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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Just in: AG decision on complaint against Town Councilors

Also if you can't
By Will Collette

On March 1, several of the leaders of the local group fighting the Whalerock wind farm proposal filed an Open Meetings Act complaint against former Council members Forrester Safford and Candi Dunn and present Council member Gregg Avedisian. The complaint alleged that these Council members held a secret meeting with Whalerock developer Larry LeBlanc at a wind energy conference at URI. There, according to the complaint, the Council members offered to help LeBlanc get his project approved, provided that he came forward with the proposal.

Thus, according to the complaint, called Areglado v. Charlestown Town Council,” the Whalerock project came to be born. It caused a civil war-like rift within the CCA and has roiled the town ever since. Its effects are still felt in the on-going turmoil over wind energy. The complaint made the serious charge that an unlawful conspiracy was the beginning of it all, it looked like the complainants presented a pretty strong case.

Now we have the decision.

Special Assistant Attorney General Lisa A. Pinsonneault sent her decision to the complainants last Thursday, and cc'd the Town Solicitor. She ruled against the complainants, holding that they failed to prove the essential element of their complaint - that the three Council members "did not speak with each other....did not engage in a collective action at the Wind Forum nor did they take any action on matters over which they had supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power."

The bottom line from the AG's office: "we find no violation."

The letter ends by noting that the Attorney General has closed the file. The complainants have the right to take their complaint to Superior Court within 90 days. However, if the complainants were unable to connect the dots to win their argument before the Attorney General, the odds of winning in Superior Court are not very favorable.

Town Solicitor Peter Ruggerio argued in his response to the complaint that the complainants did not have evidence that contradicted the sworn statements of the three Council members that they did not meet as a body, didn't conspire, and didn't make any decisions. Ruggierio called it a "question of credibility."

In the end, that's exactly how the Attorney General's office saw it: the Councilors sworn they did not conspire and the complainants did not have direct evidence to contradict those sworn statements.

Here is the entire 7-page decision: