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If Avedisian Steps Down, What Happens Next? [UPDATED]

Warwick City Hall
Warwick City Hall. Surplus
Warwick City Hall.

Update: April 25, 2:15 p.m.

NBC10’s Brian Crandall reported via Twitter that the RIPTA board voted to approve Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian as the new CEO of the agency.

The vote followed a statement of support by RIPTA Riders Alliance, according to Alana Cerrone of ABC6.

Avedisian did not attend the board vote, according to media reports.

Original post: April 25, 10:30 a.m.

WARWICK, RI — What happens if Mayor Scott Avedisian leaves the mayor’s office?

As media outlets continue to scramble for confirmation that Avedisian may be appointed as CEO of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority as early as today, the next question being asked is how Warwick will select its next mayor.

The Warwick City Charter spells out the steps to take in case of a vacancy — and it all comes down to timing.

According to Charter Article III Chapter 3.4, 180 days is the cut-off point for an automatic special election. If the mayor leaves more than 180 days before the next election, which this year is May 5, a special election is required.

If the vacancy occurs after the 180-day mark, the city council has the option of calling a special election, although it is not required, and the city council president would serve as acting mayor until the next election on Nov. 6.

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Avedisian’s departure would result in complete Democratic control of Warwick’s executive office and legislative branch; City Council President Joseph Solomon would become the first Democratic mayor of Warwick since 2000, and his party holds a 9-0 lock on the city council.

Then-City Council President Gerald Gibbons served as acting mayor from late 1999 to early 2000 after then-Mayor Lincoln Chafee was appointed to the U.S. Senate following the death of his father, the late U.S. Sen. John Chafee. Before Gibbons, there had not been a Democratic mayor since 1992.

Avedisian was first elected mayor on Feb. 15, 2000.

To date, only 2016 challenger Richard Corrente has formally announced his intention to run for mayor. Corrente is the subject of a Rhode Island Board of Elections complaint filed by the Warwick GOP that alleges he placed a political ad without paying for it, and did not properly report campaign expenses like rent for his office.

In the 2016 election, Avedisian defeated Corrente by a 65-35 margin.

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The candidacy filing period for the November election will be held June 25 through 27.

Local media outlets have also contacted potential candidates, including state Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey, who told WPRI-12 that he would not run for mayor, and House Majority Leader Joe Shekarchi, who declined comment to WPRI.

Chafee, who served as Warwick’s mayor from 1992 to 2000 and later as U.S. Senator and Rhode Island Governor before switching his affiliation to the Democratic party in 2012, told the Providence Journal that he is not planning to run for mayor.

The RIPTA board of directors is scheduled to meet this afternoon at 1:30 p.m. to potentially select a new CEO.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with information about Warwick’s acting mayor in 2000.

Joe Hutnak
Author: Joe Hutnak

Co-Founder and Editor-at-Large of Warwick Post. For Warwick Post-related inquiries or communications, email editorjoe.warwick@gmail.com