PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The chair of the Providence Public Building Authority is defending himself ahead of a City Council meeting Tuesday night where his removal is supposed to be considered due to alleged “racially offensive” remarks.
Emmanuel Echevarria, the city’s chief human resources officer, told the council that Stanley Weiss made comments that “are objectively considered to be offensive on the basis of race.”
The incident involved Demo Roberts, the newly appointed director of public property, who is Black. According to Weiss, at at the end of a meeting where Roberts expressed a need for “room to breathe” as he got used to his new job, Weiss responded that the authority was “not standing on your head” or “neck.” Weiss expressed uncertainty about which word he used; Roberts declined to comment last week.
The City Council has scheduled an unusual special meeting on Tuesday to “bring charges” against Weiss — essentially, Providence’s version of impeachment — under a provision of the city charter that allows the council to remove an appointee from their position.
In a two-page letter Monday to Providence City Council President John Igliozzi, Weiss argued that members of Mayor Jorge Elorza’s administration are using the matter as a pretext to oust him from leadership of the PPBA. He has been the authority’s chairman since he was first appointed by then-Mayor Buddy Cianci in 1993.
“This is not an attempt to protect a victimized individual,” Weiss wrote in the letter.
“I am certainly not a bigot or anything like that,” he wrote. “The fact is, I am a child of immigrant Jewish parents who fled the killing of Jews in Russia. I know racism, bigotry and discrimination; that is not who I am.”
Weiss went on to say he believed the Elorza administration is targeting him because of his efforts to assert the independence of the authority as a watchdog over city borrowing.
“I have already made waves objecting to the city’s use of sloppy and antiquated construction documents, which leave the taxpayers exposed to unnecessary liabilities,” he wrote.
Steph Machado and Tim White contributed to this report.