Matos pushing rule change that would make her City Council president

Acting Council President Sabina Matos. (Photo by Corey Welch/WPRI 12)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The acting president of the Providence City Council is proposing a change to the rules of the council that would make her the president for the rest of the term.

Sabina Matos, a Democrat from Ward 15 who was promoted to acting president when Councilman Luis Aponte resigned from the post last month, will introduce a resolution at Thursday’s meeting that would change the council rules to guarantee that the president pro tempore would become the permanent president in the event a sitting president cannot finish his term.

Matos’s colleagues elected her president pro tempore in 2015.

Reached Tuesday, Matos said she intends to send the resolution to the Council Rules Committee, a panel that has never met in the current term. She said her goal is to “clarify the intention of the city charter.”

The Providence Home Rule Charter requires that both the president and president pro tempore be elected by their colleagues at the beginning of a term, but it is silent about the term length of the two leadership positions. The charter also states that the president pro tempore will serve as leader of the council in the event of an absence of the president, but does not state what happens when a president is removed from office or resigns.

Aponte, a 53-year-old Democrat who has represented Ward 10 since 1999, was indicted on May 10 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. He resigned as council president on May 19, which made Matos the acting president.

Matos is among several members of the council who have been attempting to put together the eight votes needed to become the permanent president, but no one has called for a vote.

The majority of the City Council has the power to change the body’s rules at any time, but a charter change requires voter approval.

Because the Council Rule Committee has not met in the current term, no chair of the committee has been elected. The council rules call for the members first named to the committee to serve as chair and vice chair until an election occurs. In this case, recalled Councilman Kevin Jackson was the first person named to the committee and Matos was second. That would make Matos the current chair.

If the Rules Committee approves Matos’s proposal, it would be considered by the full council. The council hasn’t changed any rules since 2007.

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Dan McGowan ( ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan