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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ethics is about more than just money

"CCA: Kill Bill": Action film or documentary?

Tomorrow night, Town Administrator Bill DiLibero’s fate will be decided by not one but two people who, in a just universe, would be ethically barred from voting.

By Linda Felaco

The Westerly Sun reported today that on Tuesday, the RI Ethics Commission ruled that Lisa DiBello can vote to fire Town Administrator Bill DiLibero at tomorrow night’s special town council session on his job performance. DiBello, for those who’ve been hiding under a rock, is suing DiLibero and numerous and sundry other individuals over her firing as Parks and Recreation director in 2010. The Ethics Commission decided it was “ethical” for DiBello to vote on DiLibero’s firing because “her participation in the Town Council’s consideration of the Town Administrator’s recent job performance is not likely to result in a direct financial impact upon the petitioner or her Superior Court lawsuit.”

Apparently, anything goes ethics-wise as long as no money changes hands. 

On what planet is it “ethical” to be able to vote to fire someone whom you’re already suing for firing you? On the planet Tit-for-Tat? As if DiBello won’t make hay over DiLibero’s firing in her $1.5 million lawsuit.

For the record, American Heritage Dictionary defines ethics as follows:
ethics (used with a sing. verb) The study of the general nature of morals and of the specific moral choices to be made by a person; moral philosophy. 

ethics (used with a sing. or pl. verb) The rules or standards governing the conduct of a person or the members of a profession: medical ethics.
I don’t see the word “money” in there anywhere; do you? What does it take for something to be considered an ethical violation? Apparently, it only becomes a violation if a sitting council member were to actually vote to cut herself a check for $1.5 million taxpayer dollars as part of her own lawsuit. Yep, that one was blatant enough to make the Ethics Commission stand up and say no. But it would seem that anything short of that is just hunky-dory.

If, on the other hand, ethics is only about money, then Dan Slattery should be barred from voting on DiLibero’s fate. Surely a job involves money. On what planet do you get to vote to fire the person who was hired for a job you applied for? Certainly not one I’ve ever lived on. But this is what passes for ethics in Bizarro Charlestown.

[Cue Walsh]

“Forget it, Linda, it’s Charlestown.”


  1. So in Rhode Island if you are fired from a position, you can get on a town council and then vote to fire the person that fired you.

    Only in Rhode Island. Yes in Charlestown.

    While I miss my friends, my co-workers, I am so glad I left this den of inequity.

    Bill, if you are fired, Godspeed and Good Luck to you. Leave there with grace, dignity and a happy heart that you don't have to put up with the BS anymore.

    Sad and Stunned in TN

  2. The problem with the Town Administrator was that he was rather anti-CCA prior to the last election. When Gentz and Co took the helm, the Town Administrator suddenly became very pro-CCA. It should come as no surprise that when he lost his utility to them, he became expendable. Maybe he should study ethics and find out how to be a bit more principled. Not saying he is a bad guy as he seems rather nice enough. However, he should have had a bit more foresight.

    1. I don't think it shows a lack of ethics for a government bureaucrat to take the lead from his political bosses; that's his job. The elected officials are supposed to decide policy and the bureaucrats carry it out. The CCA's big beef with DiLibero seems to be that he didn't consult specifically with them prior to submitting certain grant proposals that they consider objectionable for reasons that I can't fathom. Well, here's a newsflash for the CCA: DiLibero didn't consult with the Dems about the grants, either!

  3. Is this a possible scenario if Bill is killed? If he doesn't already live in Charlestown he moves here. He simultaneously sues the town and the TC for unjust termination while he runs for the Town Council, wins, and casts a vote to tell Lisa to take her law suit and stuff it. He then moves to have his suit's consideration moved ahead of Lisa's for consideration. Possible?


    1. Davespop, your scenario doesn't seem any less plausible to me than what's actually going on. If anything, the CCA has provided DiLibero with far more evidence of an orchestrated conspiracy to fire him than Lisa has shown for her case.

  4. Linda, pulleeze. Enough drama already.

    I for one am neither surprised nor concerned by the Ethics Commission ruling, because, whether you like it or not, the state will not interfere with the ability of a public official to discharge the duty that they have vowed to fulfill, unless that decision is demonstrably clouded by a potential financial conflict.

    Why? Because it is as important to respect the voters' judgment in the election of their public officials, as it is to prevent those officials from abusing their office for financial gain.

    The voters who elected Councilor DiBello did so with the full knowledge and expectation that she would be Mr. DiLibero's boss. They deserve the benefit of her voice in all matters except those where she would have a direct financial interest.

    Do all of those who would characterize her vote as mere "revenge" completely discount the ability of elected officials to compartmentalize their personal feelings when making official decisions? Are they themselves so devoid of personal honor that they would not be able to set aside their personal feelings and make a decision based on the facts presented, or if they found themselves unable to do so would refrain from voting? Or do they just deny Ms. DiBello that conscience?

    As it turns out, Ms. DiBello did NOT vote to terminate Mr. DiLibero. His decision to resign preempted that vote altogether.

    We may never know whether she would actually have voted to terminate, or would have abstained from voting. I suspect that, to Mr. DiLibero, it made little difference. Having lost the support of Councilors Gentz and Slattery, he faced either termination or the equally untenable position of continuing despite the lack of confidence of the majority of the Council.

    Professional administrators know going in that they serve at the pleasure of the Council. Legally, the Council needs no reason to terminate, and the administrator has no grounds to sue other than to secure the monetary considerations contained in his contract. The political fallout from the actions and statements that precipitated this action will be determined by the voters, and influenced by the consequences of subsequent decisions.

    Charlestown has been neither skilled nor lucky in choosing administrators. With the possible exception of the late George Hibbard, all that I can recall over the last 30-odd years have been terminated or resigned under the threat of or expectation of being terminated.

    Here's hoping that a broad array of sensible citizens are appointed to the search committee this time to ensure a responsible recommendation for Mr. DiLibero's replacement.

    1. Without drama, the blog wouldn't be terribly interesting, would it. I don't write in order to put people to sleep; I write with the intention of waking people up.

      Evelyn, I don't deny those who voted for Lisa DiBello their right to the benefit of her voice, if she is in fact speaking for them. And I don't deny the possibility that a person who believes themself to have been wronged could still make an impartial judgment about the person who wronged them. But I can't read Ms. DiBello's thoughts, I can only read her actions, and from everything I've seen since she's been in office, I cannot discount the possibility that, if she did not consciously seek revenge by running for town council, she may very well have been in deep denial about her own motives.

      As for the search for a replacement for Bill DiLibero, seems to me a broad array of sensible citizens were appointed to the search committee who selected him, and there are members of that search committee who still stand by the candidate they chose.


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