Oscar Vargas, who is challenging Providence City Councilmember Sabina Matos for her Ward 15 seat, sat before the Providence Board of Canvassers today to answer questions about his residency. In a complaint to the Board, Matos claimed that Vargas does not live in Providence, on Dora Street, but in Warwick, on Irving Street.
In answer to the Board’s questions, Vargas repeatedly said that he lived in Ward 15, at his 150 Dora Street address, with his 18 year-old daughter and brought in four witnesses to corroborate. Vargas said that he is separated from his wife, Claudia Vargas, who lives in Warwick with his two minor children.
Testifying before the board seemed difficult for Vargas, who was not comfortable revealing details of his personal life or financial dealings. When asked to verify some of his financial claims by revealing his tax returns, Vargas said he would not do that, but introduced a letter from his accountant to back his claims.
The complaint from Matos claims that Vargas and his wife cast fraudulent votes in the last three election cycles, because they allegedly live in Warwick, not Providence. In defending himself, Vargas may have incriminated his wife, who lives at 63 Irving Road in Warwick and has her sons attending public schools in Warwick. Claudio Vargas has voted in Providence, Ward 15 in the last 3 election cycles, according to the complaint by Matos.
The hearing started with a bang as Alberto Cardona, the attorney representing Vargas at the hearing, asked Commissioner Betty Bernal to recuse herself and accused her of not fully revealing her biases at a previous hearing. Bernal, said Cardona, did not reveal that she had worked on the Matos campaign in the past, had made two donations to the Matos campaign in the past, and is a personal friend to Matos. Cardona said that he was filing a complaint with the Providence Ethics Board later this afternoon.
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Bernal declined to recuse herself.
There was no decision made by the board today.
“Today’s hearing made it clear that many questions remain regarding Mr Vargas’ claimed residency in Providence and whether he meets the requirements to be a candidate for city council,” said Matos in a statement. “As a result of some of today’s testimony, I expect that other state and local agencies may now become involved.”
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