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NAACP’s Jim Vincent voted out as President in questionable voting conduct and process

Jim Vincent has served as President of the NAACP-Providence Chapter for over a dozen years – and at least 6 terms of office. Always accessible to speak on issues of national or local significance, Vincent is one of several “go to” advocates on behalf of equity, civil rights, and in particular dealing with local police and crime issues.

The news that Vincent lost an online election rolled out like a wave over the Rhode Island community. While many people talked and speculated among themselves, people in an official position were silent. Even Vincent wasn’t speaking publicly about what had happened, but a very brief conversation with WPRO’s Tara Granahan exposed the tone many were feeling – a shaky voice, an admitted “surprise” at the outcome, and leaving the door open for the potential that this decision wouldn’t hold.

People used the words “apparent”, “unofficial”, “strange”, “inexplicable” and “awkward voting rules” with “lots of unanswered questions” to describe the vote process – and the outcome.

The vote process

Vincent lost by 14 votes. A potential voting group of “less than 300” members.

The NAACP used an online, national system called Election Buddy and worked with the national NAACP office. Members received an email telling them that they would have a 3 hour window to vote on Thursday night. All votes were online even though some member attended an in-person and ZOOM meeting at John Hope Settlement House. The time constraint seemed important, but the brief voting window wasn’t explained.

The NAACP national office conducted the election electronically via Election Buddy. Members were elected to the Elections Supervisory Committee: Dr. Luis Munoz, Kyle Bennett, Dwayne
Hackney, Crystal Hall, Dennis Vasconcellos.

Prior to the voting link coming in by email there was no slate given and most people, especially new members, thought they were voting only for president. They did not know there was a challenger or that there were board positions to vote on.

About an hour into the meeting emails were sent out that there was a glitch and the vote would be further delayed.

An email came in about 5 minutes before the vote to NAACP members from Catala titled, “Please vote Gerard Catala for NAACP President. I humbly ask for your vote”, introducing himself and including photos of his family/children.

Then the Election Buddy link came along with the time cutoff for voting.

The voting included a challenger to Vincent – Gerard A. Catala. It was the first time his name was mentioned in the voting process. Other offices were also listed with names but no description of who they were, what their qualifications were or the description of the positions being voted on.

Some people googled the names to learn more. The ballot did not indicate endorsed candidates for office, and we only learned that there was an official slate today when some members confidentially told us about it.

VOTE RESULTS

Notification to members to vote says election runs from 3pm to 9pm – however, votes were collected until 10:15pm.

Comparing the time frame noted in the email which says the votes had to be submitted by 9pm to an analysis by Ballot Buddy sent results in on Saturday morning, 16 of the 167 ballots submitted came in after 9pm. 5 of the 16 came in after 10pm, as noted by Ballot Buddy’s time stamp. Vincent lost by 14 votes.

From Ballot Buddy

167 ballots submitted of 290 eligible voters (1 opened) — 58%
5 ballots added after the election started.
234 emails and 94 SMS sent – 0 notices queued
20 notices undeliverable.

In the Voter Audit tab there is a number and time stamp next to each one of the ballots submitted.

https://secure.electionbuddy.com/voter_audit/MYQCT4LDVTGY

Results come in

The next morning an email came in that votes were completed and you could go on the original ballot link to see the winners. But the ballot link disappeared once it was used to vote on originally. Numerous attempts to find out who won were not answered. Vincent himself responded saying he lost by 14 votes.

NAACP office does not respond

After numerous requests to Nicole Tingle, Secretary of the NAACP-Rhode Island office, and Shirley Francis Fraser, resulting in email response to direct inquiries to the national office, those inquiries were made, to no response.

Early Saturday evening a press release from the local chapter was sent out announcing results – with no other requested details:

The NAACP Providence Branch held our 2022 Unit Elections on November 17, 2022. This election was conducted by the NAACP National office via Election Buddy. The election results are as follows:

  • President: Gerard Catala
  • 1st Vice President: Nicole Tingle
  • 2nd Vice President: Saikon Gbehan-Isijola, esq.
  • 3rd Vice President: Shirley Francis Fraser
  • Secretary: Keith Lancaster
  • Treasurer: James Daley
  • Assistant Treasurer: Vincent Marzullo
  • At-Large Executive: Felicia Nimue Ackerman; Marylouise Joseph

Congratulations to the elected candidates of the NAACP Providence Branch. 

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When reached with the news, Ray Rickman, executive director of Stages of Freedom, who has worked with Vincent on a dozen projects during the last 20 years said:

“In this community seldom does a person get the opportunity to be of service to the community in the way James Vincent has.. The 109 year old  NAACP Civil Rights organization affords just such an opportunity and James has made all of us proud with the many actions he has taken to improve Civil Rights both in Rhode Island and across the nation. I wish him well in the weeks and months ahead as he explores his next steps.”

From Jim Vincent

Reached last night for comment, Jim Vincent said, “I am disappointed that after 12 years of hard, dedicated work, the Branch membership, inexplicably, decided to go in a different direction. I’m not going anywhere! I will continue to serve my community.” 

From Jim Vincent on with Tara Granahan:

Follow-up & Unanswered questions

We wrote to the staff members at NAACP-Providence who had sent out the voter information. As of 2pm Friday, no information has been received. The questions that we asked to be answered are:

  1. Why was the voting time so limited – 3 hour window instead of the 6 hour window?
  2. Prior to the ballot, why was the slate of people running with descriptions or links to more information not provided?
  3. Where was the description of each office candidates were running for?
  4. Why were “endorsed” candidates not significantly indicated on the ballot?
  5. What do the by-laws say about how a winning vote is determined? Majority only?
  6. What does the national NAACP recommend about the concerns on this voting system?
  7. Will there be a recount of votes with such a slim margin?
  8. If there is a recount, will verification of membership status be included
  9. How will the NAACP deal with votes cast after 9pm – or 20:00:00 hours?
  10. When do elected officials assume office?

Who is Gerard Catala?

Gerard Catala, ran in the 2022 primary for a Providence City Council seat for Ward 9. He got the least number of votes, losing the election. On June 28, 2022, the State of Rhode Island Board of Elections issued a statement saying they “convened in executive session to consider an Audit of the campaign finances of former Providence City Council candidate Gerard C. Catala. The Audit, conducted by the Board’s Campaign Finance Division found multiple violations of campaign finance law. As a result of the findings, the Board voted to refer the case to the Office of Attorney General for their consideration and possible prosecution.” We checked with the AG’s office and no response was received by publication time, but there are reports that the investigation is happening and is “ongoing”.

Catala is listed as the owner/operator of Catala Construction, with his company established, according to LinkedIn in 2010, but there is no active license after 2012.

In a Boston Globe story, Catala was speaking at a Black Live Matter POC event in 2018 involving police abuse – “I’m not for defunding the police. To me, that doesn’t really make too much sense. I actually think we need to grow our police force. But we need to have a police officer class that’s comprised of members from our community. I think that will be a big help. – Catala said he grew up in Providence and is friends with Providence police officers. He said they “do remarkable community policing,” and that there needs to be more reflection of the community within the force.”

His campaign website – votegerardcatalaforpvd.com – had most of the information gone but several videos were still on the site – one is here:

Confidential sources have told us that Catala has had some interaction with police and there are records going back to 2018 with several infractions, but all cases have been resolved and closed, as far as could be found.

We reached out to Catala twice, on the morning after the election, and later in the day. asking for his statement of priorities and background. We have not heard back. Catala’s Twitter account is “protected” so you can’t view his tweets – and his Facebook page has no posts since 2018.

NAACP-National

Requests to the NAACP locally and nationally, Catala, and Vincent are pending. After repeated requests to the national office and local office for by-laws wee were referred to the NAACP’s website and provided a link – documents that are “the constitution” and “by-laws” are embedded as a pdf but both documents have been deleted:

At least four requests were made to the NAACP’s national office, to Jonah Bryson, media/communications contact. All to no response. Multiple requests were made to the local office – Nicole Tingle – to forward us a copy of the by-laws detailing election procedures – as of this publication only the direction to get it from the national office, leading to the blank page was provided.

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The NAACP is very active in voter issues and transparency. Their mission is “to achieve equity, political rights, and social inclusion by advancing policies and practices that expand human and civil rights, eliminate discrimination, and accelerate the well-being, education, and economic security of Black people and all persons of color.

Voter suppression and voter access are major initiatives of the NAACP. Their slogan in the mid-terms was Power Your Vote.

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Editor’s Note: Jim Vincent has been an occasional contributor to RINewsToday, with his last article published in November of 2021.

This is a developing story.

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