Aponte resigns as Providence council president

Photo: Dan McGowan/WPRI-TV

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Nine days after he was indicted on four charges for allegedly misusing his campaign money, Providence City Council President Luis Aponte has announced he has resigned his leadership post.

“Serving the people of Providence is one of the greatest honors of my lifetime, and I remain committed to representing my constituents in my capacity as councilman,” Aponte said in a statement issued at 4:30 p.m. Friday. “While it has been a privilege to serve my colleagues as council president, I believe this is the appropriate time to step down from my leadership position and focus on the best opportunities to serve the needs of my community.”

Council President Pro Tempore Sabina Matos will immediately become the acting president, according to the Providence Home Rule Charter. It’s still unclear if and when the council will vote on a permanent president.

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

The City Council had already scheduled a special meeting for next week to change its rules in an attempt to remove Aponte from office. The majority of the all-Democratic council skipped a meeting Thursday because of Aponte’s refusal to step aside.

Aponte’s resignation 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 on May 2, 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.

Aponte becomes the fourth council president in the last 33 years to not complete his four-year term leading the city’s 15-member legislative body, but the first to resign because of an indictment.

In 1984, Council President Joe Paolino Jr. was elevated to mayor following the first resignation of Vincent A. Cianci Jr. In 1996, James Petrosinelli died while serving as president. And in 2002, Council President John Lombardi became mayor when Cianci was forced to resign for a second time.

Matos, a state employee who has represented Ward 15 in Olneyville since 2011, will be the third female president of the council. She currently serves as chairperson of the powerful Urban Redevelopment, Renewal and Planning Committee, which allocates millions of dollars in federal grants to projects throughout the city. Her husband, Patrick Ward, was recently elected chairman of the Providence Democratic City Committee.

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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