Target 12

Warwick mayor refuses to give up car dealer plates

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — The Division of Motor Vehicles has asked newly elected Warwick Mayor Joseph Solomon to consider giving up his vehicle dealership license and dealer plates due to a lack of sales, but Solomon said despite not selling any cars last year, he is still in business.

The law states that "for each one hundred (100) sales per year, a dealer will be issued three (3) plates."

Solomon reported zero sales last year from his business, Legal Motors, down from 13 in 2017 and 18 in 2016, according to Department of Revenue spokesperson Paul Grimaldi.

A notice sent to Legal Motors in December stated that Solomon and the dealership "no longer qualify for the number of plates already issued."

"In a separate conversation with Solomon, DMV staff asked him to consider relinquishing his dealer's license," Grimaldi said.

Potentially complicating the matter, Solomon is currently one of the five appointed members of the R.I. Motor Vehicle Dealers' License and Hearing Board, the state entity that regulates dealership issues such as this one.

Solomon was appointed by Gov. Gina Raimondo in 2015 to a term that runs through 2021.

The first-term Democrat said he never received the notice and will not give up his license, but did surrender three of his six plates last week.

"Once it came to my attention, I complied because I firmly believe that the rules and regulations indicate that additional plates beyond three are based on the number of sales," Solomon said.

According to the DMV, the notice that was sent to Legal Motors included a page with the regulation underlined: "for each 100 sales per year, a dealer will be issued three plates."

Solomon acknowledges he did not sell any vehicles last year and has moved a total of 31 since 2016.

As far as a dealer giving up all of his plates for selling less than 100 cars in a year, Solomon is emphatic.

"It has never happened," Solomon told Target 12, twice. 

According to Grimaldi, the DMV dealers' license office did a site visit to Legal Motors about a week ago and determined Solomon is not operating in the location where his license is assigned.

Solomon countered by saying he still has inventory and plans on selling vehicles while he is mayor and after he leaves office.

"I'm still in business," he said. "I won't be mayor forever. Small businesses are important to this city."

The next step could be bringing Solomon before the same board on which he sits.

"Any dealership recording no sales in a given year is monitored to determine whether the Dealers' Board should seek to have the business relinquish its license," Grimaldi said.

Solomon told Target 12 he is not in violation of any regulations by keeping his license and the minimum number of three plates.

Solomon won his first term in the November general election. He had already been serving as acting mayor because he was City Council president when longtime Mayor Scott Avedisian stepped down to take over as CEO of RIPTA.

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


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