"Congratulations, Councilman,” Alberto Aponte Cardona said via cell phone to Republican Ward 1 Councilman Steven Colantuono just moments after the results of the recount came thorough at the Rhode Island Board of Elections in Providence Friday, revealing that Colantuono’s win for the Ward 1 seat was correct.
While the results from the General Election listed him as the winner by 19 votes over Democratic candidate Sharon Ahearn, the recount proved he won by 20 votes.
Aponte Cardona, a local attorney, David Dolbashian, another local lawyer, and Ward 1 resident Michael Mullane attended the recount on behalf of Colantuono. Ahearn represented herself.
“I’m glad it’s over,” Ahearn said after hearing the news. “Good luck to Steve.” Ahearn also said that she’s not finished with city politics and plans to run again in the future. “You haven’t heard the last of me.”
For Colantuono, he is happy the issue is resolved. He is looking forward to continuing his stint on the council, which he began nearly four years ago.
“I never took anything for granted,” Colantuono said of the election. “I always think that there are factors that you can’t predict, can’t control and don’t know about. There were many factors at play in this election and I had to work as hard as I had to work to come out ahead of the count.”
Possible factors include three flyers that residents of Ward 1 created and distributed throughout the ward before the election.
Former Councilman Bob Cushman, who along with about a dozen other Ward 1 residents, crafted and passed out approximately 3,000 flyers alleging that Colantuono voted in favor of legislation to gain lifetime health care.
Colantuono said that is not the case, and that Cushman is “consistently inaccurate” with the information he puts forward.
“It couldn’t be anymore further from the truth,” Colantuono said. “Number one, I would never think to do that; number two, I cannot do that. It’s interesting to see someone come out and say these kinds of things. They gather some momentum and credence even though they are factually incorrect and misleading. It’s disheartening to see it garner as much interest in the newspaper as it has.”
He continued, saying that during the campaign season he approached Cushman as he passed out the flyers and questioned his motives. He asked Cushman why he desired to discredit him.
“He said, ‘I’m doing it to beat you,’ and I said, ‘You could have run against me to beat me, but you don’t want to do that for some reason,’” Colantuono said. “It really has nothing to do with what I’m doing or with what I’ve done. It’s his own anger and inability to move forward. That seems to be his issue. He can deny or make whatever comments that he wants that it’s not about that, but that’s what he told me.”
Colantuono also said, “I’m not going to say it’s not on purpose – he used his information to mislead people and he knows exactly what he’s doing.”
Further, Colantuono said the other two flyers, which accused him of introducing legislation to increase the car tax exemptions from $6,000 to $500, and alleged that he did nothing to protect his constituents from sewer tax increases, are also bogus and misleading.
Colantuono explained that each year he and Ward 8 Councilman Ray Gallucci introduce the legislation as part of Mayor Scott Avedisian’s budget to the rest of the council and the general public. He and Gallucci, said Colantuono, simply place it on the docket.
“It’s my job to docket that legislation,” Colantuono said. “I guess what Mr. Cushman is, in turn, saying is, ‘We shouldn’t docket anything to put before the public and let the public speak on it.’ I docket it so it comes before us so the council can consider it and the general public can consider it and speak on it. Then, we all have an opportunity to amend it and vote on it.”
He went on to say that it’s incorrect for Cushman to say that
he votes on the mayor’s budget. Rather, he said, he voted for the council’s amended budget.
“All the people who voted against the amended budget actually voted for the mayor’s budget,” Colantuono said. “If the amended budget doesn’t pass, you get the budget that the mayor proposed.”
But Cushman said Colantuono is the one being misleading. He said that Colantuono participated in the vote to remove language from legislation that Cushman originally drafted in 2007 that would have prohibited lifetime health care or supplemental health coverage to any current or future city or school employee upon retirement.
The original language read: “Non-union employees who enter service with the city on or after January 1, 2009… shall not be entitled to receive health and/or dental insurance at any time following their retirement, resignation or other severance of service with the city,” while the amended language read: “Non-union employees who enter service with the city on or after passage of this ordinance…”
The language was removed with nine yes votes from the council. The final vote for first passage after the amendment was 7-2, with Ward 4 Councilman Joseph Solomon and Ward 7 Councilman Charles “C.J.” Donovan voting in opposition.
“He voted to amend that language to take the dates out,” said Cushman. “If they left that language in there, he would not be eligible for lifetime health care. Once he fulfills this term, he will get lifetime health care. It appears that based on city documents that he is not telling the truth. For him to say he never participated in the vote is not true and he knows it. The evidence is pretty clear. Just look at the documents.”
To access the documents on the city website, visit WarwickRI.gov and click “City Government,” followed by “Official Documents,” then “Council Meeting Minutes,” and “Warwick City Council Minutes 2009,” and finally, “January 21, 2009,” which is listed under “Regular Public Hearing Meetings.”
This leads to a PDF file of the council meeting agenda and a list of whether legislation was approved or denied, and which council members favored or opposed the legislation. Under “Unfinished Business,” the legislation in question is listed as number six.
For Colantuono, he said he was just interested in moving forward and focusing on issues that are important to his constituents.
“I’m trying not to get myself involved in a war of negativism,” he said. “People saying they are trying to get information before the public are not getting information before the public – they are misinforming the public and I’m just trying to make sure I’m doing the job that people have elected me to do in a sensible and reasonable way.”