CRANSTON, R.I. — A city official who wanted to include an elderly woman in a photo op about a snow shoveling program persuaded a middle-aged man to dress up in a wig, earrings, lipstick and a dress.
The man stood next to the mayor of Cranston at a news conference touting the program and wore a name tag that said ‘‘Cranston Senior Home Resident.’’
WJAR-TV uncovered the ruse in reports this week.
It is unclear why officials decided to use a stand-in for a woman during the Jan. 5 news conference, which was held at the senior center where the man worked as a van driver.
Snow seen in front of the senior center during the event was also apparently a pretense, according to the Providence Journal. The paper reports the “snow” was actually a pile of ice shavings from a nearby ice rink.
Sue Stenhouse, the city’s director of senior services, organized the news conference. She resigned last week, according to Rob Coupe, the city’s director of administration. Stenhouse, a 2006 Republican nominee for secretary of state, did not return messages requesting comment.
Coupe refused to explain what happened, saying it was a personnel matter.
Mayor Allan Fung, the 2014 Republican nominee for governor, did not return a phone message seeking comment.
People who answered the phone at the senior center said they had no comment.
Two city councilmen told The Providence Journal they believe the stunt was meant to deceive the public. City Council President John Lanni said he would ask the mayor for an explanation.
Meanwhile, a hair salon owner told WJAR-TV that she unwittingly supplied the wig for the caper to David Roberts, the van driver who transports seniors to the salon. Roberts did not immediately return a message left at his work.
‘‘He says to me, ‘Elaine, do you have a wig that I could borrow? I have to get dressed as a senior,’’’ Elaine Mancuso said. She later realized why he wanted it.
‘‘I said, ‘Oh, my God. He wanted it for that.’ I probably would have given him a better wig if I had known.’’
Watch video of the press conference: