Commentary: Mayor’s Veto: Apparently it can happen anytime the administration sees fit

By Ricardo Mourato and Anna Sousa
Posted 10/22/21

In November, 2016 the voters of the City of East Providence enacted amendments to the City Charter regarding the Mayor form of government.  One of those amendments allowed the Mayor to veto …

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Commentary: Mayor’s Veto: Apparently it can happen anytime the administration sees fit


In November, 2016 the voters of the City of East Providence enacted amendments to the City Charter regarding the Mayor form of government.  One of those amendments allowed the Mayor to veto ordinances passed by the City Council.

On August 17, 2021, the City Council gave final passage and adopted Ordinances 18-12 and 18-76.
The Charter provides the City Council with the power to adopt ordinances for the City under Section 2-9(7). Section 2-16 of the Charter provides the procedure for the Council with regard to ordinances. The procedure under Section 2-16(2) states that "every ordinance shall be introduced in writing, and after passage on first reading,...shall be made available to public inspection at the office of the City Clerk, together with the time and place when and where it will be considered for final passage..."

Section 3-6 is entitled, "Passage of ordinances over veto."

The Charter states that, "no Ordinance shall take effect without the approval of the Mayor unless:
(1) The Mayor shall fail to sign the ordinance within ten (10) consecutive days after its passage ; or
(2) The Mayor returns it to the Council within ten (10) consecutive days after its passage with a message of disapproval and veto and the Council no later than its regularly scheduled meeting shall approve the ordinance by the affirmative votes of at least four (4) of its members notwithstanding the disapproval and veto of the Mayor.

The Mayor was duty bound to return the Ordinance with his veto and message of disapproval within ten (10) consecutive days after its passage. The Mayor vetoed the Ordinance on September 2, 2021 and returned the Ordinance to the City Council with his message of disapproval some sixteen (16) days after final passage and adoption.

The Ordinance in question was given first passage by the City Council on July 20, 2021. Next, the Ordinance, following the required process, was heard and given consideration at a second hearing on August 17,2021. On August 17,2021, the Ordinance was given final passage and adopted by the City Council. The clock started at that very moment per the Charter for the Mayor, if he so chooses, to veto and submit his message of disapproval.

The Charter is silent as to any further process. There is no suggestion, recommendation or language regarding a transmittal process which was apparently concocted by the Law Department wherein an "Ordinance Transmittal" sheet was created. Adding a third layer to a process that is clearly defined does not give it any more credibility.

Additionally, stamps were placed on the ordinance signifying when the Council President and Mayor thought it was fit to sign and date the document. Placing stamps, dates and signatures on newly created documents do not certify or give any legitimacy to a process created to circumvent an established time frame. Note: The City Solicitor has a pattern of interpreting the City Charter in a manor that benefits his employee the “Mayor” rather then his real employer, you the citizens.
The dates are specific and should be followed.

Changing these dates sets a dangerous precedent leaving the Mayor and a Council President to decide when to transmit ordinances. The onus is on the Mayor and his numerous staff to adhere to the ten (10) day final passage time frame. The Charter's language should be strictly construed and absent any language to the contrary the time frame is ten (10) days from final passage and adoption which occurred on August 17, 2021.
Conclusion, Section 3-6 of the City Charter provides for an absolute process and time frame for the Mayor to adhere to regarding his veto authority. He has chosen, either because of mistake or negligence, not to follow that process and time frame, but to create his own subversion of the City Charter.

The Mayor, going forward, can chose to attempt to amend the City Charter and establish transmittal dates in a future election or follow the established process voted upon by the people of the City. Therefore, the Mayor failed to veto the Ordinance within the allotted time of ten (10) consecutive days from passage and cannot now claim a process that did not exist and was never established by City Charter.

— Mourato is the Ward 4 member and Sousa the Ward 2 member of the  East Providence City Council.

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