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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Primiano gets ousted

Controversial, though popular, Parks & Recreation Director forced out
By Will Collette
11 Jay reading
Jay reading from his new book at the Charlestown Land Trust's
Farmer's Market. Read the review HERE. It's pretty good.
Next Wednesday night, the Charlestown Town Council will discuss the departure of Jay Primiano as Director of the town’s Parks and Recreation Department at a closed-door executive session prior to setting the agenda for the April 13 Town Council meeting. 

Sources tell Progressive Charlestown that Primiano, long a target of attack by leaders of the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA Party), has been forced out though the reasons and terms and conditions that have not yet been disclosed.

Primiano is a member of the quasi-union of Charlestown department heads and as such, has some contract and bargaining rights that will have to be honored unless the Council has found some basis to dismiss him for cause. That seems unlikely since there have been no public actions taken against Primiano. One source tells me Primiano signed the separation papers today though I cannot confirm that. Jay has not responded to my request for comment.

Town Department heads were instructed to stay mum about Primiano’s ouster, if not keep it a secret. Yeah, like that's going to happen in Charlestown!


It is not surprising to see the CCA Party-controlled town government make its move against Primiano. Ever since the CCA launched its Kill Bill” campaign that culminated in the ouster of former Town Administrator Bill DiLibero, Primiano has been in the CCA’s cross-hairs.

Primiano has been an outspoken and aggressive advocate of expanding recreational opportunities for the public, especially at Ninigret Park, often ignoring the delicate sensitivities of the Park’s wealthy neighbors and Byzantine town politics. For all of Jay's faults, there was never any question about his dedication to bringing more fun into Charlestown. 

That, perhaps above all else, made him persona non grata with the gray people of the CCA.

His attempt to secure a state DEM grant to install dark sky-friendly sports lighting in Ninigret Park sparked the Battle for Ninigret Park that pitted the CCA Party and particularly its supporters who live around the Park against people in the rest of Charlestown.

At one point, the CCA Party Town Council members sought to make a deal with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to give the feds veto rights over human activities in the town-owned Park and replace the town’s Parks and Recreation Commission with a hand-picked park oversight group dominated by CCA Party partisans.

Though the CCA Party lost the Battle for Ninigret Park, Bill DiLibero was the primary casualty as he became the focus of the CCA’s anger. But many saw that it would only be a matter of time before Primiano would be forced to leave.

The CCA Party sweep in Charlestown in the November 4 election made it a sure thing that Primiano would have to go, and that the CCA’s plan to halt if not roll-back human activity in Ninigret Park would be pushed.

The word on the street is that our CCA Party masters are also making it clear to town staff and their financial supporters that facility upgrades and public events at the park will be greatly reduced as soon as possible. That may result with Charlestown leaving some outside funding on the table.

The current plans for a new park pavilion and composting toilets are evidently too close to construction to halt but we should not expect anything more.

And the approval for this year’s Rhythm & Roots weekend will likely come before the Town Council approval this month. If so, that could lead to some interesting discussion.

On the upcoming June 1 town financial special election, voters will be asked to vote for a new $2 million bond authorization for open space. Unlike past similar bond issues, this one leaves out “recreation” as an authorized spending category. 

That sent the clear message that our new Charlestown leaders have pretty much had it with recreation. Without some clarity from town leaders that recreation is still going to be a priority, there may be some opposition to the upcoming bond referendum.

Our sources tell us that there are no plans to replace Primiano. When the town’s new budget is revealed, we will learn whether the position is abolished or simply being held open for a while.

That leaves a lot up in the air - the management of the Park and other town recreational properties, the summer festivals and activities and of course the beaches. Existing staff are going to be expected to take care of all of that plus the work they are already doing.

Former Parks and Recreation Lisa DiBello would become eligible to take that position back this November. Under the state Ethics law, there is a one-year anti-revolving door provision that prohibits an elected official from taking a job with the same town. 

Since DiBello chose not to run for re-election, her one year waiting period is up on November 5. While there was some talk of her moving out of state, she still owns her house on Morley Street.

The one-year waiting period for former CCA Party Town Councilor Dan Slattery will also expire in November. He’s had a lot to say about Ninigret Park in the past – most of it wrong – but maybe he wants Jay’s gig. However, the rumors we’ve heard are that he has his eye set on the Town Administrator position currently held by Mark Stankiewicz.

DiBello was fired for cause from the Parks and Recreation Directorship in May 2010. That led to a long legal battle between DiBello and the town. At one point, DiBello was demanding $1.5 million or her old job back and a smaller bundle of money. In the end, she settled for $450,000 last August.

If the town does decide to hire someone to replace Jay, I hope job applicants will take into consideration that since the position of Parks and Recreation Director was created in Charlestown, it has only been held by two people, both of whom were pushed out of the job.