Ward 2 seat filled; investigations breed investigations in City Council

Posted 4/24/24

Cranston’s Ward 2 has a new city councilwoman. Following the resignation of former councilwoman Aniece Germain last week, Kristen E. Haroian, formerly the Ward 2 representative of the Cranston …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Ward 2 seat filled; investigations breed investigations in City Council


Cranston’s Ward 2 has a new city councilwoman. Following the resignation of former councilwoman Aniece Germain last week, Kristen E. Haroian, formerly the Ward 2 representative of the Cranston School Committee was nominated by the Cranston Democratic City Committee and sworn in during Monday’s city council meeting following a vote of five in favor, two against, and one abstention.

Council chambers were unusually full, mostly with Haroian’s supporters. President of the school committee and former mayor Michael Traficante, as well as several others spoke on behalf of Haroian. There was seemingly no question among those in attendance that Haroian was qualified and deserving of the role.

However, for council Republicans, Haroian’s qualifications were not the issue. 

“Appointing Krissy Haroian to the vacated seat of Councilwoman Germain amidst the circumstances of the councilwoman’s resignation in question is doing Krissy Haroian a disservice,” Councilwoman and Republican minority leader (and the sole abstention) Nicole Renzulli said, after making a motion to continue Haroian’s appointment to a later date. “She undoubtedly possesses the qualities to be here, look at all the support that’s here for her, and I think that what’s going on surrounding councilwoman Germain’s resignation kind of casts some doubt on the legitimacy of this.”

City Councilman Chris Paplauskas echoed Renzulli’s sentiments in challenges he would later make to the appointment as well.

In her motion, Renzulli made reference to accusations made by Councilwoman Germain following her resignation alleging that she was coerced into resignation by what she calls a “conspiracy” involving members of Cranston’s Democratic leadership, including City Council President Jessica Marino and Chair of Cranston Democrats Maria Bucci.

In the debate which followed, Democratic Councilman John Donegan said “I have no comment on the resignation, that’s not what I’m here to discuss this evening. What I’m here to discuss and to vote on is filling the vacancy. A continuation to this vote would be to deny the residents of Ward 2 their proper political representation on this body. They deserve the representation and that’s it.”

Following Germain’s resignation, it is the duty of the City Council to fill the vacancy, though whether or not that seat must be filled immediately is unclear. The relevant passage, in chapter 2 of Cranston’s City Charter dealing with elections and elective officers reads as follows:

“A vacancy in any of the offices covered by this chapter, occurring in the first six months of a two-year term or the first thirty months of a four-year term, shall be filled by a special election in the city or, in the case of a ward representative on the council, in the ward concerned… Any vacancy in the council or school committee other than as above provided for shall be filled by the council or school committee, respectively, for the unexpired portion of the term, provided that in the case of a council vacancy the position shall be filled with a person belonging to the same political party as the late incumbent and if the late incumbent had been a representative of a ward, with a person residing in the same ward.”


Preceding the City Council meeting, City Solicitor Chris Millea sent a letter to Colonel Darnell Weaver of the Rhode Island State Police, requesting an investigation into what he called “rather serious allegations” which he said came to his attention both through the media, and from a complaint by a member of the public.

He made clear that he had no personal or independent knowledge of the events, and that he was not privy to any conversations which occurred between “Ms. Germain, a member of the Council, and a third party.”

Millea went on to say the he felt it was his duty to request an independent body to review the allegations, and to ensure no laws were violated. He also said the decision to take the matter to the State Police, rather than Cranston Police, was made with Cranston Police Chief Colonel Michael Winquist.

Millea later told the Herald that he had no additional information beyond what’s been reported elsewhere which led him to take this action. “Everything I know about the situation with Councilwoman Germain I either read about in the papers or heard in the news, that’s it,” he said.

Regarding any alleged impropriety, Council President Marino made it clear during the city council meeting and afterwards to the Herald that she had received legal counsel from Council Attorney Stephen Angell in the days surrounding these events, though what that counsel was and when it was taken was not clear. No other members of City Council were made privy to this legal counsel.

She went on to say that “Solicitor Millea did not take one second to discuss this matter with me, which points to political agenda.”

Cranston Republicans have been calling for an investigation since immediately after Germain’s resignation. On Wednesday April 17, when the Herald first reported on Germain’s resignation, Cranston Republican City Committee sent out a press release calling for “an independent investigation by state or federal law enforcement officials into the extreme threatening and

intimidating tactics used by Council President Jessica Marino to get former Councilwoman

Aniece Germain (D-Ward 2) to resign.”

The Committee has since released two more press releases with similar messages defending the progressive Democrat Germain and attacking Marino, Cranston Democrats, the other Democratic members of the City Council, and Haroian, who in an April 19 press release was accused of “abandoning her position” on the school committee.

By April 22, the City Committee’s tone regarding Haroian had shifted, with language mirroring the remarks made by Renzulli and Paplauskas during the City Council meeting.

The press release, which quotes Cranston Republican Party Chairman John Colasante reads, “In light of the notification made by City Solicitor Christopher Millea, to the state police regarding Germain’s resignation under duress, by Marino and Democrat City Chair Maria Bucci, there is a serious ethical cloud over the council and Marino’s handpicked successor Kristen Haroian.”

He continues “This was not fair to Kristen Haroian who may well be qualified to be a council member. Instead, this looks like the last act in the play hatched by Marino to remove Germain and put Haroian on the Council.”

Marino responded to accusations made by Cranston Republicans on Facebook on April 19. She said:

“Let me be clear, when I am presented with allegations or evidence of improper and unethical conduct of a member of the city council in which I preside over as the President, it is my public duty to address them. The premise of these lies is false. I did not want Councilwoman Germain removed from council and my words are sincere that I valued her and respected her as a colleague. My actions over the last three years have shown how much I valued and respected her both in public and in private. I did not and would not ever blackmail someone and those charges are simply slanderous. Mrs. Germain could have remained on council and presented her case as part of an investigatory hearing pursuant to our city charter on the advice of legal counsel, but she chose not to do that and instead chose to resign.”


Meanwhile, whether former Councilwoman Germain’s conduct was improper and unethical in the first place remains unclear.

The former 501-C3 nonprofit on which Germain sits, Hope and Change for Haiti, lost its 501-C3 status in May of 2022, when it was automatically revoked by the IRS due to its failure to file tax returns for three consecutive years. While Germain has provided photos which appear to be Hope and Change for Haiti’s 990-EZ forms dating to from 2017 to 2021, the only tax returns the IRS has on file from the organization are from 2017 and 2018. It is not apparent as of this article’s publication why these documents were not filed.

Hope and Change for Haiti also lost its Certificate of Incorporation/Authority in September of 2023 through the Rhode Island Secretary of State’s office due to its failure to file an annual report.

According to Faith Chybowski, a representative from Secretary of State Gregg Amore’s office, “In RI, all non-profit corporations are created by filing articles of incorporation with the Business Services Division, but a non-profit is not automatically tax exempt. They must file with the IRS to obtain tax-exempt status. The most common tax-exempt status is a 501(c)(3) status issued to charitable organizations.”

She continued, “A non-profit with a tax-exempt status must maintain their status with both the Business Services Division and the IRS. To maintain their non-profit status with our office, the entity is required to file an annual report, maintain its registered agent/registered office, and pay its taxes.”

According to Germain, Hope and Change for Haiti stopped requesting donations as soon as they learned about the loss of their 501-C3 status. However, the organization has continued to host events, and their website still has an active donation link. Upon following the link, the website reads that “All contributions tax-deductible and will be acknowledged.” In an interview with WPRI on April 15, Germain acknowledged that the organization has accepted donations since losing its status.

It is unclear what responsibility Germain, the assistant director of Hope and Change for Haiti bears for what she describes as “consequential filing errors” or what the consequences of these errors may be, if any. It’s also unclear what ought to be the consequences of such errors.

Now that Germain is no longer a member of City Council, she is no longer subject to the City Council’s investigative power. However, it is also unclear whether the City Council would have had the authority to investigate such a matter in the first place.

Councilwoman Renzulli said in an interview with the Providence Journal “Our charter has a power to investigate, but it’s limited to matters of our official conduct, and Councilwoman Germaine’s nonprofit – whatever’s going on there, which I don’t know and I’m not going to prop up, I don’t know what’s happening there – [is] not related to her official conduct as a councilwoman.”

As of publication, there has been no comment from Rhode Island State Police as to whether or not they will be pursuing the investigation requested by City Solicitor Millea.

Despite the factious rhetoric and conflicting narratives, however, one thing is certain. Kristen Haroian will serve as Ward 2 City Councilwoman for the remainder of the term, after which she intends to run officially for the Ward 2 seat. After being sworn in on Monday night, Haroian took her seat next to Councilman Donegan and participated in the remainder of the city council meeting, listening to a presentation by the Cranston Neighborhood Tree Planting Project, and casting her first vote in favor of referring an amendment to Chapter 17 of the Code of the City of Cranston to the ordinance committee.

ward 2, council, investigation


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here