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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

DiBello launches legal action against the town

As expected, Town Council member Lisa DiBello has taken the first formal step toward suing the town over her 2010 firing as Parks and Recreation Director. She filed a 30-page administrative complaint against the Town of Charlestown and 10 former and present town officials on March 11 with the RI Commission on Human Rights and the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. DiBello also puts Charlestown on notice of her intent to file charges under other civil rights statutes including the state Whistleblower Protection Act.

In her complaint, DiBello claims she was fired in May 2010 by Town Administrator William DiLibero in retaliation for a December 1, 2005 conversation she overheard (and reported) between former Town Administrator Richard Sartor and present Tax Assessor Ken Swain. According to DiBello’s complaint, Sartor called then Town Council President Deb Carney a “bitch” and Swain made explicit sexual remarks about another unnamed woman.

In the complaint, DiBello claims that when she reported the Sartor and Swain conversation first to Tax Collector Jo Anne Santos and then Deb Carney, she asked that no action be taken. She says she tried to stop the investigation or not cooperate during the investigation. NOTE: under the law, once an employee reports a potential violation like this, the employer is required to investigate and take action. Santos and Carney are not named in DiBello’s complaint.
According to Dibello’s complaint, Council members Greg Avedisian and (now former member) Forrester Safford played major and recurring roles in the alleged retaliation. DiBello charges Avedisian and Safford with threatening her with retaliation and Avedisian is blamed for giving the story to the media.

DiBello reported a lull in the conspiracy against her when Jim Mageau took over the Town Council in 2006, although she claims Safford told her she was responsible for Mageau's win and “this will come back to bite you.”

In 2008, CCA's slate of Council candidates, which included Avedisian and Safford, trounced Mageau. According to DiBello's complaint, Avedisian and Safford re-started the retaliatory campaign, supported by the other Council members.

Then in spring 2009, according to DiBello, former town administrator Sartor went to Hopkinton and met with then Hopkinton town manager DiLibero several times. DiBello claims they made a deal - Sartor would get DiLibero the better-paying Charlestown job in return for DiLibero either by forcing DiBello to quit or by firing her.

The complaint then offers DiBello's view of the string of negative encounters between her and DiLibero that led to her firing on May 19, 2010. 

DiBello brings her complaint against the town of Charlestown, Sartor and DiLibero (as expected), as well as all of the Town Council members who served from 2008-2010, plus Police Chief Shippee and GIS Coordinator Stephen Candless. Ken Swain is not named despite a recurring role in the narrative nor is former Building Inspector John Matuza who was apparently part of the December 2005 conversation.

CORRECTION: The Town and the respondents must respond in detail to this complaint within 20 calendar days of the notice from the RI Human Rights Commission, April 8.

DiBello does not claim specific damages, although she details loss of income and benefits, employability, humiliation and emotional distress. The complaint is not available on-line.