Providence Council Grinds To A Halt As President Refuses To Step Down

May 19, 2017

Just two councilors attended the Providence City Council meeting Thursday, the body's first full meeting after a vote of “no confidence” in its leader, President Luis Aponte. That vote, and calls to step down, have dogged Aponte since his indictment last week on felony charges of embezzlement and misuse of campaign funds. 

Aponte has maintained his innocence and refused to resign his leadership post. But with so few members present, he was forced to adjourn Thursday's meeting, lacking a quorum.

Aponte chastised his fellow councilors for the apparent boycott.

“There’s 60 items on [the agenda], including appointments, a tax stabilization agreement, and other matters of public business that needed to be done. You can fight with me the rest of the week if you want, but you’ve got to show up here and do your job,” Aponte said after the failed attempt to gather a the council for its regularly scheduled meeting.

Revolt against the council president comes at an inopportune moment, as the city nears the deadline to hammer out a new budget. But the councilors calling for Aponte to step aside said new leadership is crucial for the body to move forward. 

Speaking on Thursday evening, Aponte showed no signs of aquiesceing to their demands.

“The arguments I’ve heard is that it makes it more difficult to do business while there’s a cloud looming,” said Aponte. “Not showing up does not support that argument. You’re making a decision not to show up, not to do your job, not to do the job the people of the city elected you to.”

Aponte said he was unaware of his fellow councilors' plan to skip the meeting.

“You can be angry at me, you can be disappointed in me, I’m here doing what I’m supposed to be doing,” said Aponte.

Earlier this week, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza announced the city law department was looking into ways to strip Aponte of his presidential duties, allowing the council to work around him without removing him from office.