Board finds O'Donnell eligible as candidate
By JENNETTE BARNESStaff Reporter An anonymous telephone call to City Hall questioning the legality of Republican Everett O'Donnell's candidacy for City Council Ward 4 prompted officials to review the situation.The caller suggested that, because O'Donnell administers federally funded contracts as part of his position as Director of Maintenance for the Warwick Housing Authority, the federal Hatch Act precluded O'Donnell from holding elective office.While the Board of Canvassers does not formally respond to anonymous telephone calls, Board Chair Edward Murphy conducted a "cursory overview" of the matter. Murphy consulted lawyers who dealt with a similar case in Quincy, Massachusetts. In 1989, the chief of maintenance for the Quincy Housing Authority ran for Quincy City Council, and a formal challenge was made citing the Hatch Act, according to Murphy. In the Quincy case, Peter Kolson was allowed to run for council and won election to five two-year terms.O'Donnell was not concerned about the call. "Since it was an anonymous call, nobody gave much credit to it," he said, adding that Housing Authority attorney Joseph Shekarchi instructed him not to comment.Shekarchi spoke to the local office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which confirmed that there was no legal problem with O'Donnell running for public office."Based on my review of the information, there was no violation of the Hatch Act," Shekarchi said.Because Housing Authority funds are federal and state funds, O'Donnell generally does not administer local funding. Murphy said no conflict of interest exists when a local Housing Authority employee runs for office because the individual is not an employee of the federal government. "If the local government does fund a housing project, someone running for office should abstain from the vote," Murphy said.Mayor Scott Avedisian said he feels flattered that O'Donnell is perceived as a threat to his opponents, but Avedisian was not pleased with the anonymous nature of the call."I think it's odd, because someone who has enough information to know about the Hatch Act should know about the Massachusetts case," he said. "It seems as if someone is trying in a very cowardly way to malign Everett O'Donnell. It's sad that we have gotten to that point in Warwick city politics. We all do it through cloak and dagger and smoke-filled rooms, the old stuff that we tried to get out of this city."In a 3-0 vote the Board of Canvassers determined that the call was without merit and decided to take no further action.Board of Canvassers Clerk Joe Galucci said that when candidates file a declaration form with the board, they are not required to reveal their place of employment. The board simply determines whether the candidate is registered and has gathered the required number of signatures to get on the ballot, he said.Whoever made the anonymous call still has time to file a formal complaint, according to Murphy."We will respond if someone writes a signed letter to the Board of Canvassers. If a concerned citizen filed a formal complaint, we would call an emergency meeting immediately," Murphy said. "But hearsay is just that, hearsay."Murphy noted the board could withhold the complainant's name from the public at his or her request.