There was a time when the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) claimed to be the champion of open, honest, transparent government. After all, this was their rallying cry when they organized to oppose former Town Council President Jim Mageau (2006-2008).
They even continued to trumpet this cause after they won all five Town Council seats in the November 2008 elections.
Here’s an e-bleat the CCA sent out on June 23, 2009 attacking the Affordable Housing Commission for going into executive session to discuss the acquisition of property next to Town Hall which was then being considered for a new affordable housing complex.
The CCA decided during the 2008-2010 term that they didn’t like the Town Councilors they had elected and decided to try to replace them with new CCA Councilors. The issue that caused the CCA schism (and the excommunication of the CCA’s 2008 slate) was the Whalerock industrial wind farm proposal which the 2008 Council supported.
|Former CCA President Deputy Dan Slattery|
....consistency is for lesser mortals
The first thing the new 2010 CCA Town Council majority (comprised of Boss
Tom Gentz, Deputy Dan
Slattery and their ally Lisa DiBello)
did when they took office on November 15, 2010 was to act in a way that sure
looked a lot like a violation of the Open Meetings Act.
Minutes after being sworn in, the Council acted on a resolution by Boss Gentz, seconded by Deputy Dan, to institute a moratorium against all wind energy development in
The resolution was already prepared and ready to file and may have been in direct conflict with an earlier Attorney General decision on a CCA complaint filed against Jim Mageau!
That decision came on a complaint filed against Mageau by none other than CCA leader
(spouse of Ruth Platner) on January 22, 2007. In his complaint, Vanover charged
that a quorum of Town Council members – Mageau, Bruce
Picard and John Craig – met privately right after they were
elected and decided who they were going to hire for Town Administrator to
replace Richard Sartor.
Vanover successfully argued that a Council majority can’t hold a private meeting, even though they were not yet sworn in to serve, and make decisions without following the public process set out in the state Open Meetings Act.
Bravo, Cliffie, and boo-hiss to the new CCA Town Council majority if they came to their first meeting having already decided on a wind energy moratorium. I haven’t seen any direct evidence that the three-member CCA bloc of Gentz, Slattery and DiBello held an illegal pre-meeting, but the record certainly provides a Helluva lot of circumstantial evidence.
Incidentally, the Council amended Gentz’s resolution to allow for continued development of the municipal wind turbine project in Ninigret Park – the same project they used later as one of the main reasons to oust Town Administrator Bill DiLibero. At that time, Gentz was still a huge supporter of the muni-wind project.
The Gentz resolution banning all wind energy in Charlestown, except the municipal wind project in Ninigret Park, passed by the same 3-2 majority that has typified most Council votes since the November 2010 election.
At that time, nobody filed an Open Meetings Act complaint because, let’s face it, in November 2010, everybody hated Whalerock. But, according to the Attorney General’s office, there is no time limit on filing an Open Meetings Act complaint.
Mageau bit back at the CCA Council majority by filing his own successful Open Meetings Act complaint against the Council for its handling of what was then its enthusiastic job performance review and salary increase for Town Administrator William DiLibero. As noted above, ironically, only a few months later, the Town Council majority decided they not only didn’t like DiLibero anymore, but actually ran their vile “Kill Bill” campaign to drive him out of town.
The CCA who once hated executive sessions and considered them an affront to public order now tolerates, without a word, routine executive sessions. Indeed, every Town Council meeting is preceded by a closed executive session.
I’m not opposed to executive session being conducted for lawful purposes. The state law sets out the requirements for informing the public about these sessions through a posted agenda listing the topics. State law also details what subjects are appropriate for an executive session and which are not.
The Town Council’s Executive Session on May 14, however, really takes the cake for being an insult to any reasonable definition of open and transparent government.
On May 14th, the Council’s Executive Session included the key players to the Y-Gate Scandal to discuss a secret deal to renege on public promises that before the town put money into the purchase of the Westerly YMCA’s abandoned campground on Watchaug Pond, they would be it to a public vote. [Click here: go to page 18].
Without proper notice on the agenda for that secret session, the Town Council majority worked out the deal that Boss Tom Gentz would spring on the town at the June 11 Town Council meeting – a deal to take $398,000 out of the town Open Space/Recreation Bond fund without the promised public vote.
What ever happened to the CCA that went nuts when the Affordable Housing Commission held a lawful executive session? I guess openness and transparency only applies to the CCA’s political opponents.