“I stand before you as a man that’s defeated,” said Kobi Dennis in front of the Cranston Street headquarters of unsuccessful Independent candidate for Mayor of Providence Dee Dee Witman. “I’m defeated because 19 people that I had asked, on the strength of my reputation, to work at the polls for this candidate, have yet to be paid.”
Dennis is a community activist who ran his own campaign for Mayor as a Democrat in the primary. He lost to incumbent Democrat Jorge Elorza, who went on to beat Dee Dee Witman in the General election on Tuesday.
Dennis was talking about the people he helped recruit that joined the ranks of Witman supporters who stood outside every polling place in Providence on Tuesday during the election, standing in the rain, holding signs and passing out campaign literature to voters. These poll workers were promised $60 for half a day, $120 for a full day. Polls were open from 7am to 8pm.
“My own mom was out there in the rain,” said Dennis. “Not for the $120, but for me.”
“It’s minimal money to some people, but a lot of these people, they don’t work, some of them are elderly. Some young folks, some college students,” continued Dennis. “All [the campiagn] told me to do was fill out a W-9 with their name, address and social security number on it, and on the following day report to the Dee Dee Witman campaign [headquarters] on North Main Street, and they would be paid.”
Dennis estimates over 100 people have yet to be paid by the Witman campaign, and to make matters worse, it appears that white people working for the campaign, and all the campaign higher-ups, we’re paid while Black and Latinx people were not.
“I am a black man and I’ve never pulled the race card in the State of Rhode Island,” said Dennis. “I’ve never said anyone mistreated me because of my dark skin. Today, I’m feeling that way. My good friend Lisa Scorpio, who did not have the proper paperwork for her people, went down to the headquarters and told them ‘I need to get paid for my six to seven people that worked for me.’
“You know what Lisa Scorpio got as a Caucasian woman? She got paid,” said Dennis.
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Scorpio was unaware of what was going on with other poll workers when she went in to get paid. “I went in and I sat there while they wrote checks for all my people and for me,” said Scorpio. “I got paid the very next day. And my people got paid, and there were no W-9s and they paid me.
“But Iasha was there an hour before me. Kobi was speaking to her before me. Why was I the only one who got paid?” asked Scorpio. “I’m the only white one, and I’m the only one who got paid.”
Iasha Hall arrived at the North Main Street headquarters to get paid Wednesday morning. When she arrived, the office was in the process of being shut down and cleaned out.
Hall says that Ryan Johnson, who coordinated the poll workers for the Witman campaign, told her that there was “a problem with the numbers.”
On Thursday Hall was told that the checks were going to be put in the mail, but on Friday Hall learned that the Witman campaign was now claiming that the Rhode Island Board of Elections told the campaign not to give out any more money “until further notice.”
According to Dennis, the Board of Elections had nothing to do with it.
“I told [Witman] this is not the way to go out,” said Hall. “You’ve got young kids who stood out in the rain that deserve to get paid.”
Of 175 people who worked the polls and needed to be paid, Hall believes that there may be 100 people who have not been paid. That’s over $10,000 in potentially stolen wages.
“I’m embarrassed,” said Dennis. “I’m ashamed. I actually feel a little stupid mainly because I know what people are going to say: ‘That’s what you get. That’s what you get Kobi Dennis. You should have stayed with the Democratic Party. That’s what you get. You went with the Independent woman and she independently screwed you.”
Kobi apologized to the people he got involved with the Witman campaign.
Dennis also said that many of the Latinx community members that worked for the Witman campaign are afraid to come forward because, “they know she’s a powerful woman and they know she is surrounded by a lot of powerful, rich people.”
Calls to Dee Dee Witman and Ryan Johnson went unanswered and have not been returned.
Below are pictures of the poll workers working through the rain on Tuesday for the Witman campaign.
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