This is the on-going saga of Town Council member Lisa DiBello and the Dog Pound, a now former beach concession business run under contract with Charlestown by DiBello’s long-time housemate and business associate Deborah Dellolio. After a short re-cap, I'll continue my report based on a new collection of town documents I received under the state open records law.
|The Dog Pound meat wagon|
In the last article, I described how hard it was for
to come to terms with Dellolio over a contract for her Dog Pound to provide concession services at both town beaches for the first time. Charlestown
Dellolio and the town negotiated past the deadline needed for the Dog Pound to start serving the town for the Memorial Day Weekend.
The contract almost never happened because Dellolio refused to concede on the town’s demand that she provide the town with a detailed list of which cars were going to be parked in the four primo spaces the town had set aside for the Dog Pound. Dellolio also balked at the town’s demand that she open the Dog Pound for business whenever the town beaches were open and staffed with lifeguards (roughly 10 am – 4 pm).
At the very last minute, the town allowed Dellolio to slide on a vague commitment in the contract that she would cooperate with the town to prevent abuse of those spaces.
That “deal” apparently fell apart in less than two weeks, because at the June 15 Town Council meeting, all hell broke loose.
|DiBello launches preemptive attack on DiLibero and|
DiBello pointedly denied several charges that actually had not been voiced by any of the other Councilors, at least not in this meeting.
Looking back at that meeting, I see now that DiBello knew there was going to be trouble over her personal involvement in her housemate and business associate Deborah Dellolio’s beach concession business, the Dog Pound. Her early meeting attack on DiLibero and combativeness over seemingly trivial matters now seems to have been preemptive.
As DiBello, DiLibero, Avedisian and Gentz traded charges and counter-charges, it became clear to me, as I sat in the audience, that something strange was going on with the beach concession. This is what led me to start the research that led to the series of articles..
As I noted in the last article, the summer season for the Dog Pound started late because of hang-ups over up contract clauses, especially the issue of who would be using the reserved parking spaces.
Dellolio fought tooth and nail, insisting that she would not, could not and should not have to say who was using those parking spaces.
Based on the Council members’ battle on June 15 and subsequent memos filed by Parks and Recreation Director Jay Primiano, the underlying issue was whether Lisa DiBello was using space reserved for workers at the Dog Pound meat wagon.
Primiano filed additional allegations and back-up evidence prior to the July Town Council meeting. However, DiBello did not attend the July Council and asked Town Council President Gentz to postpone any discussion of the issues Primiano and DiLibero had raised without her being there.
Gentz consented to DiBello’s request and the July Town Council meeting was one of the most boring and non-contentious meetings in recent
history – you’d have to go back to the time when Deb Carney was Town Council President to find a more collegial meeting. Except on nights when Jim Mageau attended. But I digress…. Charlestown
The evidence and charges Primiano filed and the issues DiLibero had raised were effectively set aside and not raised at another Town Council meeting.
But that did not mean that all was calm and happy on the beach.
That became clear on on September 15, when Dellolio paid the town the third and final payment of $2002 ($6006 total for both beaches, less than what other contractors averaged in prior years just for Blue Shutters alone!)
Along with her final payment, Dellolio asked that the Dog Pound’s contract option for a second year on the same terms be granted.
Starting on September 20, I started a series of Progressive Charlestown investigative reports based on weeks of research. These reports described conflicts of interest, nepotism, workers comp, wage and hour issues, and no recent Health Department inspections.
But town managers had other issues with the Dog Pound’s compliance with the terms of the contract.
According to a September 20 memo by Parks and Recreation Director Jay Primiano to Administrator DiLibero, Dellolio and the Dog Pound crew put in very erratic hours. Sometimes they showed up late. Sometimes they packed it in early. Sometimes they didn’t show up at all.
Primiano made the point that his staff was there, the lifeguards were in their chairs and there were potential customers on the beaches. But no Dog Pound meat wagon.
These absences did NOT include the Hurricane Irene storm days.
|The Dog Pound - open for business?|
So on October 24, Primiano sent Dellolio the certified letter turning down her request for a second year and telling her the town would re-bid the beach concessions contract in January or February.
Dellolio responded on November 2 to complain that this wasn’t fair and to “request” a written explanation why she was not renewed, including the names of the persons who made the decision, and also asked for reconsideration.
Thus endeth the Dog Pound file but not the questions.
For example, why didn’t Dellolio and her crew work more hours? The only way for them to make money was to get out there and peddle some hot dogs. We now know from the recently released Pound Papers that they hired at least one employee - Lynn Fiske (formerly Lynn Craig) as “Dog Pound LLC Assistant Concessionaire.” [Note: there is no Dog Pound LLC in the Secretary of State database]. Fiske, along with DiBello and Dellolio, was co-founder and officer of the controversial A Ray of Hope charity. And besides Lynn Fiske (Craig), who else worked the two meat wagons and filled those four primo town beach parking spaces?
Was it ever actually established whether or not DiBello worked for the Dog Pound, beyond her claim last June that she did not?
Will the Dog Pound be allowed to bid again? In earlier articles, I noted the sections of the Rhode Island ethics law that seem to make it illegal for a town contractor to be a housemate and business associate with a town official with power over the contractor. That was certainly the case when DiBello was Parks and Recreation director and still is the case since one of the most important Town Council responsibilities is the town budget.
Add in the issues I uncovered on workers compensation, wage and hour law and the lack of a recent Health Department inspection, and the reasons to disqualify the Dog Pound from bidding mount up.
And, of course, there’s a lot of history. DiBello is about to file a lawsuit against the Town and against the Town Administrator. This makes the web of relationships that include Dellolio as a town contractor, impossibly complicated.
Lastly, there is the issue of money. The very first article I wrote on DiBello and Dellolio and the Dog Pound noted that with Dellolio working on the beach,
taxpayers have gotten short changed. She only paid the town $6,006 for the rights to work both beaches, apparently whenever she felt like it. That’s less than the average payments the other concessionaires have paid to the town for Blue Shutters alone. Charlestown
Hopefully, we’ll have nice new facilities at our town beaches when the next summer season starts. For a truly fresh start,
deserves to have concession services that provide beach goers with good, healthy food and town taxpayers with some good revenue. Charlestown