Raimondo: Aponte should resign as City Council president

Governor Raimondo speaks to reporters on May 16, 2017. (photo: Ted Nesi/WPRI)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Gov. Gina Raimondo on Tuesday joined a growing chorus of local leaders asking Providence City Council President Luis Aponte to resign in the wake of his indictment, even as Aponte insists he will not step down.

Raimondo said Aponte should step aside as the council’s leader, and added: “You know, if it were me I would probably resign [from the council] also. I think that’s his decision.” Noting that she voted earlier this month to recall Aponte’s former No. 2, Kevin Jackson, the governor added, “The voters of Luis’s district should decide if they want to recall him.”

Raimondo – a Democrat who was endorsed by both Aponte and Jackson in 2014 – expressed dismay about the ongoing turmoil at City Hall.

“The whole situation with him, on the heels of Kevin Jackson, it’s just so frustrating and upsetting and disappointing and unacceptable, and just erodes people’s confidence in their government leaders – the vast majority of whom are working hard for their constituents,” she said.

“It’s inexcusable,” she added. “It’s got to stop.”

Aponte has been urged to resign as president by Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza and 13 of 14 City Council members, following his indictment last week for misusing campaign money.

Aponte has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and on Monday he told a group of supporters at a news conference that he will not heed the resignation calls. “To step down from the council presidency would be an admission of guilt,” he said.

Raimondo argued the Jackson and Aponte affairs show why lawmakers should approve legislation she introduced earlier this year that would bar politicians with outstanding Board of Elections fines from seeking re-election and mandate random audits of campaign accounts. The governor said her legal team disagrees with the ACLU that the first of those proposals is unconstitutional.

“We’ve got to do something,” she said. “People are sick and tired of it. I’m sick and tired of it. We have to take some action.”

Appearing on WPRI 12’s Newsmakers last Friday, Elorza said the City Council leadership’s legal woes also have a negative effect on economic development in Providence.

“I’ve had people who speak directly with out-of-state developers that are interested in investing in the city, and they’ve reached back out to me and said, as long as we have sort of that cloud of that representation on the City Council they want nothing to do with the city,” he said.

Raimondo she has not been specifically told by any out-of-state investors that they won’t consider Providence due to the council’s troubles, but said she was “not at all surprised” by the mayor’s comments.

“Investors, companies, people – they have choices,” she said. “And so if they feel like they’re not getting a fair shake here, they are going to go to Boston. They’re happy to go some place else.”

Raimondo added: “It’s like a kick in the gut to those of us who are working seven days a week trying to bring jobs to Rhode Island.”

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook