PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Less than an hour before his colleagues voted “no confidence” in his leadership following his indictment on charges related to his alleged misuse of campaign funds, a defiant Providence City Council President Luis Aponte refused to resign from his post.
Aponte made his announcement before more than than 100 supporters – some wearing black T-shirts that read “It’s a South Side thing, you don’t understand” – at a press conference outside the Washington Park Library Monday afternoon.
“To step down from the council presidency would be an admission of guilt,” Aponte said, drawing cheers from the crowd. Notable attendees included state Sen. Harold Metts, state Rep. Joe Almeida, former Councilman Davian Sanchez and former Providence School Board President Keith Oliveira.
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A 53-year-old Democrat who has represented Ward 10 since 1999, Aponte 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.
Aponte said he was “disappointed” that a statewide grand jury decided to indict him because he felt “that I had owned up to my mistakes and was seeking to correct them.” He did not elaborate on what mistakes he made. He said he intends to work proactively “to clear my name and confront these charges lobbed against me.”
“We’ve been fighting for the people of the city of Providence for a long time,” he said. “I’ve served this community most of my adult life. Today, I ask my fellow councilors to allow me and afford me the opportunity to do just that.”
Many of Aponte’s supporters joined him in City Hall to watch as 12 councilors took a vote of “no confidence” in the council president and called for his immediate resignation. Aponte was the only councilor to vote against the motion and Councilwoman Carmen Castillo abstained from voting. Mayor Jorge Elorza has also called for Aponte to resign.
After the vote, Councilman David Salvatore said Aponte’s refusal to resign was insulting.
“It’s an insult to the men and women who reside in the city of Providence,” he said. “He should step down as City Council president for the betterment of the city.”
Aponte’s legal troubles came as the council prepares to formally declare the Ward 3 seat held by former Majority Leader Kevin Jackson vacant. 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.