman Botelho announced in the media that he was placing Mr. Kirby on the docket for re-appointment. At that time, Councilman Faria announced in his own press release that he could not, at the time support the move, even going so far as to ask for it to be taken off the agenda. There is no reason why Councilman Botelho should have been “astonished” that Councilman Faria voted against the move.
As far as the claims that Councilman Faria had “campaign rhetoric” supporting Mr. Kirby’s return. That has been a frequent claim of Mr. Botelho and his allies, yet there has been no evidence of it.
Statement: “So, for the two most political appointments in the city, canvassing board and city manager, Mr. Britto and myself were left in the dust. Based on those results, myself and Mr. Britto must be the two worst co-conspirators on the face of the earth…”
Explanation: This statement omits the many appointments that Mr. Botelho and Mr. Britto were behind including most of the inauguration night appointments. Unseating Probate Court Judge Dean Robinson, the appointments for the Law Department, etc. After that, Mr. Britto’s nomination for an Associate Probate Court Judge passed handily despite no resume or accompanying information for his fellow Council members or the public. Lastly, Mr. Botelho and Mr. Britto, after losing the Kirby vote flocked to the camp of Tim Chapman, who was appointed full City Manager at their behest.
Jason J. Desrosiers
Townies for Responsible Government