Luis Aponte, who was part of the cutting edge of Latino politics when he first served on the Providence City Council in 1999, resigned Tuesday after pleading nolo contendere to a felony charge of embezzlement.
In a one-sentence letter to the city clerk, Aponte wrote: "Please accept this letter as my official resignation as a member of the Providence City Council."
The Council plans next week to formally declare the Ward 10 (Lower South Providence, Washington Park) seat open and to call for a special election. State law requires that election to be held within 90 days.
Aponte was once seen as a person with a bright future in politics. However, despite briefly serving as Council president after winning that seat in 2015, Aponte was brought down by a case involving his personal finances. He pleaded to using almost $14,000 in campaign funds for his personal use.
["The] felony conviction of former Councilman Luis Aponte for stealing from his campaign funds once again underscores the importance of holding public officials accountable when they break the law and erode the public’s trust in government,” Attorney General Peter F. Neronha said Monday.
Neronha added: “Using one’s campaign fund to pay personal expenses is a form of public corruption because it may lead to improper influence over official acts, particularly by large-scale donors to whom the public official may feel particularly indebted. Mr. Aponte’s resignation as a result of his felony conviction is welcome news for the people of Providence, who can move forward with representation that is committed to serving them, and no one else.”
Staging a special election to fill Aponte's former seat will cost tens of thousands of dollars.