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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Kill Bill, Part 3: the CCA's campaign of lies

Fact-checking the CCA’s “Regressive Charlestown
By Will Collette

The blood is in the water and the CCA mob are sharpening their axes and pitchforks. Goodbye, Town Administrator William DiLibero. Hello, new Town Administrator Deputy Dan Slattery?

If you get the CCA’s e-bleats or check their website, you know the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA), which serves as the town’s shadow government, wants the head of Town Administrator DiLibero served up on a platter with locally grown produce for garnish.

In their e-bleats, the CCA has been spewing out an incredible amount of “pink slime” of trumped-up charges to paint DiLibero as a notorious villain with a secret agenda. Speaking of secret agendas, this “Kill Bill” campaign just happens to coincide with new revelations about one of Charlestown’s real scandals, the heist of $475,000 of town funds in the Y-Gate Scandal by CCA allies.

We’ve looked over the stuff CCA has published to make sure we call them on their lies, half-truths, distortions and distractions.

For example:

Here’s a March 31 posting from the CCA Steering Committee:

The Town Administrator withheld the correspondence from November 2010 and January 2011 from the Town Council. It was meant for the town, but he did not tell anyone. The National Parks Service and USFWS did not know he didn’t tell the Town Council until just last month. When the National Parks Service discovered that the Town Council had not received the correspondence they made it available to them. The Town Council cannot tell the public what it doesn’t know. You cannot inform yourself of what is hidden. As soon as some members knew that documents were withheld, they asked that the documents be made public. Some of those were put on clerkbase, some were not. The decision to put something on clerkbase is made by the staff. At the last Town Council meeting the Town Solicitor explained that one member of the Town Council cannot have a document put on clerkbase, that it takes a vote of the Town Council. Why the staff seems to be able to pick and choose what goes up doesn’t make sense to us. But at the March Town Council meeting some members were asking that the documents be put up. They couldn’t vote on it as that vote wasn’t on the agenda. We have what we have found at the USFWS site and from clerkbase at the link we sent out with this email. We don’t know if this is everything.

The truth: As usual, the CCA can’t get its facts or dates straight. For an accurate time-line, click here.

If the CCA had done a review of the video, they would know that Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero did not say that one member of the Town Council cannot post documents on Clerkbase. He advised Deputy Dan Slattery not to unilaterally post items on Clerkbase when Slattery decided to launch his jihad against town management of Ninigret Park, part of which is Slattery’s, and now the CCA’s, “Kill Bill” Campaign. There is no particular Town rule about who gets to post things on Clerkbase, or what process they are supposed to use.

Slattery’s colleagues did not ask that the documents be posted on Clerkbase – Councilors Frank and Avedisian asked Slattery to show them the documents that were the subject of his motion so they could see what they were voting on. Big difference, and another CCA factual distortion.

DiLibero did not disclose the Interior Department letter to the Town Council in November 2010 because the letter was not written until two months later. He could not have given it to the Council for the January 10 Council meeting because the letter was not written until one week later on January 18. The letter was a direct response to DiLibero’s December letter to her – it was not marked “please circulate to the entire town.”

Does the CCA and its Town Council majority want every piece of correspondence that comes to the Town Administrator to go out to the whole town? If the CCA and its Council majority want to micromanage the Town Administrator, why not just abolish the position and let Deputy Dan Slattery do it as a volunteer?

Charlie Vandemoer
DiLibero was delegated the responsibility to try to line up the funding for the municipal wind energy project - the Council voted unanimously on this at their November 2010 meeting. He wrote the letter to the Interior Department as part of that task.

When he got Elyse LaForest's "no" letter, he tried to work out some accommodation with our local federal overseer Charlie Vandemoer, which was also his job. He kept at it until the Town Council, by voting to extend the townwide wind power ban at its March 2011 meeting, killed the project. End of project. End of activity.

He even involved Tom Gentz and Gregg Avedisian in the discussions with Vandemoer.

At that time, DiLibero still had a good working relationship with the Town Council – this was before the CCA decided he would serve as a convenient distraction and scapegoat. He did what a town administrator is supposed to do when delegated the authority to do a project – he dealt with it. Now it’s biting him in the ass.

On March 31, an anonymous CCA e-mailer says:

The fact that the Charlestown Democratic Town Committee finds no problem with the Town Administrator’s devious conduct is not surprising. Speaking as a person who votes regularly as a Democrat on national politics and who contributes to key Democratic races around the country, I find Charlestown’s “Democratic” Town Committee to be a disgrace to the Democratic Party and an embarrassment. The Charlestown Democratic Town Committee and its members operate in the style of Karl Rove or Lee Atwater – two of the most notorious and underhanded Republican tacticians in modern American politics. The committee and its members seem to be unable to engage in discourse that is anything but shrill, viciously personal, nay-saying, sneering and divisive. They seem to virtually define themselves by being AGAINST things, rather than for anything.
The blog run by members of the Democratic Town Committee and their allies is relentlessly nasty, sniping, filled with personal attacks – and yet it consistently refuses to allow comments that correct false statements or reply to attacks. It stifles all dissent by preventing those comments that disagree from being posted. The “Democratic” blog only permits “comments” that , in one way or another, murmur approval because these committee members and supporters don’t dare let dissenting views see the light of day. They don’t want readers to see comments that point out the outright falsehoods in these Charlestown “Democrats” writings or weaknesses in their positions. So much for the word “democratic” in their name.

Answer: For the record for about the tenth time, Progressive Charlestown is not the Charlestown Democratic Town Committee. Tom Ferrio and I set up Progressive Charlestown so we could address topics that move too fast for a committee response and to be able to state our own personal opinions, rather than wait for the full committee to reach a consensus. We have a lot of respect for the committee process, but what can I tell you – we’re impatient.

We cover the news and we give our personal opinions. I’d like to think we do the first job accurately, with lots of links to sources and documents, and do the second job with some wit and a lot of humor, and with a minimum of b.s.

The town committee, which is a much bigger tent than Progressive Charlestown, is less likely to be as blunt on many issues as we are. Certainly as I am. We’ve said this a bunch of times – and that’s one of the main reasons we don’t print “asked and answered” comments.

Responding to this comment, if I felt the Administrator’s conduct was devious I would have a serious problem with it. As we see the facts, he received the January letter and then started trying to better understand the Town's options, including meeting at least twice with Vandemoer.

According to the Westerly Sun, one of those meetings included Gentz and Avedisian. But then the wind turbine project was killed altogether less than six weeks later by the Town Council’s decision to extend the wind energy moratorium.

We put our names on our articles rather than hide behind anonymous and we invite corrections of our facts and debate of opinions with people who we can clearly identify.

“Paula” (not to be confused with Paula Andersen) writes to the CCA on March 31:

The “root of the problem” in this case is that the Town Administrator has his own agenda. He wanted wind turbines at Ninigret Park and he was willing to lead the Town into federal court to get them. He withheld a letter from the Parks Service saying they were not allowed. If you read the letter from the Interior Department that the CCA is providing a link to you will see that they were close to taking back Ninigret Park. The Town Council doesn’t share any blame in this. But not all the Town Council now is asking for a full understanding of what the relationship is between the town and federal government at Ninigret. There are so many federal laws protecting a National Wildlife Refuge. Having a refuge in Charlestown is a privilege, and a responsibility. A refuge for migratory birds or anywhere near by is not considered an appropriate place for large wind turbines. The federal government wrote to the town to tell them that and that they would not allow them, but someone hid that letter. I think hiding an important letter like that is illegal. No amount of rule changes or procedures can protect against lying.

Answer: And, Paula not Andersen, what might the Town Administrator's nefarious agenda be?

Wind turbines at Ninigret Park were an initiative of the Town Council, not the Town Administrator. We see no evidence that he was doing other than he was told, until it was clear that the turbines were impossible.

Town Council Boss Tom Gentz has been putting out the line that “OMG, the feds are going to take back Ninigret Park if we don’t chop Bill DiLibero’s head off by sunset.”

What a crock! Yes, there are provisions for the feds to take back federal lands deeded away for conversion into parks, but let’s look at how the “reversion” provision is used in real life.

When the General Accounting Office (now called the Government Accountability Office) studied the land-conversion process, they found that the feds have given away thousands of parcels of former federal land for a variety of purposes. They took the time period of 2000 and 2004 and studied 51 properties that had been converted to civilian use. 

Of those 51 properties, only four were taken back by the federal government. Of those four, only one, a former Navy air field in Warminster, PA, was under the Lands to Parks Program (the others were a prison, an educational building and a building in Utah that Planned Parenthood was going to use before Planned Parenthood became a political target). 

The Warminster, PA, property reverted because it was not used. Local authorities told the GAO that they had no idea how bad the condition of the land was, with buried waste, cables and installations that made conversion daunting. Incidentally, we have had the same problem at Ninigret but worked around it.

The only recent example I found of the threat of reversion was in July 2009 when the General Services Administration (GSA) warned California that if the state went through with its plans to save money by closing down six parks they had received under Lands to Parks, the feds would take the land back. Neither the closure nor the reversion happened. Those parks are still active parts of California’s state park system

The agencies involved in the land transfers, including the Interior Department’s Lands to Parks Program, told the GAO “that reversion had increasingly become untenable as a tool when deed requirements are not met. Agency officials attribute the increasing difficulty of reversions to issues ranging from adhering to numerous legal requirements to the availability of budgetary resources” (p. 45).

Translated, that means the agencies know there are legal problems involved with taking back lands that local authorities want to keep. Also, the whole point of the Defense land conversion program was for the feds to get rid of land they no longer want or need. And finally, the feds don't have the budget to manage reverted land. And the federal budget constraints are far worse today than they were in 2006 when the GAO did the study.

So stop with the fear-mongering, CCA, and somebody get Tom Gentz a clean pair of underpants.