Aponte’s leadership team now wants him out; calls for ‘no confidence’ vote

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The group of Providence City Council members who made Luis Aponte their leader in 2015 are now telling him it’s time to go.

Seven councilors, including President Pro Tempore Sabina Matos, Majority Leader Bryan Principe and Finance Committee Chairman John Igliozzi have scheduled a special meeting Monday where they are expected to take a vote of “no confidence” in Aponte, who was indicted this week.

“It is imperative that we keep the city moving forward in a positive direction and continue to focus on the important work for the people of Providence,” the group said in a statement. Councilors Jo-Ann Ryan, Michael Correia, Mary Kay Harris and Terry Hassett also signed on to a letter forcing the special meeting.

Aponte, a 53-year-old Democrat who has represented Ward 10 since 1999, was indicted Wednesday on one count of unlawful appropriation, one count of embezzlement – both felonies – and two misdemeanor counts of misuse of campaign funds between all stemming from a State Police investigation that started last year. He has pleaded not guilty.

The announcement of the no confidence vote comes after a group of five council members and Mayor Jorge Elorza called for Aponte to step down as president. But the development is significant because it marks the first time since the indictment that Aponte’s leadership team is publicly stating he should resign.

Councilwoman Carmen Castillo, who represents Ward 9 on the South Side, is now the only member of the council who has not called for Aponte’s resignation.

There is no current mechanism in the Providence Home Rule Charter or the rules of the City Council that can force Aponte to resign. Both the council president and president pro tempore are four-year positions.

Behind the scenes, Matos, Igliozzi and others have been urging Aponte to step aside as president. The scheduling of the no confidence vote is a sign councilors didn’t believe Aponte was moving quickly enough to resign.

The turmoil surrounding Aponte comes as the council prepares to formally declare vacant the Ward 3 seat held by former Majority Leader Kevin Jackson. Jackson, the longest-serving member of the council, was recalled by a resounding margin last week, nearly a year after he was arrested for allegedly embezzling from a youth sports organization and his campaign fund. He too has pleaded not guilty.

If Aponte does agree to resign, Matos would become the acting president, according to the city charter.

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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