Town employee investigated for voting fraud

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Agnes Mancini has worked for the Town of Johnston since the 1970s. She is now a part-time clerk in the Fire Department, but has served in various other departments as well, including Public Works, Tax Assessors and Building Maintenance.

Mancini also worked for the Board of Canvassers, the department responsible for registering voters and conducting elections at the local level.

But last week, Channel 10 released an investigative report claiming Mancini lied about her residency in order to vote in Johnston.

According to Randy Rossi, the finance director and tax collector in Smithfield, the 67-year-old Mancini signed a notarized affidavit that listed her full-time address as 69 Orchard Meadows Drive in Smithfield. Her voter registration, however, claims that she lives at 1193 Hartford Avenue, the address of Mancini’s Service Station, a business she owns with her husband Anthony.

Both Agnes and Anthony Mancini registered to vote in December of 1997 from the Hartford Avenue address.

The Smithfield Tax Assessors database tells a different story. Smithfield records show that the couple purchased the property on Orchard Meadows in February of 1998.

Rossi explained that the affidavit Agnes Mancini signed was to make her eligible for a tax break for seniors.

“She first applied for it on September 28, 2009,” Rossi said. “Then 2010 was the first tax year that she received the benefit.”

Homeowners who have lived in Smithfield for at least 10 years and are over the age of 65 are eligible to have their tax rate frozen. In Mancini’s first year of receiving the break, she saved just $124.72. That number would likely increase over time, Rossi said, adding that once he learned of the I-Team investigation, he revoked the benefit.

“It’s been removed for next year already,” he said.

Rossi said this type of fraud is not uncommon, though his office more often tracks down voters who have properties in Smithfield and other states, like Florida, and vote from their secondary residence.

“There are always people who are trying to beat the system, because there is a great benefit,” Rossi said.

What will come of the investigation remains unclear, but Channel 10 reports that the Rhode Island State Police have opened their own investigation into voter fraud on the part of Agnes Mancini.

Mancini receives a pension from the Town of Johnston, with a gross benefit of $1,747. The department is not specified; only that she was a clerk in the town.

In a 1999 press release from the General Assembly, Mancini was recognized for her efforts to remove barriers to voting by people with disabilities.

“As clerk of the Johnston Board of Canvassers, Agnes Mancini has done an outstanding job for the voters in the community with disabilities. That is no wonder, considering the consistent dedication and enthusiasm she brings to her post as canvassers’ clerk,” former Johnston Senator William Tocco, Jr. said in the release.

Aside from her role with the Board of Canvassers, Mancini has been involved in other political activities. During his 2009 mayoral inauguration ceremony, Mayor Joseph Polisena thanked the committee who put the event together, including Agnes Mancini.

In 2005, she donated $250 to Polisena’s campaign, according to the state’s public campaign finance reports. Her husband’s list of political contributions is longer, dating back to 2002 when he supported the late Mayor William Macera, through 2005 when he too donated to Polisena.

Mayor Polisena could not be reached for comment yesterday, but his administrative assistant said he was in budget meetings all day.

In the past, voters have not been required to show identification at the polls when they go to vote, though the General Assembly recently passed legislation requiring it.

Bob Kando, executive director of the Rhode Island Board of Elections, was not familiar with the Mancini case, and said the BOE has no official position on the voter ID legislation. Currently, he believes the system moves smoothly, but does not believe requiring identification will seriously impede operations at the polls.

“It might slow things down, and we’d have to change the training certainly,” he said, but “lines are rather brief if there are any lines at all.”

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