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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

UPDATED: Case Closed on Slattery’s latest caper

Slattery admits acting without authorization, and to breaking public promise
Those files are locked away
By Will Collette

UPDATE: The Attorney General's office responded to my request and by letter dated December 21, closed the file.

Charlestown Town Solicitor filed a response with the Attorney General to my open records complaint that Council Vice-President Dan Slattery needed to disclose the materials he collected when he conducted his “investigation” of allegations of wrong-doing at Town Hall.

The Town’s response included a sworn affidavit from Slattery where he admits he had no authorization to conduct this investigation, that it was his own personal quest, and although he brandished his collection of “evidence” and offered to show it to other Council members, he actually reneged on that offer when he turned down a request from Council member Gregg Avedisian.

After Slattery’s admissions that he violated Council rules by conducting a personal interrogation of Town staff and broke his public promise, I saw no further reason to run up the town’s legal tab, and have withdrawn my open records complaint. He makes it quite clear that his often repeated principles of open and transparent government only apply to others and not to himself.

As I said from the outset, I never believed the charges of wrong-doing that sparked Slattery’s crusade – this is all related to the Friends of Ninigret Park flap – so I doubted there was much more than some official records, many of which have already been revealed, in Slattery’s “investigative” folder.

However, I felt that since Slattery had made such a spectacle out of his "investigation" and his amassed "evidence," it seemed only right that the public had a right to know what he found. So I asked for the records under the state Access to Public Records Act (APRA). I was initially denied access by our Town Clerk because she did not have them and Slattery claimed the records were exempt.

Following the course of action for the appeals process, the matter ended up on the desk of Lisa Pinsonneault, the assistant Attorney General who handled open records and meetings issues. I filed a supplemental statement and Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero filed the Town's response.

To read the complete filing by the Town Solicitor, including Slattery’s sworn statement, click here.

The first issue is whether Slattery's "investigation" was done as a personal crusade or whether it had town authority.

Last spring, there was an uproar in the Council over Council member Lisa DiBello’s alleged interference with town staff at the beaches. Town Council President (and Slattery’s CCA colleague) Tom Gentz reminded the Council members that under the rules of the Council, whenever a Council member feels the need to question staff, it needs to be done through the Town Administrator. Even after the issue of how Council members are supposed to follow protocol, here is how the Town Solicitor describes Slattery's conduct:

From the Town Solicitor's memorandum

Slattery admits he did not follow that rule. I found that especially odd since Solicitor Peter Ruggiero made this introductory comment: "Councilmen [SIC] Slattery, a retired federal Department of Justice investigator [emphasis added] conducted his own personal investigation of the situation in response to the citizen's complaint." 

Is that how Slattery did his work for the Justice Department? I'll bet going off on "personal investigations" made Slattery real popular at DOJ. Here is Slattery's version of what he did:

From Slattery's sworn statement

As he states, his interrogation of town hall staff and collection was done all on his own, without town sanction, and in direct violation of the protocols that he and the other Council members agreed to.

Slattery also admits that when he gave the Council his report – and took heat from fellow Council members for his breech of the rules –he held up his folder of “evidence”:

From Slattery's sworn statement
He skips over the part where he offered to show the file to any other Council member - though Town Solicitor Ruggiero's remarks below make that point clear. But he does admit that when Councilor Gregg Avedisian took him up on his offer on November 29, Slattery reneged on his promise and turned Avedisian down.

From Slattery's sworn statement
As our Town Solicitor describes the events - including the public promise to show the file to other Council members that Slattery left out :
From the Town Solicitor's memorandum
With Slattery's sworn admissions that he violated Council rules, conducted his own personal crusade and broke his public promise to disclose the material he collected to his fellow Council members, I saw no point in seeing whatever it was that he collected. We already have the Mageau files. So I decided to save the town money and dropped the complaint.

Slattery makes a great show of being a crusader for openness and transparency in government. He is a stickler for the rules. But those principles only apply to others, but not to himself. There are words to describe someone like that.

Remember those words the next time Slattery gets on his high horse about “open and transparent government.”