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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.