Providence City Council President Luis Aponte said Monday he will not step down from his leadership position, despite growing demands to do so.
The calls for resignation came quickly after Aponte was indicted lack week by a grand jury on two felony counts, one for embezzlement and another for misusing campaign money.
On Monday, surrounded by dozens of supporters in his South Side city ward, Aponte said he maintains his innocence and stepping down would amount to an admission of guilt.
“In my heart of hearts I believe in our system of justice and look forward to my day in court,” Aponte said to cheers from supporters. Many were wearing black t-shirts with the words “It’s a South Side thing, you don’t understand” printed in English and Spanish.
“In this country we are still a nation of laws not a nation of political expediency,” said Aponte. “I’m presumed innocent, and I will move forward in that vein and in that light.”
Directly following his announcement, Aponte went to City Hall. There, he presided over a special city council meeting. During the meeting, a majority of his fellow councilors issued a vote of “no confidence” in his presidency.
Aponte himself voted against the resolution, which has no binding power. Councilman Kevin Jackson, who lost a recall effort earlier this month, was absent. Only Councilwoman Carmen Castillo abstained.
“I believe it’s not fair, because they [haven’t] proven he’s guilty,” said Castillo following the vote. “We’re supposed to be a team, so like a team we’re supposed to support each other.”
Late last week, other councilors were already seeking Aponte’s resignation. The group of councilors who called the special meeting said the body needs new leadership to move forward. In addition to his fellow councilors, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza has also asked for Aponte to vacate his post.
Last year, when Councilman Kevin Jackson was indicted on similar charges, he quickly stepped down from his post as majority leader. However Jackson remained on the council, eventually prompting the recall election.
“I’ve served this community most of my adult life,” Aponte said during the press conference before the special meeting. “I ask my fellow councilors to allow me, and afford me the opportunity to do just that.”
Aponte has served as council president since 2015.