Mayor Elorza: Aponte investigation is ‘deeply, deeply troubling’

Mayor Jorge Elorza and City Council President Luis Aponte meet in the mayor's office. (Photo by Dan McGowan/WPRI)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza called a grand jury investigation into City Council President Luis Aponte “deeply, deeply troubling” Thursday, but stopped short of calling for Aponte’s resignation as leader of the council.

The city confirmed this week it received a grand jury subpoena for payroll records related to Aponte last month, but it remains unclear whether the investigation is related to accusations from the R.I. Board of Elections that Aponte misused political campaign funds.

“This is an ongoing investigation,” Elorza, a Democrat, said. “There hasn’t been an indictment yet, so we don’t know what direction this is going to go in, but just the fact that we’re talking about this is deeply, deeply troubling.”

The Rhode Island State Police confirmed Wednesday there is an active investigation into Aponte.

Elorza has largely avoided publicly commenting on the unconnected legal troubles of Aponte and Councilman Kevin Jackson, who was arrested last year on charges that he embezzled from a youth sports organization and misused campaign funds. Jackson has pleaded not guilty. He faces a recall election May 2.

Still, Elorza administration officials have acknowledged the legal questions about members of the council have been a distraction for the city this year.

“Anything that comes up that has to do with ethical issues or corruption issues are issues we just need to weed out,” Elorza said.

Aponte, a Democrat who was elected to the City Council in 1998 and became council president last year, said Thursday he has not appeared in front of a grand jury related to his case.

Aponte said he believes the public can still have confidence in the council.

“We’re moving forward, we’re working hard, changes are being made every day,” Aponte said. “Council is pushing forward efforts to move the city in the right direction. So the

question if people have confidence in the City Council is absolutely yes.”

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan