With his effort to keep his job at City Hall and run as a candidate for the U.S. Senate denied by a federal district court judge on Friday, Raymond T. McKay said yesterday he may ask the City Council to amend city ordinances in time for him to challenge incumbent Senator Jack Reed.
Amending city ordinances and appealing the ruling by U.S. District Judge Mary M. Lisi are the two options McKay has left. An appeal would be costly, he said, and runs the risk of being denied, whereas a change in the city law would enable him to keep his job and run for the office.
McKay believes the change in ordinance could be made without impairing the intent of the law to protect classified employees from political influence, such as the loss of their jobs with the election of a new mayor. The law bars classified employees from running for any elective office.
But, would a Democratic-controlled City Council lift the restrictions so that a Republican could challenge Reed, a Democrat and one of the U.S. Senate’s highest ranking members?
“Democrats have come up to me and said they think I should have the right to run even though they wouldn’t vote for me,” McKay said.
None of those who have told McKay they think he has the right to run are members of the City Council, however.
“They’re elected to represent the people, and that’s all of us,” McKay said of the council.
In order to amend the ordinance before the June 25 filing deadline, the council would have to bring the amendment up under unanimous consent. First and second passages would be required. McKay believes there’s time for that all to happen.
“We’re not completely out,” McKay said. “We’re being shoved out the door, but we’re not going willingly.”
McKay, who calls himself a “Constitutionalist” and is head of the Rhode Island Republican Assembly, said he expects widespread financial support from outside the state if he is successful in his bid to get on the ballot without losing his job. Even taking a leave of absence from his job as a network and communications administrator, as has been suggested by the city, he said, raises issues because technically he would still have a job with the city.
In her ruling from the bench, Justice Lisi traced the history of the case and established that the city ordinance applies to McKay. But she did not consider McKay’s additional claims that the city law is in violation of the First Amendment or that he is being treated differently than other classes of municipal employees.
McKay has consistently questioned why Peter Ginaitt was not challenged by the city when, as a firefighter, he ran for the State House of Representatives. Ginaitt served both as a Warwick firefighter and a state representative, but Ginaitt was not a classified employee.
“I’m not in the business of writing complaints,” Justice Lisi said, explaining that the motion before the court did not address the “new claims” McKay was making. She said the motion before her was not amended to raise those issues. Rather, she said, she would only rule on the complaints McKay raised when he filed a complaint March 17 in Kent County Superior Court seeking a temporary restraining order. The case was argued on March 25 and denied.
McKay said the city moved to have his appeal of that denial to Federal District Court. McKay, who sat in the courtroom audience – his attorney, Matthew Fabisch, and City Solicitor Peter Ruggiero sat before the judge – was surprised by Judge Lisi’s reasoning.
“When it comes down to the Constitution, it’s for her to decide,” he said of his argument that he is being denied his constitutional rights. He was disappointed that she would make her ruling on whether he had properly amended his appeal, not the merits of his argument.
McKay said he would be meeting with his “kitchen cabinet,” a group of 13, tonight to decide his next course of action.
“An appeal is not out of question,” he added.
Ruggiero was not surprised Lisi did not consider claims McKay made following his initial complaint that his First Amendment rights were being violated by the city law and that he is entitled to equal protection under the Constitution.
“These were new counts and he didn’t amend pleadings,” said Ruggiero. “You have to follow the rules, and his attorney didn’t.”
Lisi found the city ordinance did not violate McKay’s rights.