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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Deputy Dan Rides Again!

Watch out for Dan Slattery’s new posse
By Will Collette

Based on his conduct throughout 2011, I am betting that CCA-sponsored Town Council Vice-President “Deputy Dan” Slattery has launched – or will do so shortly – an investigation into Charlestown residents who receive tax breaks under current town tax exemptions and who may be delinquent on their taxes. This, despite his failure to gain Town Council approval for the probe.

I don’t think he can help himself.

At the January 9 Town Council meeting, Deputy Dan argued strenuously that the town set up a select task force that he would head to look into who gets town tax breaks – and whether they deserve them. They would also investigate who has fallen behind on their taxes, and why. Of course, Deputy Dan would lead that posse.

Only the truly deserving should get tax credits
This was Deputy Dan’s response to town Democrats' proposal for an across-the-board $1000 tax cut for town residents. Deputy Dan was adamant that only the truly deserving should get any breaks from the town and HE would find out who those people were.

He can start with himself because he currently receives a $150 veterans tax credit off of his property tax bill.

His motion asking for Council approval for his investigation failed to get the necessary three Council votes to pass, losing on a 2-2 tie vote. Marge Frank and Gregg Avedisian voted NO.

But lack of town authority has not stopped Deputy Dan from carrying out his duty as he sees it. Let’s look at the record:

OMG!!! Wind Turbines!!! And budget numbers
we don't understand!!!
Wind energy. When Deputy Dan was president of the Charlestown Citizens Alliance, the CCA actually supported wind energy by a large margin in a poll presented to the town by his colleague and then–CCA leader Tom Gentz. But after taking office, Deputy Dan said he conducted his own extensive research and determined that wind energy actually posed a terrible health threat. He said he had tons of research to support that position. He has never shared that research with the rest of us.

Chariho Jihad. Deputy Dan proposed a motion that Charlestown sign on to an insulting letter (which he wrote) to the Chariho Superintendant of Schools for producing the school district budget in a format mandated by the state, but not understandable by Deputy Dan. Even though his motion lost (like his tax task force motion), failing to get the required three yes votes, Deputy Dan went forward anyway to rally the other two Chariho towns to attack Superintendant Ricci.

Whatever you say, Ms. Wooten. I'll get right on it.
“Phantom properties.” After claiming to have received numerous complaints from citizens (actually only one, from fellow CCA leader Virginia Wooten), Deputy Dan mobilized town resources to conduct an inventory of town properties to determine (a) how many we had and (b) what condition they were in. Deputy Dan reported his horror at discovering that some abutters to town property had actually allowed their gardens to overlap onto town land. His little working group decided the town should get town lands surveyed and marked off – Councilor Lisa DiBello added that perhaps the land should also be sign-posted. Conservative estimates of the cost of surveying, marking off and sign-posting all this land to prevent poachers and encroachers run at half a million dollars.

NOTE: Deputy Dan's third Citizens’ Forum at Town Hall is scheduled for January 23rd. In the two prior events, a handful of people showed up, but Virginia Wooten was there to raise her complaint about phantom properties. Now that Deputy Dan rode to the rescue of those properties, what new chore will Ms. Wooten give him this time?

The Glista Gang came up clean
The Glista Gang. The most notorious Deputy Dan adventure of 2011 was his “investigation” of a complaint against Friends of Ninigret Park, a project headed by Frank “Frankie Pallets” Glista and his gang of co-conspirators within town hall. This whole farce led to Deputy Dan making a presentation to the Council that after his exhaustive investigation that included extensive interviews of town staff and the collection of a two-inch-thick stack of evidence, he concluded there was no wrong-doing.

There were several things wrong with Deputy Dan’s approach. The worst was that just the idea of conducting the investigation was pretty ridiculous. I doubt you can find more than a handful of people in this town who think Frank Glista did anything wrong.

Second, Deputy Dan had no Council authority to conduct this so-called investigation, and he violated several standing procedures the Council members had agreed to.

Third, he refused to fully disclose what he found. He promised to show his “evidence” to the other Council members, but when Councilor Avedisian asked him to do so, Deputy Dan broke his promise. And he refused to make those records public under the RI Access to Public Records Act. He admitted in an affidavit that he conducted the “investigation” without any official authority from anyone in the town, said publicly he would show his file to other Council members and then reneged..

Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero described Deputy Dan as a retired former federal investigator for the US Department of Justice. That explains a lot.

With his history and his 2011 track record, I believe Deputy Dan Slattery has probably already begun his fifth clandestine mission (at least the fifth that I know of), this time to ferret out Charlestown’s deadbeats from within the ranks of the truly deserving.

You're not truly needy!
I don’t know what criteria Deputy Dan will use to determine who is truly deserving. He does like the federal poverty line as a standard (that’s $10,890 for a single person and $22,350 for a family of four).

At the January 9 meeting, Deputy Dan did make it clear that he thinks that Charlestown has lots of deadbeats – it has to, because according to Deputy Dan, our poverty rate is only 1.8% and the town’s median income is among the highest in the state. That’s not true, of course, but Deputy Dan has never let the facts get in the way of a good posse.

He says he wants to be sure the town isn’t letting someone off the hook for taxes “who made $80,000 a year, exercised poor judgment and maxed out of his credit cards.”

I say I'm AUTHORIZED to look at your records!
He was asked from the floor how he proposed to dig into the finances of residents. Deputy Dan said that residents who apply for tax credits under the town’s existing tax exemption programs must turn over tax records and proof of financial condition. That also isn’t true – only the town’s low-income senior citizens tax credit requires proof of income; the veterans, blind, disabled, and farm, forest and open space tax breaks do not. But again, facts won’t deter Deputy Dan.

Be very careful when your W-2 forms show up in your mailbox – be sure you get to them before Deputy Dan does. If you get a phone call asking you for personal information, such as your Social Security number, don’t give it. It might not be just a regular old phone solicitation scam, but Deputy Dan doing some pretexting. Shred any documents containing personal financial information – you’d be amazed at what you can find by dumpster-diving. Remember, you are dealing with a “retired Justice Department investigator.”

I really don’t know just how Deputy Dan is going to do this investigation. But after seeing his face and hearing his voice on January 9, it seemed to me that he is more determined to robe up and ride against the town’s undeserving than any of the times he ramped up during 2011. See the Clerkbase video for yourself. With his face beet red and speaking through gritted teeth, it seemed to me that Deputy Dan is bound and determined to get to the bottom of this, no matter what it takes.

During Dennis Farina’s short stint as co-star of Law and Order, he had a line he used in just about every episode when he and his partner were trying to bend the rules on how to conduct an investigation. “We’re authorized,” Farina would say with a smile.