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Friday, February 10, 2012

Town Council expect tumultuous turn-out on Monday

An unusual agenda meeting may mean a very unusual agenda for February 13 meeting
Eugene Delacroix - "Liberty Leading the People"
By Will Collette

It’s unusual for the Charlestown Town Council to have a short, sharp and collegial regular monthly meeting, but the outlook for Monday’s Town Council meeting looks like it will be even wilder and more rowdy than usual.

At Wednesday’s agenda planning meeting, the Town Councilors decided there were too many potentially divisive agenda items to cover in one meeting, and the crowd they anticipate may not fit in the Council chambers at Town Hall.

DiBello is back. Maybe she'll serve the papers
in DiBello v. Town of Charlestown in person.
So expect two major changes: first, the Council intends to postpone action on the controversial Dark Sky ordinance until their March meeting. Second, the Council plans to open the meeting in Council Chambers but may recess the meeting and move to the Charlestown Elementary School if there are too many people.

Council member Lisa DiBello made a surprise appearance at the agenda meeting – this is her first meeting since she filed DiBello v. the Town of Charlestown.

DiBello’s presence was immediately felt. Usually agenda planning meetings last a few minutes, but this one dragged on for 45 minutes and contained one contentious, if not ominous, contested vote.

One of her early contributions to the agenda planning meeting was to wonder aloud whether the Council should request an increased police presence at the Monday meeting if a large and noisy crowd was expected.

Town Council agenda meetings usually set out the plan for two meetings – first the Executive Session that is closed to the public and second, the public Regular meeting.

There are three agenda items on the agenda for the Executive Session. The Council members agreed that these items will require more than the usual one hour allotted and voted to start that meeting thirty minutes sooner, at 5:30 PM, to provide 90 minutes for discussion.

The three Executive Session items are:

(1)   Mageau v. Charlestown, which is the lawsuit by Council member DiBello’s mentor and political ally’s case for reimbursement from the town for his legal defense in his trial for assaulting a member of the public (Cliff Vanover) at the end of a town council meeting. Mageau claims he is entitled to be indemnified by the town because the matter was part of his official duties. The Council members said nothing during the agenda meeting about the substance of this matter. If I were to guess, I’d say there might be some offer of a settlement to be discussed.

(2)   Police Officers contract. Negotiations over union contracts are not public, nor is discussion about progress or proposals arising from those negotiations, so this agenda item isn’t at all unusual. 

(3)   “Personnel (Town Administrator).” That’s how the item is listed on the Executive Session agenda, and not only is it unexpected, but the discussion about this agenda item was downright strange.

Deputy Dan rides again?
The Council members debated whether or not to make this item, which was initiated by Council Vice-President Deputy Dan Slattery, part of the public meeting or part of the Executive Session.

Slattery was adamant that it be discussed in the privacy of the Executive Session, making me wonder if Deputy Dan has conducted yet another unauthorized clandestine investigation and has some bombshell revelation about Town Administrator William DiLibero.

As is usually the case in agenda meetings, the Council members debated the issue without actually saying anything about the substance of the matter.

Remarkably, Council member Lisa DiBello participated in the discussion and, on a roll-call, cast the deciding vote for a 3-2 decision to place the matter on the Executive Session agenda. Councilors Marge Frank and Gregg Avedisian voted No.

DiBello’s vote on ANY personnel matter strikes me as a clear-cut violation of the RI Ethics Law. But to discuss and cast a vote on a personnel matter involving DiLibero – the leading villain and defendant in DiBello’s fantastic conspiracy tale in DiBello v. Town of Charlestown – is really over the top.

Here is a partial listing of items that are on the agenda for the Regular Council meeting. As the documents supporting these items are posted on Clerkbase, we will review them and give you a more detailed preview of Monday’s session.

As you can see from this list, there is NO WAY for this Town Council to cover all of these issues between 7 PM when the Regular Meeting is scheduled to begin and the scheduled 10 PM adjournment.