Prov. council president accused of violating campaign finance regulations

Luis Aponte faces accusations regarding personal usage of campaign funds

Senior Staff Writer
Friday, October 14, 2016

Luis Aponte, president of the Providence City Council, stands accused of illegally diverting assets from his campaign fund for personal use, according to a report released by the Rhode Island Board of Elections Sept. 29.

The report acknowledges that Aponte reimbursed his campaign account for $15,642 to cover costs that had been incurred. Of the total, $1,729 had been used for personal expenses by Aponte’s ex-wife — Gwendolyn Buckley Andrade — who also currently serves as the treasurer of his campaign.

The Attorney General’s office has received the report from the BOE, but Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin has not yet reviewed those documents, said Amy Kempe, Kilmartin’s public information officer. It is not yet known whether or not there will be an official investigation, as a review by the attorney general could “take us in any number of directions that we can’t even start to float,” she added.

While there has not been an official charge against Aponte, a statute in Rhode Island General Law states clearly that funds contributed to a political campaign may not have “any use other than expenditures related to gaining or holding public office.”

The statute also specifically lists examples of personal use that are prohibited, including “any residential or household items, supplies or expenditures.” The BOE report shows that funds siphoned by Aponte for private use were spent on “groceries and gas as well as iTunes and Netflix charges,” WPRI reported.

Representatives of Aponte notified the BOE about possible “inadvertent” expenditures approximately 19 months ago, said Artin Coloian, Aponte’s lawyer. The parties were negotiating a consent decree on the matter before Aponte’s case was forwarded to the attorney general, he added. An agreement of this nature would allow for a settlement without an admission of guilt.

“We reimbursed the fund in its entirety,” Coloian said, adding, “We were proactive throughout and cooperated fully with the Board of Elections.”

Aponte was under similar scrutiny in February when it was revealed that the politician had failed to properly report a bevy of information regarding his campaign’s finances over the course of five years. In that instance, Aponte neglected to file 25 reports with the BOE, which resulted in over $47,000 in fines, WPRI previously reported.

Aponte also currently faces an investigation by the state Ethics Commission over a vote on zoning reclassification that took place in April. Allegations of impropriety arose in that case after a Providence man, Allen Hance, claimed Aponte voted for the benefit of his own landlord, the leader of a local landlord lobbying group, in rezoning a property.