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Monday, April 30, 2012

What was Uncle Fluffy up to?

Odd little fight at the close of April 23 Town Council meeting
By Will Collette

One thing you don’t see very often is a heated debate and sharply split vote over whether to accept the minutes of a previous meeting. But in Charlestown these days, the bizarre has become commonplace.

You could have seen this coming when Town Council Boss Tom Gentz pulled an odd maneuver at the first half of the Town Council’s bifurcated April meeting on April 9. At the end of that meeting, as the Council was about to approve all of the noncontroversial “consent agenda” items, Gentz asked that instead of routinely approving the March 12 Town Council minutes, they be set aside “for further research.”

Near the end of the Town Council’s April 23rd meeting, after the CCA-controlled Town Council majority – and particularly Council Vice President Deputy Dan Slattery – took a beating from citizens for their ill-conceived attack on the town’s stewardship of Ninigret Park, Boss Gentz asked that the minutes of the March 12 Council meeting be changed.

What did he have in mind, asked his Council colleagues?

Ron Areglado (East Greenwich Patch)
Turns out that Boss Gentz wanted a verbatim transcript of comments made by Ill Winder Ron Areglado inserted into the record. Areglado made his remarks during a portion of the meeting in which citizen comments are generally ruled out of order – in the “Council Comments” section.

Areglado’s comments followed remarks by Councilors Deputy Dan Slattery and Boss Tom Gentz about items that appeared later in the agenda, namely their contention that Town Administrator Bill DiLibero had somehow hoodwinked the Council and the whole town over both wind turbines and sports lighting proposed at Ninigret Park.

These comments were also out of order, as Council member Gregg Avedisian pointed out, as this section of the meeting is for items not otherwise addressed in the agenda.

But Deputy Dan, excited at the prospect of launching the “Kill Bill” character assassination campaign that led to Administrator DiLibero’s resignation last week, couldn’t wait to get started with his twisted portrayal of the events.

Areglado rose and went to the podium to express his shock and outrage at what he had just heard Deputy Dan relate. Of course, all Areglado – or anyone else in attendance – heard was Deputy Dan’s distorted version of events, a version that has since been thoroughly discredited, although it still cost DiLibero his job. You can listen to Areglado’s comments here

Boss Gentz wanted Areglado’s out-of-order comments included verbatim in the official minutes, because, he said, he didn’t think the brief summary did justice to what Areglado said.

On cue, Deputy Dan made the motion to include the Areglado transcript in the minutes. Since no other Councilor would second the motion, Boss Gentz seconded it and the debate commenced.

Councilors Marge Frank and Gregg Avedisian noted that the inclusion of a verbatim transcript of off-the-cuff remarks in Council minutes is not done, and asked why these remarks and not the many, many others made by citizens that night and others should get special treatment. Marge Frank noted that if anyone wanted Areglado's exact words, they can see and hear his presentation on Clerkbase.

Councilor Lisa DiBello confessed that she had not read the minutes, so she recused herself because she really didn’t know what was going on.

In the end, Deputy Dan’s motion failed. Only he and Boss Gentz voted yes to include Areglado’s full remarks. Councilor DiBello abstained because she had not read the minutes. Marge Frank also abstained. And Gregg Avedisian voted No. It takes three votes to approve any Council action, so Boss Gentz's motion failed on a 2 yes, 1 no, 2 absentions.

You can hear this bizarre interaction for yourself by clicking here

But let’s be frank about what this was really all about: Gentz and Slattery have set off a powder keg with their attacks on DiLibero and the current stewardship of Ninigret Park.

They have put out distorted and incorrect information – intentionally or inadvertently, you be the judge. They have sent our long-suffering Town Administrator packing. They have displayed craven cruelty toward him, a complete disregard for the truth, and have blatantly pandered to special interests aligned with the Charlestown Citizens Alliance.

Add that to the god-awful Y-Gate Scandal – the $475,000 ripoff of town funds to buy an easement on a busted-out campground – and you have a couple of Council members who have stepped up to their chins in political doo-doo.

Trying to get Ron Areglado’s remarks – remarks that were a reaction to Slattery’s twisted recounting of events – into the record is a really pathetic attempt by Boss Gentz to create a record that rationalizes their string of mistakes.

It’s weak, even a little sad, to see Boss Gentz try to play games with Council minutes in an attempt to score a political point or two.


  1. Mr. Collette- So do you think that both Ron and Maureen are going to run for the Town Council as a family team?

    I have sent the following to CCA, in response to their 4/26 posting three times, but it obviously can't get through the " Steering Committee" censors at CCA. I guess your name has to be Michael Chambers to get posted;

    Wow- what a disingenuous posting by CCA. Let’s try to clear up a few points;

    1. While the vote to accept Mr. Dilibero’s resignation may have been unanimous, all of the citizens of Charlestown, really know and understand that the resignation was caused by the fact, that unless he resigned , he would be terminated and have to fight for any termination pay and benefits. We all know that any motion to terminate would have succeeded by a 3-2 vote. In those circumstances, Mr. Dilibero did the right thing by resigning and leaving office with some degree of dignity..
    2. We will not forget who the three votes were against Mr. Dilibero, and they can be assured that in any campaign by them for reelection, the distasteful way in which the behaved will not be forgotten and will be answerable at the polls (if and when they stand for reelection)
    3. Your statements regarding Ninigret Park and the Town’s legal, ethical, and moral obligations are also full of misstatements, misleading statements and inaccuracies;

    a. With respect to the 55 acres of Ningret Park that the Town owns, there is no legal obligation to involve the US Fis and Wildlife in any decisions involving that property. The US Fish and WildLife Service has on at least 2 occasions has made that statement. As Ms. Carney documented;

    “As noted in meeting minutes from 1994 with John Kelly from the National Park Service, “The Park was received as one contiguous property, but there is a differentiation in the restrictions on different parts of the property that arises from the difference in the deeds of the two parcels. The 55 acres is owned outright by the Town of Charlestown through purchase, this parcel is not within the jurisdiction of the National Park Service (emphasis added)

    “In 2002, the National Park Service again acknowledged that Ninigret Park is really two properties, and that they have no jurisdiction over the 55 acres. This came up when Charlestown was considering withdrawing from the Chariho School District and was contemplating building two schools at Ninigret Park on the town-owned 55 acres. Facilitation Committee meeting minutes from 2002 state, “Elyse LaForest of National Park Service stated National Parks would have nothing to say if the physical plant is located on the town owned 55 acres.”

    b. Given the above, what leads you or Mr. Slattery to conclude there is a ethical and moral obligation with respect to the 55 acres. Does Mr. Slattery (and any other leader of CCA) feel a legal or moral obligation with respect to their own homes and decisions made with repect to them (eg.- buying and selling, outside garden work and planting)?

    4.- While the US Fish and Wildlife has reserved the right to reclaim the land “at will”, I do not know of anytime that such a reclaiming has taken place anywhere in the United States. If I am wrong, please cite the instances, and if I am right then don’t continue to use scare tactics.

    5. As many have pointed out, there is no exclusion of anybody in the meeting of the Parks and Recreations committee where all matters are openly discussed.

    6. With respect to creating an adversarial or hostile environment within the Town (both as to Ninigret Park, and other Town matters, I think CCA and Mr. Slattery should hold up a mirror to their faces, and see who is causing all the controversy and hostile environment, and I think they will find “c’est moi”.

    7. One final note, after reading this CCA posting, and Mr. Slattery’s OP ED piece in the Westerly Sun on April 25th , is it possible that CCA writes all of Mr. Slattery’s comments?

    1. Mr. Birnbaum, I encourage you to send your well written and well argued letter to the Westerly Sun, where I'm sure it would get a broader readership than just on the CCA website.


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