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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Is There a Y-Gate deal afoot?

What were representatives of the Westerly Y, Charlestown Land Trust and Sonquipaug Association doing in the Town Council Executive Session?
By Will Collette

Sources report sighting several of the key players in the Y-Gate scandal emerging from the Town Council’s closed May 14 Executive Session prior to the belated start of the regular Council session.

Spotted were Westerly YMCA Board Chair Malcolm Makin, Sonquipaug Association leader JoAnne D’Alcomo, and Karen Jarret and Russ Ricci, Charlestown Land Trust President and Treasurer, respectively.

On the agenda for the closed Town Council Executive Session was Donoghue v. Charlestown, the lawsuit filed by Dr. John Donoghue to block the payment of $475,000 of Charlestown taxpayers’ money to finance the Y-Gate scandal.

D’Alcomo and the Land Trust’s Ricci are named defendants in the suit in their capacity as members of the YMCA land advisory group accused in Donoghue’s lawsuit of disregarding the state’s open meetings law.

However, Makin and Jarret are not named plaintiffs, raising questions about their presence at this closed Executive Session where they have no role in the named agenda item.

If they were there to discuss an alternative financial arrangement for the town to put up tax dollars to enable the deal, this could be a serious breech of the state’s Open Meetings Act. Discussing the Donoghue litigation is an appropriate subject for a closed session, but if there was to be discussion of a new Y-Gate deal, then that should have been posted on the agenda or the discussion should not have taken place. The presence of non-parties to the Donoghue suit seems to indicate a Council discussion about Y-Gate alternatives.

Other sources say the Westerly YMCA is desperate to sell their old campground – to whoever will buy it – because their major building project in Westerly is running into cost over-runs.

In my last article, I described a number of alternative scenarios the Y-Gate scandal players might attempt to complete the deal with taxpayer money.

The presence of all of these players in closed door discussions with the Town Council runs counter to the Council’s stated intentions to honor taxpayers’ right to vote. It is also a gross breech of their often stated commitment to open and transparent government.

The Town Council needs to explain what their meeting with non-litigants in the Donoghue v. Charlestown case was all about.