With Aponte still in charge, 12 of 14 Providence councilors skip meeting

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence City Council business has come to a halt – at least for one night.

Twelve members of the council did not show up for Thursday’s meeting, sending a message to indicted Council President Luis Aponte that they are unwilling to work with him as long as he is their leader.

Only Aponte, from Ward 10, and Ward 9 Councilwoman Carmen Castillo attended the meeting. The council is supposed to have 15 members, but Ward 3 Councilman Kevin Jackson was recalled from office on May 2. With no quorum, 61 matters – including a resolution declaring a vacancy of the Ward 3 seat and a tax deal for a $50-million real estate project – went unaddressed.

“We are working on alternate ways to conduct city business,” Councilwoman Sabina Matos, Ward 15, told Eyewitness News after the meeting. The council is expected to call a special meeting for next week, but it’s unclear if members intend to take any action against Aponte.

A statewide grand jury indicted Aponte last week on one count of unlawful appropriation, one of embezzlement – both felonies – and two counts of misdemeanor misuse of campaign funds stemming from a state police investigation into his alleged mishandling of his political campaign account between December 2013 and December 2015.

Gov. Gina Raimondo, Elorza and 12 members of the City Council have all called for Aponte to resign as president, but he held a press conference this week to declare he intends to remain in his leadership position. The City Council voted 12-1 on Monday to declare it has “no confidence” in him. Aponte himself was the only no vote.

After the meeting ended, Aponte said he was unaware his colleagues were not planning to attend, suggesting, “I’m here doing the work I’m supposed to be doing.”

“You can fight me the rest of the week if you want,” Aponte said. “You’ve got to show up here and do your job.”

The City Council Finance Committee held a public hearing on several proposed tax stabilization agreements prior to the scheduled City Council meeting. Councilman Michael Correia was also seen in City Hall but declined to attend the meeting.

Ward 8 Councilman Wilbur Jennings was spotted sitting in his black minivan parked outside City Hall after the city clerk declared the meeting had no quorum. Asked why he didn’t attend, Jennings said, “There needs to be leadership changes.”

Reached by phone later in the night, Correia said he’s disappointed “it has come to this,” referring to Aponte’s refusal to step down as president.

“I didn’t sign up for this,” Correia, from Ward 6, said. “I signed up to help my neighborhood.”

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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