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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Time for Answers from Councilor DiBello, Part 5

Does Councilor Lisa DiBello plan to play “Let’s Make a Deal” with the CCA, Charlestown?

By Will Collette

Word around town is that Councilor Lisa DiBello, fresh off of her appearance on “Let’s Make A Deal” (click here to watch) where she won three TV sets worth $4998, wants to make a deal with the Charlestown Citizens Alliance to cash out her $1.5 million in legal claims against Charlestown (perhaps in a lame-duck session in early November after the election) in return for her support of the CCA’s slate in the November 6 Election.

The recent settlement in a precursor case (more on that below) lends credence to the rumors that Lisa is about to get what’s behind Curtain #3.

Council member Lisa DiBello is the only Town Council member who has simultaneously sued the town she claims to serve while sitting as a Town Council member. DiBello ran and won her seat in 2010 on a sympathy vote she received after being fired for cause as Parks and Recreation Director by former Town Administrator William DiLibero in May 2010.

In 2010, she ran under the slogan “Because I care” and repeatedly said she was not running for office to take revenge on anyone. The voters believed her, but within weeks, DiBello filed charges against the town and nine present and former town officials. Later, those charges turned into a lawsuit in state court, which DiBello has offered to settle for $1.5 million.

DiBello’s lawsuit appears to be modeled on a 2008 lawsuit filed in Hopkinton by former Housing Official Charlie Mauti against the town of Hopkinton and 26 present and former town officials. DiBello’s supporters have often pointed at the Mauti suit as “evidence” that DiBello’s archenemy, Bill DiLibero, is an “evil, corrupt” guy.

Former Town Administrator Bill  DiLibero
There are indeed many similarities between the Mauti case and the DiBello case. Both involve town department heads who were fired for cause by the same guy – William DiLibero.

In both cases, the reasons for the firings seemed pretty solid. In both cases, the disgruntled fired department head filed a lawsuit against the town, a large array of town officials and against DiLibero claiming there was a conspiracy against them that caused an unlawful termination.

Both lawsuits seemed designed to drag on until either the town or the insurance agency that insures municipalities reach the point where they decide it will cost more to resist than to settle.

In 2006, DiLibero, then Hopkinton town manager, suspended and later fired Charlie Mauti for falsifying his time cards, collecting pay he was not entitled to receive, failing to enforce the town’s zoning law and giving preferential treatment to the daughter of a wired local political figure.

The case went to arbitration and the arbitrator ruled in favor of the town, deciding that DiLibero’s actions were proper. Mauti filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court in 2008 alleging a conspiracy to violate his First and Fourth Amendment Constitutional rights. There have been lots of depositions and exchanges of legal briefs. In other words, the lawyers’ cash registers have been clanging continuously.

That factor seems to be the major – perhaps the only – reason why Hopkinton’s insurer decided to pay $230,000 to settle all claims. The Town of Hopkinton adamantly states this was the insurance company’s decision, not theirs. They assert that they did the right thing. Hopkinton officials also assert that no portion of the settlement will come from town taxpayers.

DiBello supporters claim that DiLibero hid the existence of the Mauti lawsuit from the Town Administrator Search Committee when he applied for the job as Charlestown Town Administrator[1]. However, members of the Search Committee say they were fully aware of the Mauti case. They say that because such lawsuits are fairly common (though not when they are brought by a sitting Town Council member), the Mauti case did not affect the Search Committee’s recommendation that the town hire DiLibero.

Former Town Administrator Richard Sartor
Accused by DiBello of raunchy language and conspiracy
with DiLibero
DiBello’s conspiracy case claims that her troubles began in 2005 when she eavesdropped on a raunchy conversation between then–Town Administrator Richard Sartor and Tax Assessor Ken Swain. When she attempted to report this conversation anonymously, she was told by then–Town Council President Deb Carney that there was a specific procedure that had to be followed, and that DiBello couldn’t just drop an anonymous dime and walk away. 

Click here to read DiBello’s lawsuit in full where you will find these details in DiBello’s own words.

DiBello’s charges and the proceedings roiled the Council until Jim Mageau and his slate were elected in 2006, when the controversy abated. DiBello claims in her lawsuit that even though there were no active measures taken against her during Mageau’s term in office, she was told there would be future trouble.

Then DiBello claims that after Mageau was ousted in 2008 and Councilors Gregg Avedisian and Forrester Safford returned to office – as CCA slate members, by the way – her troubles started in earnest. She claims there were threats by both Council members that she would be made to pay for reporting Sartor’s crude remarks (which, by the way, were NOT about DiBello, but about other women).

DiBello then makes the wildest claim of all. She asserts that her old nemesis, Richard Sartor, drove over to Hopkinton and met with DiLibero. She claims Sartor offered to get DiLibero the higher paying Charlestown Town Administrator’s job. DiBello claims that the quid pro quo was that in return for the higher paying job, DiLibero promised to finish the job that Sartor started of purging DiBello from her town job.

I have been looking forward to seeing whether DiBello produces her evidence during the discovery phase of the case to support what appears, on its face, to be charges of a criminal conspiracy between Sartor and DiLibero. Without the evidence to back this story up, DiBello’s case falls apart.

DiBello describes in her lawsuit how she and DiLibero never saw eye to eye. If you read only Lisa DiBello’s own words, you’ll see that she never accepted that he was her boss and resisted every effort DiLibero made to supervise her. If I was DiLibero, I’d fire her, too, just based on her own description of her actions.

But no matter – in DiBello’s eyes, DiLibero had no right to supervise her and she was shocked, shocked, when DiLibero finally got sick of her refusing to follow his direction and brought the issue to the Town Council with his recommendation that she be dismissed.

Even though DiBello rallied a number of her vocal supporters to speak for her, the Town Council voted unanimously to fire her in May 2010. DiBello then ran for office as the “Because I Care” candidate and was elected.

The devil made her do it
As I have documented here in Progressive Charlestown, she has been a terrible Council member, and not just because she gave the CCA a controlling majority on the Council because of her long-term animosity toward Gregg Avedisian and Marge Frank, who are both defendants in her lawsuit.

DiBello has had spotty attendance, has failed to carry out her bare minimum Council liaison duties, and ties up most meetings she attends with petty fights and constant appeals for “clarification” to the Town Solicitor.

Her constant fights with Councilor Gregg Avedisian led me to research her involvement in a number of other controversies, including the monopoly her housemate and business associate Deborah Dellolio had held for ten years on contracts for beach concessions at Charlestown Town Beach, her mismanagement of a quasi-municipal charity including serious questions about fundraising  discrepancies, and her lack of accountability and compliance with legal transparency requirements on her charity and her Parks and Recreation job.

During the course of DiBello’s case, DiBello’s lawyer made the offer to settle for $1.5 million and argued that DiBello was nearly destitute and broken down in more ways than one. Yet DiBello perked up enough to somehow fly to California to appear on Let’s Make a Deal (aired October 4, click here).

Between jumping up and down and screaming “oh my God!,” DiBello managed to say “I’m semiretired and I run a charity for children.”

This is from the fund-raising video DiBello's brother made out of her
appearance on The Price is Right a decade ago. In this video, DiBello
claims she was donating the car she won on the show to A Ray of Hope.
That never happened. Coming soon: another fund-raising video?
Surprisingly, DiBello did NOT pledge to donate her winnings to A Ray of Hope, as she did in 2001 on The Price Is Right when she promised to donate the car she won to the charity – but never did, even though she used her pledge in a fundraising video.

At least she didn’t embarrass the town by saying she was a Town Council member. But that bit about running “a charity for children…” really?

I am still calling on DiBello to release the IRS 990 financial disclosure form all charities are required by law to release to the public. If they exist. It appears she never filed one, even in 2000 to around 2005 when A Ray of Hope was raising big money from local businesses and people. 

She has never filed her state annual report on time, and twice the Secretary of State has revoked A Ray of Hope’s corporate charter. If DiBello ever releases her IRS-990 reports (if they exist), it would be interesting to see if she collected any money during the long periods when the charity’s corporate charter was revoked.

Now that DiBello has declared on national television that she is running the charity – present tense – it is all the more imperative that she meet the basic requirements of public accountability.

Maybe the plan is for her to make her deal with the CCA, get the town’s insurer to give her some money like it just did for her role model, Charlie Mauti, and become permanently retired so she can run A Ray of Hope full-time.

On June 25th, DiBello publicly called me a liar from the Town Council dais without a shred of evidence. The time has long since passed for DiBello to be called to account for her actions and her claims.

Read the earlier installments in this current DiBello series:
For Part 1, click here 
For Part 2, click here 
For Part 3, click here
For Part 4, click here

[1] There’s a contradiction in logic in this claim. If on the one hand, Sartor had already wired the job for DiLibero after making the quid pro quo deal (the job in return for Lisa’s firing), why would it matter whether or not the Search Committee knew about the Mauti suit?