Republican Ray McKay didn’t make a trip to City Hall yesterday to announce his candidacy for U.S. Senate, although he was in the Board of Canvassers to fix a finicky computer as part of his day job.
McKay wasn’t filing declaration papers because of the city ordinance that restricted him from keeping his day job while campaigning, even with the support of the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island (ACLU) behind him.
Since November, McKay said he’s been threatened by the city and that he would lose his “classified employee” status as network and telecommunications administrator for the city as a result of Ordinance 48-107, which bars classified employees from any elected office.
Executive Director of the ACLU Steven Brown wrote a letter to Council President Donna Travis requesting that the council amend the ordinance that barred McKay from running.
“We express our support as a strictly non-partisan organization that has long promoted the right of public employees to participate in the political process without undue burden,” Brown wrote.
“My rights have been violated, and the city must be held accountable,” McKay said yesterday.
In a phone interview, Brown said the city should not weigh their decision on a city ordinance when a state law exists to supersede it.
“There is an indisputable conflict with the city ordinance and the state law, not to mention constitutional rights,” said Brown.
It’s been almost two weeks since Brown sent the letter to Travis and he has yet to hear back from her. McKay also sent a letter to the City Council on June 9 asking them to amend the ordinance. He hasn’t gotten a reply. Brown said the legislature passed a law allowing state workers to run for office.
“The city council has to address this because they will only face this problem in another election, and it’s not fair to anybody,” said Brown.
He said the ACLU hasn’t recently heard of any other cities or towns that have had the problem of enforcing a city ordinance and disregarding the law.
The letter also said it, “Serves only to unduly impede the free speech rights of city employees to participate in public services as candidates and elected officials.”
When asked if he planned to continue efforts to change the ordinance for future candidates, McKay said, “This is by no means the end.”
He didn’t disclose his future plans. He said he is currently piecing them together. McKay also said he sees himself running in the future and is motivated to educate the council on how to respond to issues like this one.
He said U.S. District Court Judge Mary M. Lisi ruled against McKay and his attorney Matthew Fabisch and that she focused on the way the attorney brought issues up rather than the merit of the case. McKay said Lisi referenced a Supreme Court case from 1988 in her decision and ignored more recent cases that would have supported his case. He also said he was mislead on the preparation for the arguments to be addressed on the May 30 court case.
“It would’ve been better if they had done what they did earlier, it could’ve swayed the courts,” said McKay.
Brown said the ACLU was made aware of McKay’s situation when the lawsuit was filed and came out to his defense.
Former state GOP chairman Mark Zaccaria has announced candidacy to run against U.S. Sen. Jack Reed after hopes for McKay ran out. Rhode Island’s senior Senator Jack Reed is seeking a third term. According to reports, he has a campaign war chest of $3.4 million.
McKay recently resigned from the Warwick Republican City Committee because, he said, a city committee member is an elected position so he resigned to hold to the ordinance that limited him in the run for Senate.