WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — A DMV case involving the Warwick mayor’s refusal to give up his car dealer plates is now scheduled for a hearing before the board that the mayor is a member of, the Target 12 Investigators have learned.
The show cause hearing involving Mayor Joseph Solomon’s Legal Motors is scheduled for next week, as the 13th of 15 items on the agenda.
Solomon said he will recuse himself. Thursday night, Gov. Gina Raimondo’s press secretary Josh Block said her administration is requesting that Solomon resign from the board altogether.
According to Department of Revenue spokesman Paul Grimaldi, Solomon was asked to consider giving up his vehicle dealership license and six dealer plates earlier this month after a site visit by DMV investigators to Solomon’s West Shore Road business.
Vehicles with dealer plates are not subject to motor vehicle taxes, but anyone using a dealer plate must be an employee of a dealership.
Solomon gave up three of the plates but kept three, telling Target 12 that despite no sales last year, and a total of 31 since the beginning of 2016, his dealership is still in business.
Grimaldi said the DMV monitors all dealerships that record no sales in a given year to determine if the Dealers’ Board should ask the business to relinquish its license.
When Target 12 first reported the controversy, Solomon’s lot was empty.
On Thursday, there was activity in a garage, a few cars out on the lot, and what appeared to be a new sign.
Solomon, who is currently one of the five members on the Motor Vehicle Dealers’ License and Hearing Board, was appointed to the unpaid position by Raimondo in 2015 to a term that runs through August 2021.
Block said Solomon “still meets the qualifications for service on the board,“ but emphasized he is expected to “fully comply with DMV requests.“
“We expect all board appointees to stay in compliance with relevant rules and requirements,“ Block said.
The rules and requirements are where the DMV and Solomon seem to disagree.
Solomon told Target 12 he is not violating any regulations by keeping his license and the minimum number of three plates.
Grimaldi said a DMV notice sent to Legal Motors in December stated Solomon and the dealership “no longer qualify for the number of plates already issued.“
According to Grimaldi, DMV staff asked Solomon “to consider relinquishing his dealer’s license“ in a separate conversation.
Solomon said he never received the December notice and agreed to give up three of his plates because “rules and regulations indicate that additional plates beyond three are based on the number of sales.“
The law provides a new dealership with three plates and an additional three plates for every 100 cars that are sold.
While Solomon did not say whether or not he can reach 100 sales this year, he emphasized that he will not give up his license nor the rest of his plates.
“I’m still in business. I won’t be mayor forever,“ Solomon said, adding he plans on selling cars while and after he’s in office. “We have to create an environment that promotes business and people who are trying to do the right thing and not necessarily harass or force them out of business.“
Solomon has been a car dealer since the early ‘90s and he’s also an attorney.
The board includes two car dealers, one state police officer, one Department of Revenue representative and one attorney, with Solomon filling the attorney seat despite being a car dealer as well.
The longtime city council member won his first term as mayor in November. He moved up from council president to acting mayor when Scott Avedisian stepped down last May after he was appointed CEO of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA).