PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The R.I. Ethics Commission voted to Tuesday to investigate a complaint filed against Providence City Council President Luis Aponte stemming from an April vote to rezone a property owned by Aponte’s former landlord.
The complaint, filed by city resident Allen Hance, accused Aponte of having a “business associate relationship” with Keith Fernandes, a well-known rental-property owner who successfully convinced the City Council to allow his property located at 53 Doyle Avenue on the East Side to be reclassified from three units to five units earlier this year.
At the time of the vote, which was approved 11-0 and then 13-0 by the City Council, Aponte lived in an apartment on Blundell Street that is owned by Fernandes. Aponte has since moved to an apartment on Indiana Avenue that is not owned by Fernandes.
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“I’ll cooperate fully with the investigation and hope this matter will end quickly,” Aponte said Tuesday.
Both Aponte and Fernandes have denied they are in business together. Aponte said he was unaware Fernandes was seeking a zoning variance and Fernandes said he intentionally did not have conversations with members of the City Council to “keep politics out of it.”
“It’s publicly known that I voted for the zoning change,” Aponte said. “Had I known it was associated with Keith Fernandes, in an abundance of caution, I would have recused myself.”
Reached Tuesday, Jason Gramitt, an attorney for the commission, said there is no set time frame for when an investigation will be complete, but reviews are typically completed within six months. Although the commission has the ability to fine violators of the state code of ethics up to $25,000, penalties are usually much smaller.