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Friday, April 27, 2012

Deputy Dan and the Search for CIP

Will somebody please find this man a hobby? That is, besides messing up Charlestown.
If only we had a CIP
By Will Collette

For the past three months, CCA Town Council Vice President Deputy Dan Slattery has been on a tear about CIP. CIP this, CIP that. Deputy Dan’s recent pet issues seem to be driven by CIP.

So what the hell is CIP and why is Deputy Dan so agitated about it? Why has CIP become his obsession?

“CIP” stands for Capital Improvement Plan. It’s a very good concept. Rhode Island law requires agencies and municipalities to create and maintain five-year Capital Improvement Plans so they can forecast and budget for their needs to repair or replace old buildings or equipment, and to anticipate the need for new buildings and equipment.

If we don't resolve our CIP legal, moral and ethical duties,
he'll hold his breath until he turns...redder?
Please, I know this sounds incredibly boring, but bear with me. It gets interesting. At least a little.

The Town of Charlestown already does a 5-year CIP. It’s written into the Town Charter as one of the responsibilities of the Town Administrator to manage, using appropriate staff and town commissions, specifically the Planning Commission.

But Deputy Dan thinks that with his superior management expertise, he knows more about CIP – i.e., one of those “legal, ethical, and moral” obligations he’s been so overwrought about lately – than the people who’ve been doing our CIP, so he has been using CIP to create mischief and chaos since at least last February.

Because of CIP, we must – Deputy Dan thinks – rewrite the Town Charter. 

Because of CIP, we must – Deputy Dan thinks – ditch the four-year-old 10-year Ninigret Park Master Plan and write an entirely new one. 

Because of CIP, we must – Deputy Dan thinks – rewire the way town government operates. 

I think there was a little CIPping behind Deputy Dan’s “Kill Bill” character assassination campaign against our recently resigned Town Administrator Bill DiLibero.

During the ill-fated February 27 meeting of the Charter Revision Advisory “Board/Committee” (they have some confusion over their name), Deputy Dan said that he had proposed Charter revision Question #6 because there was some confusion over how the CIP was supposed to be done, even though state law makes it very clear.

Slattery said he had a whole “e-mail trail” that demonstrated this confusion. It was the reason why he was crusading to bring Charlestown into compliance with its legal requirements, since – Deputy Dan thinks – it is somehow out of compliance. Or confused. Or both. 

I filed an official open records request for that “e-mail trail” Deputy Dan cited and I received it. To read that e-mail trail for yourself, click here

What that e-mail trail shows is no confusion at all. When you combine these e-mails with Deputy Dan's other recent activities, the picture emerges of yet another crackpot Deputy Dan posse. 

First, let’s deal with how Charlestown’s Town Charter deals with the duties and responsibilities of crafting a CIP. Under the Town Charter, Article XI. Powers and Duties of the Town Administrator, under § C-43. Enumeration. §§P, the Town Administrator must:
P. Prepare annually and recommend to the Budget Commission a capital budget and a comprehensive five-year capital improvement program. Input from the Planning Commission may be requested from time to time.
DiLibero had it right
The Town Charter also instructs and empowers the Town Administrator to delegate tasks to appropriate staff. In this case, our now former Town Administrator Bill DiLibero delegated to Town Planner Ashley Hahn-Morris.

Ashley got the ball rolling in fall 2011. On September 22, 2011, she e-mailed Planning Commissar Ruth Platner and explained the process and work plan the town departments would undertake before sending the CIP to the Planning Commission for its review and approval. Ashley sent Commissar Platner a reminder on November 15.

Platner immediately sent an e-mail to Town Administrator DiLibero bluntly telling him that as far as she was concerned, the Planning Commission had no role to play, saying “the Charter specifically takes that power away from PC [Planning Commission]. If you look at C. 175 it was repealed in 1996.” 

While that section was indeed repealed, there still is the existing section under the Town Administrator’s duties that brings Planning into the CIP business.

DiLibero e-mailed back to Platner that under Rhode Island law, Planning needs to be part of the CIP process. Further, in the Charlestown Town Charter, there’s also this section that immediately follows the repealed section cited by Platner:

D. The Commission may also act in a review capacity in other matters as may be specified in the General Laws of the State of Rhode Island.

And this would apply to RI General Laws 45-22-7(b), which was the section of state law cited by DiLibero as calling for Planning to participate in the CIP process.

Platner doesn't care about things she can't control
So far, the only problem seems to be Commissar Platner’s snit over the repeal of a section in the Town Charter that happened 16 years ago. FYI: Platner has been on the Planning Commission for 15 years.

The e-mail trail shows that Ashley sent memos and had meetings with Town staff to make sure the departments inventoried their needs, filled out their forms and submitted their long-term capital needs, which included everything from snowplows, a new computer server, and a new roof at the animal shelter to body armor for our police.

Then, on January 25, 2012, as scheduled, the CIP draft went before the Planning Commission. Commissar Platner was still clearly perturbed that her plucky planners had to deal with this subject and pointedly noted that the only capital item dealing with land use was the proposed $150,000 to move forward on the creation of the Ninigret Park events center, called for in the Ninigret Park Master Plan.

So, according to the January 25, 2012, Planning Commission minutes, this is what the Planning Commission did to discharge its duty as part of the CIP process:

A motion was made by Ms. Fabre, seconded by Mr. Abbott that the Commission received the list, reviewed the list, however the Commission does not feel that they have the knowledge to judge the requests.  Because the process requires this to come to the Planning Commission doesn’t mean that the Commission is able to make the decision.  The Planning Commission’s review of this has not achieved anything[emphasis added]

Vote:  Mr. Abbott – approve, Ms. Fabre – approve, Mr. Foer – approve, Mr. Tremblay – approve, Ms. Platner – approve.  The motion was passed with five (5) concurring votes.

SNAP! I guess in Commissar Platner’s mind, this “screw you” motion avenges the perceived slight she felt at the 1996 Charter revision that in some form or fashion reduced the Planning Commission’s authority over the CIP.

What the Planning Commission did not do by this spiteful resolution is carry out its duties under RIGL 45-22-7-b. But, hey, who’s going to call them on it? The Town Council majority? I don’t think so.

And that brings us back to Deputy Dan Slattery and his quest for some radical changes in the way Charlestown does business.

Platner’s pique explains Deputy Dan’s inexplicable demand that the CRACed CRABs rewrite the Town Charter through proposed Question 6 to add some yet-to-be-determined language putting “Planning Commission” into another section of the Charter relative to the CIP.

This Charter change is needed – Deputy Dan thinks – even though the Planning Commission is already in the Charter as part of the process.

Even though the Planning Commission must follow state law.

And even though the CIP process is already in place and working efficiently.

To make matters much worse, his bogus CIP crusade also gave Deputy Dan a platform to launch his attack on the Parks and Recreation Commission and on the Ninigret Park Master Plan.

According to Deputy Dan, the Parks and Recreation Commission has been totally remiss in its duties to provide hard information on when they plan to move on the projects laid out in the Ninigret Park Master Plan, and how much it will cost. That’s despite the fact that there are two major line items in the CIP, one for the Disc Golf Course and the major one, $150,000 this year and $2,305,000 in Fiscal Year 2015, for the Events Center. See pages 10-11 of the CIP e-mail records

Since – Deputy Dan thinks – the Ninigret Park Master Plan lacks capital improvement details, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, and he doesn’t trust the Parks and Recreation Commission to fill in the blanks, he has his rationale to overturn the Ninigret Park Master Plan, neuter the Commission and replace them with a new Stakeholders Commission comprised of his political allies.

But Deputy Dan received a major slap-down at the April 23rd Town Council meeting. The chair and vice-chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission, Paula Andersen and Cheryl Dowdell respectively, took Slattery to task for grossly misrepresenting the facts.

Dowdell pointed out that the Council and the Commission held two open workshop meetings to discuss implementation of the Master Plan for Ninigret, including the setting of priorities and a timetable.

Slattery has since been engaged in a wholesale rewriting of history – aided and abetted by the CCA in its April 26 e-bleat – twisted to cast himself as a blameless, well-meaning public servant and management expert who was only making modest “suggestions” in the interest of the citizens who use the Park. Deputy Dan’s most recent – and perhaps most outrageous – work of fiction was his op-ed in the Westerly Sun

Charlestown has had more than its fair share of devious and malicious Town Councilors, councilors who operate on hidden, and sometimes not-so-hidden, agendas. Councilors who fabricate facts and distort reality to push their interests. Councilors who delight in causing an uproar, often just to draw attention to themselves or exaggerate their own importance.
Deputy Dan, it's time to go

Sometimes these councilors have done real harm. Sometimes these councilors merely make a spectacle of themselves.

But in the case of former Charlestown Citizens Alliance President and now Council Vice-President Deputy Dan Slattery, we have seen malice taken to an entirely new level.

Time to ride off into the sunset, Deputy Dan.