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Monday, April 9, 2012

Kill Bill, Part 6: the final installment

Taking a hard look at the CCA's convoluted comments
By Will Collette

Read the earlier articles:

This is the final installment of this series where we dissect and debunk the stream of wild accusations the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) has published over the past couple of weeks in its campaign to oust Town Manager William DiLibero. We've dubbed it the CCA's “Kill Bill” Campaign. On Monday night, in private Executive Session, the Town Council will formally confront DiLibero and decide his fate.

DiLibero has been one of Charlestown’s longest serving Town Administrators – we usually get rid of Town Administrators after each election. He has been repeatedly commended by this same Town Council that seems on the verge of firing him, especially for his hard work in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.

The CCA’s elected town officials have created one mess after the other, the most outrageous being the gift of $475,000 of town money to the Charlestown Land Trust for an over-priced, trashed-out campground owned by the Westerly YMCA. Personally, my theory is the CCA needs a distraction. They need it badly.

They need to focus town attention, “bread and circuses” style, on somebody else. DiLibero is a convenient target because he has been an active manager. Active managers, because they do more things than a passive manager, will tend to make more mistakes. DiLibero is not a perfect manager, but not for lack of trying, or for lack of daring. And with many conspicuous achievements to his credit.

The two or three CCA comment writers seem to have tuckered themselves out because their comments dropped both in volume and intensity. It’s hard for this crew to crank out all those anonymous comments, even when they are under Ruth Platner’s lash.

So we are left with a couple of complicated comments that require thoughtful responses. Here goes.

Anonymous CCA e-mailer writes on April 3, 2012:

In addition to the well documented and well publicized fiascos associated with the Town Administrator and Ninigret Park wind turbine and lighting projects, it has become clear in recent weeks that there are additional serious issues with our Town Administrator. They are as follows:
· The Town Administrator asked for and received a police badge for a nonexistent position (Public Safety Director) which caused a ripple effect in town. The Town Council was once again embarrassed to learn about this in a public meeting – because once again, the Town Administrator did this without the Council’s knowledge or permission. Rank and file police officers certainly were unhappy – and rightfully so – since if anything were to happen to the Chief of Police, the Town Administrator would be next in line to protect our town in the existing chain of command. FYI – it’s against RI state law to have a civilian in charge of police matters.
· The Town Administrator edited and approved an email sent by the Director of Parks and Rec to select citizens only, to two select Council members only, and to a select political party only. The purpose of the email was to try to influence the outcome of the new lighting ordinance so his proposed lighting project for Ninigret Park could be approved. This again would not have been accepted by NPS or Fish and Wildlife (who were never consulted), and would have created potential litigation once again for the town if either project (lighting and/or turbines) moved forward.
· The Town Administrator wrote a grant proposal to HUD to create an industrial park for the manufacturing of biofuel in Charlestown. Once again, he did this without the Council’s knowledge or consent. The grant was not approved.
The Town Administrator’s behavior is arrogant, intolerable, unprofessional, and dishonest. What else has he done that we don’t know about – yet? He seems to ignore the fact that he works for the Town Council – they don’t work for him! Despite several attempts by the Town Council to reign in his behavior, he continues to ignore their directives and admonishments. When is enough, enough? For a six figure salary, Charlestown deserves more from its Town Administrator. If you feel the Town Administrator is a liability to our town rather than an asset, please contact Tom Gentz, the TC President, at to share your displeasure.

Answer: At least this commenter, whose use of language seems pretty familiar, got one important detail right – the e-mail that first set Deputy Dan Slattery off on his “Kill Bill” jihad was not written by DiLibero. DiLibero admitted he reviewed and approved the e-mail. He took the bullet for his team.

Supposedly, the Council already dealt with that affair, except apparently they – through this CCA commenter – have decided to add the e-mail  to the list of DiLibero’s high crimes.

Police roadblock during hurricane
The “badge” issue referred to in this comment is this: according to DiLibero, in all of his past municipal jobs, he was issued a badge to use as a way to get to work during times of emergency – e.g., hurricanes – when police or National Guard limit access. During such times, he can’t phone it in.

He got a badge that said “Director of Public Safety” from the police chief. We don’t know whose idea it was to use that title instead of his actual title of “Town Administrator.” He turned in the badge as soon as Deputy Dan Slattery raised a stink, rather than fuel the argument. But on its face, asking for a badge was hardly an unreasonable, “arrogant, intolerable, unprofessional or dishonest” act.

Our Town Solicitor, Peter Ruggiero, said at the March 12 Town Council meeting that he believed the whole flap over this badge was a “misunderstanding.” That pretty much sums it up – unless, of course, the commenter and the CCA think Ruggiero is conspiring with DiLibero.

The commenter makes it sound like DiLibero was attempting to usurp powers he is prohibited by law from having. If true, this would be a forceful statement against him — except there is no evidence that this was his intent. Does the commenter really believe that DiLibero figured on pulling off a coup with a piece of embossed metal?

The Westerly kids biofuel project
Next, I don’t know about the biofuel project, but wonder why the commenter thinks it was wrong for the Town Administrator to explore its economic development potential. Sparked by some Westerly High School kids, there is a growing industry in collecting waste cooking oil for processing into biofuel. 

All of our local legislators (e.g., Sen. Dennis Algiere, Rep. Donna Walsh) were sponsors of H-5203 and its Senate companion that requires commercial establishments to recycle their waste cooking oil. That bill was passed by the legislature, signed by the Governor and is law.

There is a small section of industrial-zoned land in Charlestown. Why is it wrong for our Town Administrator to at least explore the possibility of a green, jobs-creating enterprise? It seems to me that looking to boost the town economy is one of the reasons why we pay DiLibero the big bucks.

Exploring the possibility of funding is not the same as cutting the ribbon to open the facility. As this commenter well knows, in Charlestown, no project actually happens without going through many levels of scrutiny, including the Spanish Inquisition we all know as the Planning Commission. You can bet that if such a project were brought forward as a serious proposal, the obvious issues of smells and traffic would be exhaustively vetted.

In some respects, this biofuels thing resembles the flap over the municipal wind turbine letter. Asking the Interior Department if it's OK to put a municipal wind turbine project in Ninigret Park is not the same thing as either spitting in the Interior Department's eye, or throwing the switch to turn on the system. He did his job to ask the questions that need to be asked.

But the CCA is looking to paint DiLibero as evil, corrupt, and so every act, every letter is viewed through the "evil, corrupt" lens. DiLibero probably is feeling like this is deja vu all over again.

Finally, the commenter makes the point that DiLibero gets a “six-figure salary.” Actually, he gets a five-figure salary ($99,176). He will only get a six-figure salary (proposed at $101,160 for FY2013) if he survives.

The CCA Steering writes (for itself, not one of its anonymous commenters) on April 3, 2012:
At that first link are the letters from the National Parks Service denying both Wind Turbines and tall pole lighting in the park.
The second link contains the 1979 decision letter from the GSA Administrator on how to dispose the land and how it will be used. We have been pointing to these links in emails we have sent out.
The decision letter refers to volumes of information and would include the record of the legal battles over the Nuclear Power Plant. If the Town decides to pursue a legal fight in federal court all of those historical records would be rolled out and there are likely many boxes of them. In the end we can not gain more than is in the decision letter, but perhaps less. The uses on the Town land need to be deemed consistent with the National Wildlife Refuge.
The issue recently however, is that the Town Administrator received correspondence from the Interior Department forbidding turbines where they were proposed. He did not tell the Town Council about the letters and the town kept moving forward with the proposals. As recently as this winter the Planning Commission was told to go forward with regulations for the turbines in Ninigret Park. The TA was present at all those discussions and said nothing.
If you are interested, we suggest you read the pdf file.

If you want to nail somebody for hiding public records,
look no further
Answer: OK, so the CCA also doesn’t have Deputy Dan Slattery’s infamous“Document #2” (one of the two documents he wanted posted on Clerkbase, but didn’t want to show anyone). But I get the impression that the CCA Steering Committee knows more about “Document #2” than anyone else. That figures, since Deputy Dan was CCA President until he was elected to the Town Council.

The impression I get from this tortured prose is that Document #2 is actually several boxes of records. The electric company now known as National Grid filed suit in the 1970s to take the Ninigret lands and use them as the site of a nuclear power plant. That lawsuit generated tons of paper. What those papers have to do with the issues at hand, the CCA Steering Committee should explain. Incidentally, I covered the 1979 “GSA decision letter” (also known as the “Goulding Decision”) and what it actually says – click here.

The CCA Steering Committee continues to use the prospect of a lawsuit with or from the Interior Department as a straw man, a fake issue. If that is their meaning, it makes no sense. The two issues – the municipal wind turbine project and sports lighting – have already been killed by the Town Council’s actions. 

As the public record shows, after DiLibero received the January 18, 2011 letter from Elyse LaForest from the Boston office of the Interior Department regarding the municipal turbines, DiLibero's subsequent actions were to do his job and discuss the town's options with our local Interior Department overseer Charlie Vandemoer until the Town Council killed the project by extending the town's anti-wind moratorium 60 days later.

The CCA Steering Committee also says that the “Planning Commission was told to go forward with regulations for the turbines in Ninigret Park. The TA was present at all those discussions and said nothing.” 

This statement is false. The Planning Commission finished its last anti-wind-energy chore when its prohibitively restrictive residential wind energy ordinance was enacted by the Town Council on November 14, 2011. I covered their deliberations closely and they were not told to “go forward with regulations for the turbines in Ninigret Park.” That is a fabrication.

They wrote a section into that residential wind ordinance that addresses turbines that were too big to be residential, but too small to be industrial, that might have covered a wind project like what was then the dead-as-a-door-nail Ninigret municipal turbine project. They created regulations that are even more impossible to meet than the rules for residential turbines.

They were not told by anybody to create rules for Ninigret Park turbines. And what did they expect DiLibero to say about a project that was already dead and buried?

Well, folks, that’s the end of this series. You can read the documents, look at the CCA arguments and my rebuttals, and judge for yourself. The path the CCA wants to take Charlestown is a reckless one, with motives that I believe to be craven.

There is one consistent point the CCA makes that I would like to emphasize – and agree with – there is a huge difference between their vision of the future of Charlestown and that which I hold, and share with many of my Democratic colleagues.. 

In the CCA’s vision, a small group of landed gentry and out-of-state millionaires run the town “in loco parentis” to prevent the rest of us from somehow “ruining” the town by trying to do anything that might be remotely economically viable. They seek to micromanage every aspect of the lives of the year-round residents in order to provide a pleasing backdrop for their fantasies of a vacation idyll. 

In our vision, the town is run by its residents – with input from all residents, rich and poor – for the benefit of all residents.