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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Charlestown files its first answer in Y-Gate lawsuit

Town admits to the facts outlined in Dr. Donoghue’s complaint, disputes Donoghue’s conclusions and charges
By Will Collette

The legal dance begins. On March 23rd, Charlestown filed perfunctory answers to the charges brought against the town by Dr. John Donoghue.

Dr. Donoghue went to state court to try to block the transfer of $475,000 in Charlestown taxpayers’ money to the Charlestown Land Trust for a worthless easement so the Land Trust can pay the Westerly YMCA $730,000 for an over-priced, abandoned campground on Watchaug Pond.

Dr. Donoghue alleges that the Town violated the state Open Meetings law by creating an advisory body to study the Y camp deal that skirted the Town Charter and also disregarded the requirements to advertise its meetings and post its minutes. 

Dr. Donoghue also charges the Town Council with failing to properly advertise its intention to vote to spend $475,000 on this bad deal when it publicized its February meeting.

Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero filed answers on behalf of Charlestown that acknowledge the factual details in Dr. Donoghue’s complaint, but rejected Dr. Donoghue’s interpretation of those events.

The town admitted it created a special group just to work on the Y camp deal (a.k.a. “Y-Gate”). The original committee set up by the Town violated the Town Charter’s requirement that all members be town residents.

Donoghue alleges the town manipulated the
rules to allow non-residents,  like Boston
lawyer Joanne D'Alcomo of Sonquipaug,
to make decisions about spending
$475,000 of town money. 
The representative the Westerly Y wanted was a non-resident. And the local Sonquipaug neighborhood group – which is itself largely composed of non-residents – wanted the de facto Mayor of Greater Sonquipaugia, Boston lawyer Joanne D’Alcomo, to be its rep.

So the Council cooked up a new format to skirt the charter, and in the course of doing that, also seems to have violated the state Open Meetings Law. The Town admits the group did not advertise its meetings or post its minutes, but said that the meetings were open to the public – at least those members of the public who knew they were meeting.

This is how lawsuits work in the early going. The initial complaint is always interesting, but the early responses are generally not so much.

I am looking forward to the case progressing to the discovery phase. Then Dr. Donoghue’s attorney, Maggie Hogan, gets to grill witnesses in depositions and pull documents and other evidence from the players through interrogatories and motions to produce documents.

I’ve been writing a lot about the Y-Gate Scandal. There are so many things wrong with the Y-Gate deal that it will take some time for the court to unravel them. 

Among the issues I’m hoping Dr. Donoghue’s case will bring out is how the Charlestown Land Trust came to provide the town with an appraisal that used hypotheticals the appraiser himself admitted were “known to be false” and just coincidentally came within $5000 of the Westerly YMCA’s $735,000 asking price.

Russ Ricci, the Land Trust’s Treasurer, is gonna have some ‘splainin’ to do. 

And if you're wondering why all of a sudden the CCA is mounting its big offensive to Kill Bill DiLibero, Charlestown Town Administrator, look no further than the Y-Gate Scandal. Sleight of hand. Misdirection. "Hey, look, it's Elvis!"