PROVIDENCE — House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi plans to remove Representative Charlene M. Lima as deputy speaker, Lima confirmed Monday.
Shekarchi, a Warwick Democrat, plans to announce leadership positions and committee assignments when the House convenes on Tuesday. House spokesman Larry Berman said he could not comment on those decisions Monday.
But Lima, a Cranston Democrat, told the Globe she met with Shekarchi at 11 a.m. Monday and he told her he plans to replace her as deputy speaker.
“He told me I could no longer have the title or office,” she said. “Basically, he said I was too independent on issues. I’m out there voicing my opinion on issues, not always in line with him.”
Shekarchi kept Lima as deputy speaker when he became speaker in January 2021, replacing Nicholas A. Mattiello, a conservative Cranston Democrat who lost his district seat.
Since then, Lima has voted against major pieces of House legislation, such as a gun bill that limits magazine capacity to 10 rounds and the Act on Climate, which made the state’s goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions mandatory and enforceable.
Lima said Shekarchi did not mention those votes Monday, but she said he did note that she introduced a bill to require the state to conduct a peer-reviewed study before mandating face masks for school children.
“Basically, he said a lot of people complain about me,” Lima said. “They don’t like me because I’m always in the press with my own views, that I get up and speak my mind.”
But Lima contended that Shekarchi’s leadership team did not include her in discussions of major legislation, as Mattiello had. For example, she said she and other legislators were “blindsided” by the Act on Climate vote. “The reason I was so independent is because I was not part of anything or included in anything,” she said.
“I do feel very hurt that he did not appreciate all my loyalty to him that I had from when he was majority leader and vying for speaker,” Lima said. “He would come to my house and say repeatedly ‘My name is Joe Shekarchi but I call myself Joe Shiitake because I’m like a mushroom — always in the dark because (Mattiello) doesn’t include me.’ Well, he was complaining about the very thing that he did to me.”
Lima said “some of the progressives” disliked her contrary viewpoints and criticism.
“But I have a right to express my position for my constituents,” she said. “They don’t want to hear it. They became the mini-Mattiellos they were complaining about. If they don’t like criticism, they want to shut you up and cancel you. That’s the new cancel culture.”
Lima said Shekarchi also was “upset” that she did not sign an open letter to the Boston Globe that nearly two dozen female House members signed in support of Shekarchi’s re-election.
“He did bring up the letter, but I said I wasn’t going to play games with progressive women and sign a letter,” she said. “I told him, ‘I’m not signing but I do support you.’ I told him, ‘I will come in your district and walk with you.’”
Lima said Shekarchi also brought “wild accusations that I put his Republican opponent in the race.” But, she said, “I don’t even know who the Republican opponent is.”
In the November election, Shekarchi beat Republican Dana James Traversie, winning 60 percent of the vote to his 40 percent.
Lima was first elected to the House 30 years ago, and she said she has been part of — and temporarily removed from — three other leadership teams.
For example, she said former speaker William J. Murphy, a West Warwick Democrat, “threw me out for one day and then said ‘I want you back in.’” She said former speaker Gordon D. Fox, a Providence Democrat, “threw me out, but then we became good friends.” And she said Mattiello “threw me out and changed his mind.”
Lima stirred controversy last year when she took out an ad in the Cranston Herald seeking an opponent to challenge her fellow Cranston Democrat, Representative Brandon C. Potter. But she said Shekarchi couldn’t hold that against her because Potter had tried to recruit an opponent to challenge her. She said the only difference is that “when I do things, I do them straight up and in the press.”
She said, “I have a great deal of respect for Mattiello because he was up front and in your face — he didn’t play games.”
Lima said she does not know who the new deputy speaker will be. But she said she assumes it will be a woman, and she said Shekarchi told her it “would not be a progressive.”
“(Shekarchi) asked me what position he could give me instead,” she said. “And I said, ‘The speakership.’”