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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Mageau's overblown, unfair attack on DiLibero

Mageau target: Town Administrator
Bill DiLibero
In a July 20 Westerly Sun op-ed, Jim Mageau takes another run at trying to discredit Charlestown Town Administrator William DiLibero, using in this instance the Town Council’s recent positive evaluation and pay raise for DiLibero.

This will not do, says Mageau, because the Council failed to take into account the numerous crimes and misdemeanors, instances of malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance DiLibero has committed in Charlestown and throughout his career and multiple, though unspecified, failures.

I’m no acolyte of Bill DiLibero; I certainly don't agree with his every action, but then that’s normal. However, Jim Mageau’s latest public attack on him is overblown and inaccurate.

Here’s why.

I wish I could give you a link to Mageau’s letter but unfortunately it is hidden behind the Westerly Sun’s odious pay wall. Lacking that link, you'll have to trust (or not) my recap of Mageau's points.

Mageau begins his assault by condemning the Council’s handling of DiLibero’s evaluation. This evaluation was supposed to be done privately, in Executive session, which is normal procedure.

Instead, the Council, at DiLibero’s suggestion, discussed DiLibero’s job performance in open session. Incredibly, Mageau deemed this switch from a closed discussion to an open discussion to be a violation of the Open Meetings Act and has filed a complaint to that effect with the Attorney General.

He says, ominously, that “The Attorney General’s office has opened an investigation into this allegation.” And I’m sure they will since they are required by law to investigate any and all such complaints. But not until they stop laughing.

Mageau and his allies have run a strange but energetic campaign against DiLibero ever since DiLibero fired Mageau’s protégé and political ally, Council member Lisa DiBello. Mageau’s campaign intensified in March after DiBello filed an administrative complaint against the town, DiLibero, and eight other present and former town officials, for engaging in a five-year-long retaliatory conspiracy against her.

DiBello’s lawyer told the Westerly Sun in May that DiBello may ask the RI Human Rights Commission to allow her to withdraw her administrative complaint and permit her to go directly into state Superior Court with a lawsuit against the town and the individual parties.

Mageau cites DiBello’s legal action and what he characterizes as numerous other complaints and lawsuits against DiLibero as proof that “Mr. DiLibero’s failed job performance is no secret.”

At least it’s no secret to Jim Mageau. In addition to DiBello’s complaint, there is a pending unfair labor practice charge against DiLibero filed by the Teamster union representing town hall workers.

Mageau often cites DiLibero’s tenure as Hopkinton Town Administrator as evidence of his unsuitability. Mageau and his allies often cite two very public disciplinary actions by DiLibero. One was the 2006 firing of interim tax assessor Margaret Hardiman for irregularities in the town’s tax assessments.

But Mageau's crucial evidence of DiLibero's malfeasance is the 2008 Mauti v. Scuncio Hopkinton lawsuit. Fired Hopkinton building inspector Charles Mauti sued recently retired Hopkinton Police Chief John Scuncio, the town of Hopkinton, several named police and town officials (including DiLibero) and 20 unnamed John and Jane Does for violating his civil rights after he complained about problems he saw in the construction of a new Hopkinton Police Department headquarters.

Mauti’s main complaint is against the Police Chief and, secondarily, against the Westerly Police, for persecuting him after they discovered that he did not have a valid Rhode Island driver’s license (a job requirement) and had been driving around for years on an active Arizona driver’s license.

DiLibero is named as a defendant because he didn’t stop Chief Scuncio from picking on Mauti. Instead, DiLibero suspended Mauti for using his official position for his and his wife’s personal benefit. Represented by the public employee union AFSCME, Mauti appealed DiLibero’s disciplinary action. However, the arbitrator in his case ruled DiLibero’s disciplinary actions were justified.

But that doesn’t stop Mauti from linking DiLibero to recently retired Chief Scuncio and a host of others in a retaliatory conspiracy.

This all sounds eerily like Lisa DiBello’s claim that DiLibero was part of a five-year-long retaliatory conspiracy that led to DiLibero firing her last year. Maybe it’s just a coincidence.

I have no particular self-interest in defending DiLibero. After reading all the paperwork noted above, it looks to me like DiLibero made some mistakes. But Mageau's attack is so exaggerated that it demands a rebuttal.

Are two lawsuits based on conspiracy claims and a fairly minor labor beef enough to indict DiLibero as a bad manager or a failure?

Mageau’s silliest claim, that the Charlestown Town Council used secrecy to protect DiLibero when they took his evaluation from a closed Executive session into an open Council meeting, is just too bizarre.

Mageau ends his July 20 op-ed by castigating the Town Council for the “mind-boggling” failure of not “terminating [DiLibero] because of his irresponsible behavior” Mageau says “These infractions will not go unchallenged and in the final analysis it will be the town’s taxpayers who will have to pay the piper.”

This comes from a guy who hasn’t paid a nickel in taxes to Charlestown in more than ten years. That hasn't stopped Mageau from filing more than a dozen lawsuits and administrative complaints against the Town, and losing nearly all of them. But that's OK, because the cost was all on the town taxpayers' tab, not his.

He says the Town Council is irresponsibly exposing town taxpayers to liability when he's the one who just filed a frivolous Open Meetings Act complaint and a lawsuit to force Charlestown to pay his criminal defense legal costs for assaulting Cliff Vanover in Town Hall.

Does anyone have an estimate for how much Mageau's lawsuits, administrative complaints and, of course, his criminal assault prosecution has cost Charlestown taxpayers?

Author: Will Collette