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Monday, September 17, 2012

Time for answers from DiBello, Part 3

Light load and still always absent
"Because I DON'T really care"
By Will Collette

This is a continuing series challenging Charlestown Council member Lisa DiBello to substantiate the June 25 attacks she made from the Council dais against me and Progressive Charlestown for publishing what she claimed to be false and misleading information about her.

On June 27, I presented documentation raising serious questions about DiBello’s fitness to serve on the Council now, never mind being reelected.

It’s been two months, and not a peep from DiBello.

In this installment, we’ll look at some new information about one aspect of DiBello’s “service” to the town and she how well she kept one single commitment she made.

DiBello has always seemed to have talent to portray herself as an energetic and enthusiastic person, and a hard worker. Perhaps she is, when it’s one of those things she really cares about - or when people are watching. But some skeptics call DiBello a phony, and say that her image is a carefully cultivated act.

In my earlier series on DiBello, one of the pervasive themes shown in the documents is that DiBello seems to avoid doing the nitty-gritty work of keeping records, filing reports and being accountable. Or even showing up.

When DiBello was elected to the Charlestown Town Council on the campaign slogan “Because I Care,” many residents assumed she would bring her effervescent exuberance or some version of it to the Council. In the Council’s first month, on November 22, 2010, Council members divided up the responsibility to serve as "Council liaison" to each of Charlestown’s boards, commissions and ad hoc committees.

That role means you go to commission meetings and listen. You have no vote, and generally, you should only speak if necessary or if asked a question. Your job is to be the Council’s presence and to carry any messages or requests that commission has for the Council.

Most Town Council members serve as liaison to at least three boards, commissions and committees[1].

She didn't get the Commission she wanted...
The only Commission that Councilor DiBello wanted was Parks and Recreation. Usually, such a request from a Council member is honored without question. However, in DiBello’s case, having been fired as Parks and Recreation Director only six months earlier, her colleagues deemed it inappropriate for DiBello to serve as liaison to that Commission. New Town Council Boss Tom Gentz said he felt there was a conflict of interest.

Here’s how the conflict was described in the official Town Council Minutes for November 22, 2010:

Parks and Recreation – Mr. Avedisian and Ms. DiBello both would like to be liaisons.  Mr. Gentz stated with all due respect that he felt that there may be a conflict with Ms. DiBello. She asked Mr. Ruggiero if there was a legal standing[2] Mr. Ruggiero stated no legal conflict. Ms. DiBello stated she is more qualified. Mr. Avedisian stated in all fairness that there may be some conflict with the person that now sits in the position she held for eighteen years[3].[emphasis added – see footnote]  Ms. DiBello disagreed and stated that there are several members of the commission that are ready to resign if there is not a change[4]. [emphasis added – see footnote].  Mr. Avedisian asked his fellow councilors to consider him for liaison. Ms. DiBello stated there is a member of the Park and Rec Commission in the audience, could he speak on this.  Mr. Gentz said no.  He asked for a motion.

Motion made by Mrs. Frank, seconded by Mr. Slattery that Mr. Avedisian remain Council Liaison to Parks and Recreation.  Vote:  Mr. Avedisian-yes; Ms. DiBello-no; Mrs. Frank-yes; Mr. Slattery-yes; Mr. Gentz-yes.  Motion carries. 

Having been denied her only interest – and perhaps her raison d'ĂȘtre for being on the Council in the first place – DiBello displayed a clear lack of interest in any other assignment. Indeed, as the other Councilors divvied up the list, DiBello simply moped until finally, she deigned to take the liaison assignment to the Cross Mills Public Library board.

Most of the other Council members take their liaison roles very seriously. Some, like Tom Gentz and Dan Slattery, perhaps a little too seriously when they begin to act more like their main interests lie with their commissions and not with their jobs as Councilors.Examples include Gentz acting as a creature of the Planning Commission and Slattery putting the Budget Commission's interests near the top of his priority list (second after his penchant for secret investigations). she picked the Library and didn't show up...because she cares?
According to the minutes of the Cross Mills Library Board, there were 18 meetings between December 2010 and June 2012.

DiBello showed up at the December 14, 2010, the first after her appointment as liaison, and then skipped all seventeen meetings since then. Click here to read the minutes for yourself

In my research tasks for Progressive Charlestown, I read a lot of minutes. Most of them are really boring, except for a few conspicuous examples (click here for CCA Planning Commission candidate Connie Baker’s finest hour). I also found Maureen Areglado’s minutes of the Charter Revision Advisory Committee very entertaining as well.

At the top of each set of minutes, you get the attendance log – who was present and generally who was not. The Cross Mills Library Board minutes are pretty typical, except that they do not list DiBello as absent – only that she’s not present.

Look, I know sitting in on extra meetings has got to be a big drag sometimes, but it’s part of what you sign on for when you run for office. It’s bad enough that DiBello only signed up for one such gig when all of her colleagues have at least three and her archenemy Gregg Avedisian has six.

But to be a no-show on top of that is not consistent with DiBello’s plea to the voters that they should elect her “Because I Care.

But as DiBello prepares to face the voters to ask them to re-elect her, now is the time for her to be held accountable for what she has done, and what she has failed to do.

In the next installment, we’ll look some more at what DiBello cares about and doesn’t care about.

Click here to read Part 1
Click here to read Part 2

[1] Councilor Gregg Avedisian is liaison to six boards and commissions, followed by Marge Frank and Tom Gentz who each have four liaison gigs. Dan Slattery has three. These assignments are all listed in the minutes for the November 22, 2010 Council meeting.

[2] I don’t know what DiBello meant by “legal standing” in this context. “Standing” generally means a person has enough of an established connection to an issue to be able to take part in a legal action about it. This was also the beginning of a DiBello standard practice of asking for a ruling from the Town Solicitor many times during each Council meeting she attends.

[3] On several occasions, DiBello has publicly claimed she was a town employee for 22 years. However, on her annual disclosure forms filed with the RI Ethics Commission (and sworn under penalty of perjury), DiBello listed at least five different dates of hire. Those dates put her tenure at somewhere between 19 and 20 years. Not the 22 DiBello often claims. Not the 18 listed in these Council minutes. I have raised the question of DiBello’s inconsistent answers since last October. DiBello has not answered.

[4] According to Town Council minutes, no member of the Parks & Recreation Commission resigned in December or January despite DiBello's ominous threat. In February 2011, Marianne Dussault resigned but in her letter, she listed several time conflicts that forced her to resign. Bernie Bishop resigned in March, but in his letter, cites time pressures and not anything to do with Ms. DiBello as his reason for resigning. There were no resignations in April or May.