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Wednesday, October 19, 2022

The Curious Case of Councilor Cooper

Caught in Sachem Passage!

By Robert Yarnall                       

Councilor Cooper’s thumbnail portraits above
added as a visual aid for our readers. The original
image sans thumbnails,
 from the CCA Elections page,
are presumably attributed to Cliff Vanover.

Over the next fortnight plus, Charlestown voters need to be very curious about the candidacy of incumbent CCA Councilor Susan Cooper. 

Susan was the Town Council Liaison to the Budget Commission, chaired by former Town Administrator Dick Sartor, when $3 million flew the coop. CCA Mother Hen Ruth Platner tried to bail out the Budget Commission, comparing the situation to a car parked in a garage. (So, the money was locked safely away in the trunk then? Ooops…)

Councilor/Attorney Cooper must have gagged as she heard Ruth go all-in Freudian: a perfect 4K High-Def image of the proverbial Bonnie & Clyde Getaway Car, hubby Cliff Vanover behind the wheel, sidekick wifey Ruth packing heat, careening through the woods to the secret CCA clubhouse with yet another trunkful of taxpayer cash to subsidize the CCA Spot Zoning Master Plan, deftly cloaked in faux environmentalism.

It certainly wasn’t the first time Susan Cooper Esq. had a front row seat during a clownish soliloquy. Exhibit A would be my email to her at the top of this story. At the Sachem Passage Association’s 2021 Annual Meeting, Joseph “Fredo” Quadrato let everyone know the extent of the CCA’s corruptive influence on the lives of town employees.

Attorney Susan Cooper is the only CCA Town Council member running for re-election. If she gets the most votes, she will be the next president of the Charlestown Town Council. Ruth Platner’s thoughts and prayers will have been answered. 

At this point in the political campaign cycle, voters have been inundated with multiple mailings of the CCA’s oversized, high-gloss trifold campaign brochures, paid for largely by a trifecta of wealthy people: retired baby boomers who have relocated here; out-of-state property owners who maintain vacation homes in Charlestown; the uberwealthy who maintain multiple homes in other states, likely even in other countries.    

For the past decade, CCA candidates have lip-synched the same Platnoidian-mode three verse chorus: low taxes, rural environment, groundwater protection (as if the rest of don’t care about those things) which illustrates the simplistic soul of their collective personas. 

CCA Councilor/Attorney Susan Cooper, however, has proven herself a much more sophisticated candidate since she became active in the CCA’s proxy neighborhood, Sachem Passage, in 2018.  It’s no coincidence a lot started happening in the Sachem Passage Association that year. 

In mid-October, 2021, while researching the Progressive Charlestown miniseries  Muddy Genesis detailing the Sachem Passage Association’s aborted attempt to abscond with over $400,000 in taxpayers’ money to bail itself out of financial turmoil, I downloaded Charlestown Town Councilor Susan Cooper’s Rhode Island Ethics Commission Financial Disclosure Report for years 2019 and 2020, respectively. 

Councilor Cooper self-identified as a Trustee of the Sachem Passage Association. A digital image of the pertinent pages of Susan Cooper’s RIEC Financial Disclosure Reports appears at the top of this story.  

I have been a member of the Sachem Passage Association since its incorporation as a non-profit business entity, June 15, 2000, and never knew my homeowners’ association had a trustee. I spoke to a handful of long-time neighbors, none of whom recalled the SPA ever having a trustee. 

During the SPA Annual Meeting on June 9, 2022, I told SPA President Ronald J. Areglado that I had come across paperwork which indicated the SPA had a trustee.  I further stated that neither I, nor anyone else I asked, had ever heard anything about a SPA Trustee.   

Mr. Areglado replied that the SPA does not have, nor ever had, a trustee. He asked SPA Treasurer Thomas Gilligan, SPA Director Joseph Quadrato, and SPA Archivist John Kaptinski the same question. None of them indicated the SPA has, or ever had, a trustee. 

Councilor Cooper, a member of the Charlestown Citizens Alliance, did not list herself as a SPA Trustee on her 2021 RIEC Financial Disclosure Report. It was filed on April 28, 2022, less than twelve weeks after the final installment of Muddy Genesis, which chronicled the decade-long symbiotic relationship between the Sachem Passage Association and the Charlestown Citizens Alliance, circa 2012-2022.  

Councilor Cooper’s resume’, posted on the CCA website, includes a BA (Psychology) from Johns Hopkins University (Maryland) and a JD (Doctor of Law) from Washington University (Missouri), both top tier institutions.  Her legal experience is comprehensive, ranging from State Public Defender (Missouri) to Law Clerk/Staff Attorney, United States District Court, Eastern District of Missouri. 

Councilor Cooper was also an Attorney and Director for BJC HealthCare, a fifteen-member health care collaborative employing 32,597 people in adult and pediatric academic medical centers in eastern Missouri. 

The gist of my “nod and a wink” acknowledgement of Susan Cooper’s laudable educational background and professional experience is to establish beyond any doubt that she knows exactly what a trustee does and exactly why she listed herself as the SPA Trustee. 

I was unable to ask Ms. Cooper about her SPA Trustee status at the June 9, 2022, SPA Annual Meeting because she was predictably in absentia, having been given a “heads up” by a sympathetic neighborly CCA devotee.  

Councilor Susan Cooper signed her 2019 and 2020 RIEC Financial Disclosure Reports filings under penalty of perjury. Those filings are definitive: she was the SPA’s Trustee during those years. 

During 2019 and 2020, SPA property owner Susan Cooper was also a member of the Charlestown Zoning Board of Review. She was appointed by the CCA-majority Town Council and joined SPA/CCA colleague Joseph Quadrato, CCA Treasurer Clifford Vanover, and SPA/CCA “professional author” (website propogandist) Michael James Chambers 

Besides being ZBR BFF’s, Quadrato and Vanover are also members of the CCA Steering Committee. Quadrato enjoys top billing on the CCA website, an acknowledgement of his fundraising prowess, a natural extension of his professional sales career selling office supply products from his home-based “Mom & Pop” business, Quad Products.

From 2012 through 2020, CCA Treasurer Cliff the Cash Guy Vanover “steered” six checks totaling $4,515.32 to Quad Products under the label “Campaign Expenditure.”

Quadrato resigned from the Zoning Board in May 2021 in conjunction with his appointment as SPA Finance and Real Estate Resource Person. “Fredo” holds no financial services certifications, no real estate credentials, no real estate licenses. 

Nonetheless, Quadrato was tapped by the SPA Board of Directors to craft a property sales proposal to be presented by SPA President Ronald Areglado to the Town Council. 

On November 8, 2021, the Charlestown Town Council deferred action on the  Sachem Passage Association 2021 Bait-and-Switch Property Sale Proposal.  

Although Cooper had recused herself from the SPA property proposal discussions, Ruth Platner would have certainly asked something like, “Susan, WTF was that all about?!” 

It would be disingenuous to suggest Susan was a party to Quadrato’s Bait & Switch scheme at any stage of the game. It’s not surprising Councilor Cooper opted out of her previously designated SPA Trustee position on her 2021 RIEC Financial Disclosure filing, was a no-show at the 20121 SPA Annual Meeting, and ignored my email request for clarification of her 2019/2020 RIEC filings. 

I want to believe Susan Cooper defaulted to her instincts as an experienced public defender, by simply not responding to my email regarding her “client,” Joseph Quadrato, the SPA’s thoroughly non-credentialed real estate expert and CCA’s lead fundraiser/ Steering Committee member. 

Nonetheless, Attorney Cooper has pitched her tent definitively in the shadow of the Platner Pyramid (low taxes, rural environment, groundwater) which, to rival the longevity of the Great Pyramid of Giza, requires the unfettered acquisition of open space to eliminate affordable housing opportunities for families with children, the singular, primordial threat to undermining the CCA’s symbolic essence. 

As Town Council President, and with a CCA majority town council, Attorney Susan Cooper is more than capable of setting agendas, steering discussions, and deflecting distractions like the $3 million “oopsie” to make Ruth Platner’s dream come true. Only Charlestown voters stand in the way.