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Governor asks Warwick mayor to resign from Dealers’ Board amid plate dispute

Target 12
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WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Gina Raimondo has asked Warwick Mayor Joseph Solomon to resign from the Motor Vehicle Dealers License and Hearing Board less than a week before a dispute involving his car dealership is scheduled for a hearing before the body.

Raimondo’s press secretary, Josh Block, said in an email, the Governor’s Office has reached out to Mayor Solomon and asked that he resign.

Given that Mayor Solomon is now scheduled to appear before the board, we asked him to resign his position to avoid any appearance of impropriety, Block continued.

The meeting agenda was posted this week.

Last week, Block told Target 12 that Solomon still meets the qualifications for the board but said the mayor is expected to fully comply with DMV requests.

Solomon has not immediately responded to a request for comment on the call for his resignation from the board, but earlier on Thursday gave no indication he would resign.

He did, however, say he was ready to recuse himself from the agenda item involving his dealership, Legal Motors.

The case that prompted the show cause hearing involved a request from the DMV for Solomon to surrender his dealership license and all of his dealer plates connected to Legal Motors. 

According to Department of Revenue spokesman Paul Grimaldi, the request followed a site visit to the West Shore Road business, which reported no sales last year.

Grimaldi said the DMV monitors all dealerships that don’t sell any vehicles in a given year to determine if the Dealers’ Board should ask a business to relinquish its license.

Solomon returned three plates but refused to surrender the rest, saying his dealership is still in business.

Solomon also insisted in an earlier interview that a dealer has never been asked to give up its license due to a lack of sales.

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 has been a car dealer since the early 1990s. He is 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.

Since Target 12 first revealed the squabble two weeks ago, Solomon’s dealership has apparently sprung to life.

On Thursday there was a new sign, activity in a garage and a few cars on the lot, a sharp contrast from earlier this month.

Solomon has said he is not violating any regulations by keeping his license and the minimum number of plates.

I won’t be mayor forever, Solomon said. 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.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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