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Kevin Jackson Resigns As Providence Council Majority Leader

Published

Rhode Island Public Radio’s Political Analyst Scott Mackay talks with News Director Elisabeth Harrison about Providence City Councilman Kevin Jackson's arrest.

A day after his arrest, Kevin Jackson stepped down Thursday as majority leader of the Providence City Council and as a member of the council's Finance Committee. Jackson remains a member of the council.

Council President Luis Aponte said a caucus will be held soon to select a new majority leader.

Aponte said Jackson stepped down "because of his concern for the [council]," and since he wants the council "to move the city's work forward."

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Kevin Jackson, the second-ranking official on the Providence City Council, was arrested by State Police on Wednesday on charges involving campaign finance violations and the alleged misappropriation of more than $127,000 from a youth track and field organization.

Major Joseph Philbin said Jackson is charged with violation of Rhode Island contribution and expenditure reporting requirements; unlawful appropriation of funds; filing a false document with a public official; and embezzlement. Two of the charges are felonies and two are misdemeanors.

In a statement, State Police allege that Jackson, 57, misappropriated "$12,074.06 in campaign contributions for his personal use and embezzling $127,153.02 from the Providence Cobras, a youth track and field organization."

State Police Colonel Steve O'Donnell said an investigation by his agency's Financial Crimes unit stemmed from a referral from the Attorney General's office, "after receiving the results of an audit of Mr. Jackson’s campaign finance reports conducted by the Rhode Island Board of Elections."

"The investigation revealed that Mr. Jackson allegedly spent $12,074.06 in campaign funds on what appears to be personal expenses to include apparel, healthcare expenses, cash withdrawals and a $4,000 withdrawal used to pay a fine imposed by the Rhode Island Board of Elections," O'Donnell said in his statement. "A review of Mr. Jackson’s campaign reports compared to his campaign finance bank account statements also revealed an underreporting of contributions and a failure to accurately report expenditures."

"While further reviewing Mr. Jackson’s campaign finance reports, investigators observed numerous campaign-related expenses that were deducted from the bank account of the Providence Cobras, a youth track and field organization founded by Mr. Jackson and heavily funded by grants awarded by the City of Providence," O'Donnell added. "Mr. Jackson oversaw the finances for the organization and was the sole debit card holder for the Cobras’ account. A full analysis of the Cobras bank records revealed that Mr. Jackson allegedly embezzled approximately $127,153 from the Cobras since 2009 in the form of various cash withdrawals and personal expenses." 

Jackson was released on his own recognizance after making an initial appearance, clad in cargo shorts, a T-shirt ("Believe in Magic," it said), and with his hands handcuffed in front of him, in Providence District Court. Magistrate Joseph P. Ippolito Jr. ordered the case moved to Superior Court, with the next appearance scheduled for July 15.

Jackson's lawyer, Artin Coloian, said, "There's an ongoing criminal case, and I'm not going to comment on any of the specifics. It's still the very, very beginning of this process. He's entitled to a vigorous defense, and he's doing to get one."

Asked for comment as he was leaving court, Jackson said, "Not at this time," and he stepped into a car that quickly drove away.

Coloian described Jackson as "a selfless elected official and community activist. He always puts the concerns and needs of his constituents and athletes before his own. He's looking forward to his day in court, so he can exonerate himself."

Jackson became majority leader of the Providence City Council when Luis Aponte rose to the top post of council president in 2015. Jackson has served on the council since first winning election in 1995.

By 9:54 pm on the day of Jackson's arrest, one of his East Side colleagues, Councilor Seth Yurdin -- who preceded Jackson as majority leader -- was calling for his resignation.

“It is a sad day for the City of Providence to have a sitting council member arrested on criminal charges of embezzlement, filing false documents, appropriating campaign funds and violating campaign finance laws," Yurdin said in a statement. "Kevin Jackson needs to immediately step down from his position as Majority Leader of the Council and resign his seat.  his is the third action taken by the State of Rhode Island against Jackson while he has served on the Council - this criminal action following two separate civil actions.  His continued presence on the council is a distraction from the serious challenges that Providence faces.  Residents of Providence and all of Rhode Island deserve better.”

Yet two top Providence officials did not call for Jackson to step down.

“I am surprised and saddened to learn of Councilman Jackson’s arrest," Council President Luis Aponte said in a statement. "Kevin has been a colleague and friend for many years. At this time, I am awaiting further details of the investigation to unfold, and I will reserve judgment while the process continues. I wish Kevin and his family all the best during this difficult time.”

In a statement, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza said, "Details are still emerging, but ensuring integrity and accountability is essential for moving Providence forward. As elected officials, we should be held to a higher standard and any violation of that trust is unacceptable."

In 2014, the state Board of Elections referred concerns about possible campaign finance violations by Jackson to the attorney general's office.

He represents the Mount Hope section of Providence in Ward 3.

This post has been updated.

Kevin Jackson Resigns As Providence Council Majority Leader
Kevin Jackson Resigns As Providence Council Majority Leader