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Friday, March 18, 2022

Sunshine week in Charlestown is pretty gloomy

As transparent as a lump of coal

By Will Collette

Today is the last day of this year’s Sunshine Week, a time when journalists around the world call attention to the need for openness and transparency, a free press and free flow of information.

It sure would be nice if any of those values were practiced here in Charlestown where the ruling Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) has decreed that there is no right to know and the public has no business poking its noses in government business.

Typical way Stankiewicz responds to open records requests
As for the free flow of information, under the decrees of Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz, you can get information under the state’s open records act, except you should expect most of the pages to be blacked out. Plus, if you ask for too much information, not only will you get blacked out pages, but you will be told to pay hundreds of dollars in advance.

This hasn’t just happened to me, but to several other citizens around town. Stankiewicz has made the very idea of open records meaningless.

Charlestown just received a state grant of $400,000 to buy some more open space land. But the CCA Town Council majority comprised of senior CCA Councilor Bonnie Van Slyke and two one-termers (hopefully) former Eagle Scout Cody Clarkin and SPA Trustee Susan Cooper voted to withhold the location of the land, the name of the seller and the asking price from the public.

We have since managed to get the name and location, but not the selling price or what the CCA/Town Planner claimed as the land value in the grant application. All we can know for sure is that it is going to be another rip-off, like SPA-Gate and the Tucker Estates deals within the past year.

The CCA Council majority has also voted to censor the minutes of meetings to remove any references to events or remarks that do not conform to the CCA’s myth of perfection.

The CCA Council majority has also voted to block any item they do not wish heard from being put on the Town Council agenda.

The CCA Council majority flouts the state open meetings law by coming into every meeting with their votes and their scripts locked and loaded by de facto CCA leader Ruth Platner and the CCA Steering Committee which meets in secret.

I can’t say they’ve taken their tactics from Vladimir Putin’s public relations playbook – the CCA has been practicing their style of closed, secret government long before Putin made it Russian state policy. I just hope the CCA doesn’t adopt Putin’s practice of killing journalists or sending them to prison for decades, but I do check under my car before starting it.