Menu Bar

Home           Calendar           Topics          Just Charlestown          About Us

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

More Charlestown Tapas

Dishing more tasty tidbits of local news
By Will Collette

Sumptin’s up in the DiBello case?

In the Town’s May 14 response to my on-going open records request, Town Clerk Amy Weinreich sent me this response:
“Based on research and communication with other Town Departments and the Town's Solicitors, the Town is in receipt of a letter from Attorney Robert E. Savage dated April 17, 2014 related to: "3. Any new records relating to Lisa DiBello’s claims against the town."
However, this document is exempt from disclosure under one or more of the following:RIGL §38-2-2(4)(A)(I)(b); RIGL §38-2-2(4)(A)(II); RIGL §38-2-2(4)(B); RIGL §38-2-2(4)(E); RIGL §38-2-2(4)(J); RIGL §38-2-2(4)(K); RIGL §38-2-2(4)(M); RIGL §38-2-2(4)(S)”
This related to Town Council member Lisa DiBello’s conspiracy lawsuit against Charlestown originally filed over two years ago. This response says the town received a letter pertaining to this case from DiBello’s lawyer but that the letter and its contents are (correctly) exempt from disclosure under the Access to Public Records Act. Since there have been no filings in the actual case in well over a year, the odds are that DiBello’s attorney is looking for a way to end this case, no doubt with some form of settlement.

Keep going...lots more news.

The last settlement offer made public asked the town to pay DiBello $1.5 million.

Since DiBello v. Charlestown has been discussed behind closed doors in Council Executive Session twice recently, we might soon see a settlement. A similar case was settled in Hopkinton when the town’s insurance company stepped in and settled over the town’s objections.

You’ve got to read the Westerly Sun’s Copar stories!

Phil Armetta (photo by Stephen DeVoto,
Middletown Eye)
For a number of months, Dale Faulkner at the Westerly Sun and I have been going back and forth in covering every angle of the outrageous Copar Quarry scandal. But lately, Dale has pulled well into the lead with his recent series on the legal actions brought by the money man behind Copar, Trash Titan Phil Armetta of Middletown, CT, against former Copar CEO, career criminal Sam Cocopard. Click here and here and here.

Copar, as you may know, runs a quarry in Bradford that has been plaguing its neighbors in Charlestown and Westerly. Copar runs a second quarry in Rhode Island, right in Charlestown, off Route 91 on the banks of the Pawcatuck River and has long been rumored as a likely leaser of South County Sand & Gravel’s inactive pit on Klondike Road.

The family of Phil Armetta took over Armetta’s business affairs after being awarded a conservatorship over him due to his age and deteriorating mental stability. They allege in a civil lawsuit that Sam Cocopard borrowed $11 million from Phil and, rather than put it into the business, used it for personal purposes.

Judge Brian Stern expressed some dismay that this case was appearing before him in RI Superior Court and suggested that a more appropriate course would be for the Armetta family to take this matter to the State Police since the lawsuit alleges Cocopard’s boldest rip-off yet. Cocopard has been repeatedly found guilty of financial crimes but the sums involved ranged around $20,000 not $11 million.

I still wonder where that $11 million came from; i.e. where did Phil get it? To me, that’s a more interesting question than what Cocopard did with the money.  I also wonder how the Armetta family can keep the Copar operation from tanking because Copar doesn’t just owe Phil Armetta money, but also dozens of other creditors. I have repeatedly pointed out how Copar’s business model is not the kind an honest business uses.

And what will happen to the Comolli Family, owners of the land leased by Copar for the Bradford quarry. They co-signed a $500,000 loan from Armetta to Cocopard, pledging the whole quarry site as collateral. Read Dale’s articles and stay tuned.

A Charlestown beach access WTF

Public beach access, Charlestown-style
We just went through a major skirmish pitting town’s folk against non-residents over whether Charlestown should sell one of the few town-owned rights of way to the beach (click here for detail). 

For once, public outrage forced the CCA Party boys who control the Town Council to flip. Boss Gentz, Dan Slattery and George Tremblay changed their position from moving the sale forward to opposing it. Thus, the town retains ownership. But what does that mean?

But a sharp-eyed reader sent me this photo (left) showing how the town has decided to manage this town-owned right of way. Or maybe we should call it the town-owned “No Way.”

During the hearing on this issue, former Town Council President Deb Carney noted that the town's Comprehensive Plan calls for Charlestown to get more such small beach access points. Given the Plan's mandate, I asked Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz to explain WTF, and this is the e-mail answer I received:
Mr. Collette:
It is my understanding the Town errected the signs and they have been in place since at least 2012.
Mark Stankiewicz, Town Administrator
Charlestown loses more people

Ruth is happy!
Here’s some bright news for CCA Party leader and town Planning Commissar Ruth Platner – new census numbers show a drop in Charlestown population. Platner and the CCA Party have stymied any activity that might bring in new people, especially families with school age children.

Monthly reports from Town Clerk Amy Weinreich consistently show that Charlestown deaths outnumber births by a wide margin.

Though the US Census Bureau does the official, household-by-household head count every ten years, each year the Bureau updates its numbers using surveys and technology that lead to generally accepted results.

Charlestown’s official population numbered 7,829 men, women and children in 2010. Since then, Charlestown population has dropped by another 49 people to 7,781. Over the past ten years, Charlestown’s population has dropped by 3.4%.

R.I. population change, 2004 to 2013

Percent change

Divine intervention breathes life into Chariho summit

At the May 12 Town Council meeting, four Charlestown Town Council members turned down the plea from Council Boss Tom Gentz to accept an offer from Chariho School Superintendent Barry Ricci to participate in a summit meeting of the three Chariho town councils – Charlestown, Richmond and Hopkinton.

Councilor Dan Slattery was most adamant about not wanting to go (unless he was allowed to come armed to do combat) and was joined by Councilors George Tremblay, Paula Andersen and Lisa DiBello in turning down the invitation because they saw no useful purpose to it.

But since then, the Right Honorable Swami Ron Areglado, a CCA Party political appointee to the Chariho School Board, sent each of the Council members a letter pleading with them to reconsider and accept the invitation. Areglado believes that somehow more information will cause the other town councils to have a change of heart.

Given what a big deal this issue of dialogue is to Areglado, and presumably to his CCA Party colleague and fellow School Committee appointee Donna Chambers, how come neither of them could show up to make the pitch for moral and ethical conduct at the Town Council meeting?

Maybe Areglado thought the letter, leaked to the Sun, would be more dramatic.

Anyway, Councilor George Tremblay (CCA Party) bit, and told the Westerly Sun that he will ask the Council to reconsider. Under Robert's Rules of Order, a motion to reconsider may be introduced by a person who voted in the majority, as Tremblay did in voting “no” to the invitation.

Council Boss Gentz took this as a positive sign, “I am, I guess, cautiously optimistic that the council may reconsider.” That position is consistent with Gentz’s long-standing policy of favoring any conversation, even with a rabid squirrel, because conversation is good even if you have to endure a painful battery of injections afterwards.

For Charlestown to reverse its position, Swami Areglado will need to convince one more Town Council member – Slattery, DiBello or Andersen – to flip.

Barbara Somers, one of the three URI 
women to win an Innovation Fellowship

Four South County women win innovation awards

The four women are Barbara Somers and Laura Skrobe of South Kingstown, Mary Flynn of Narragansett and Kathleen Castro of Saunderstown. Each will receive a $300,000 Rhode Island Innovation Fellowship.

Somers, Skrobe and Castro work at the URI College of Environment and Life Sciences Department of Fisheries. Their innovation project will explore whether blue crabs can be restored to fresh water ponds and raised in qualities for potential commercial sale.

Ms. Flynn’s innovation was to come up with low-cost, nutritious and delicious recipes that low-income families enrolled in the RITE-Care program could use to improve their diet and health. Not noted: whether any of the recipes feature blue crab.

Lawrence & Memorial doctors are not happy with management

A letter signed by 44 staff doctors was sent to the Lawrence & Memorial Hospital board of directors saying the hospital has become a “not doctor-friendly hospital” resulting in the loss of “many excellent doctors to other hospitals…Those who have left have found a better atmosphere elsewhere.”

L&M is the owner of our local Westerly Hospital. L&M went through a bitter strike and lock-out that ended last December. L&M recently announced it was undergoing a management review and that the likely outcome will probably been more staff reductions, opening up the wounds that led to last fall’s labor struggle.

Out-of-state beach contractor wins, Charlestown and other coastal towns lose

A WPRI investigation found that ProPark of Connecticut, the vendor hired by DEM to handle parking at state beaches in Charlestown, Westerly, South Kingstown and Narragansett has seen its profits jump by almost 50% while the share of the profits going to the host towns (including Charlestown) dropped by more than 20%.

The big jump in ProPark’s profits came after the state decided to jack up parking fees, but forgot to renegotiate the terms of its contract with ProPark. According to a letter DEM Janet Coit wrote in a letter to state legislators, “unfortunately, [this] has resulted in an unanticipated gain to ProPark.”

The state now says it will renegotiate terms when ProPark’s contract expires at the end of September.

I'm surprised Charlestown isn't going nuts over this, given the town has been in protracted litigation with Shelter Cove/Johnny Angel's clam shack to force them to curb beach parking so as not to compete with the town-owned parking lot.

Charlestown tourism gets boost from “Extreme Sports” publicity

In a run-down on where to go in Rhode Island to get your kicks, Charlestown and its neighbors were mentioned several times in a recent edition of Providence On-Line. From sky-diving, paint-ball dueling, rock-climbing, shark-cage diving, to auto racing, the article covered a range of ways their readers can “Satisfy your inner adrenaline junkie.” Charlestown got mentions for mountain-biking in Burlingame Park and kayaking from Charlestown to Block Island.

I’m sure we would have gotten another listing if only Dean F. Scalera had decided continue offering helicopter rides where you can fire assault rifles at ground targets. Scalera sold the chopper involved in last year’s incident and is reportedly not planning to replace it this year. Maybe next year.


There is hardly any aspect of existence that has not been subjected to a survey. Surveys, as we all know, exist primarily to plague Rhode Islanders and to make them even more depressed about our beautiful state.

But I have somewhat good news from yet another new survey. This survey measured each state’s comparative “hippiness” (i.e. the number of communes, organic food stores, and the levels of interest in such things as the Grateful Dead, marijuana, LSD, patchouli, tie-dyed clothing and peace ?).

Not surprisingly, the least hippie-friendly states are Mississippi, closely followed by Texas (except Austin) and Louisiana (except New Orleans).

The three friendliest hippie havens are Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

But Rhode Island does OK at #14. That 14th place finish feels better when you consider that we beat out New York (#29) and California (#32). One of my colleagues noted that Charlestown might have contributed to Rhode Island’s score via the Umbrella Factory.

Booze news

Craft whiskeys made by South Kingstown’s Sons of Liberty Distillery won two gold medals in the annual international craft whiskey competition. This is the second time this year the local distillery has won international honors. We first covered this new local business on its opening (click here).

Narragansett beer’s new Shandy – beer plus Del’s Lemonade – has turned out to be an inexplicably big hit. Narragansett retailers are saying the drink – described by some as similar to Mike’s Lemonade – is flying off the shelves.
animated animated GIFSpeaking of weasel piss, the Yuengling Brewery of eastern Pennsylvania has announced that it will start distributing its brew in Rhode Island. I think this is in response to the complaint often heard in Rhode Island bars and package stores about the lack of selection of beers from eastern Pennsylvania ever since Rolling Rock was bought by Budweiser and is now brewed in New Jersey.

And in related news about stuff that can make you sick, if you bought packaged hummus from Target or from Trader Joe’s, don’t eat it. Return it to where you bought it for a full refund. Some batches of the hummus are suspected to be contaminated with listeria which can make you very sick.