DiLibero’s current troubles began in March, when it was revealed that he had been aware since January 2011 of National Park Service objections to the installation of wind turbines at Ninigret Park, but had failed to inform the council of his communications with the agency. Citing the turbine issue, the Charlestown Citizens Alliance, a local political advocacy group, began calling for DiLibero’s termination. It has sent out a series of emails featuring comments from its readers, most of them critical of DiLibero, and has also framed the issue as a dispute with the Charlestown Democratic Town Committee.
CHARLESTOWN – The fate of Town Administrator William DiLibero could be decided Thursday night, if the Town Council proceeds with its evaluation of his performance as planned.
According to the meeting agenda, there could be a council vote or an announcement “which may involve discipline, resignation and/or termination” of the administrator, confirming the speculation of many in Charlestown that DiLibero could quit or be fired.
It is unknown whether the session will be open to the public. “That is up to the town administrator,” council President Thomas Gentz said Monday.
The council discussed the DiLibero “personnel matter” in executive session before its last meeting on April 12. Before the closed session, Councilor Lisa DiBello – who was fired from her job as recreation director in May 2010 at DiLibero’s recommendation – recused herself from the conversation, saying she was waiting for a ruling from the Rhode Island Ethics Commission on whether it would be appropriate for her to participate.
DiBello is suing the town in Superior Court over a claim of wrongful termination and has named DiLibero as a defendant, along with Councilors Gregory Avedisian and Marjorie Frank.
On Tuesday, the Ethics Commission released its official advisory opinion, concluding that DiBello is within her rights as a councilor to vote on the matter. According to the advisory, DiBello told the commission that any concerns she had about DiLibero relate to his performance during her time on the council, and that she had recused herself “in an abundance of caution.” DiBello was elected to the council in November 2010.
Under Rhode Island law, public officials may not participate in matters in which they have an interest that is in substantial conflict with their duties or employment. Under the law, significant financial loss or gain by an official or someone close to the official constitutes a substantial conflict.
“The petitioner represents that the issues up for discussion relative to the town administrator are unrelated to the factual allegations of the petitioner’s lawsuit,” the Ethics Commission opinion said. “As such, her participation in the Town Council’s consideration of the Town Administrator’s recent job performance is not likely to result in a direct financial impact upon the petitioner or her Superior Court lawsuit.”
Now that all five members of the council are able to vote, the matter could be decided Thursday night. Council Vice President Daniel Slattery, along with Gentz, DiBello and Frank, declined to comment, and DiLibero and Avedisian did not return calls seeking comment.
DiLibero’s current troubles began in March, when it was revealed that he had been aware since January 2011 of National Park Service objections to the installation of wind turbines at Ninigret Park, but had failed to inform the council of his communications with the agency.
Citing the turbine issue, the Charlestown Citizens Alliance, a local political advocacy group, began calling for DiLibero’s termination. It has sent out a series of emails featuring comments from its readers, most of them critical of DiLibero, and has also framed the issue as a dispute with the Charlestown Democratic Town Committee. The Democratic chairwoman, Catherine O’Reilly Collette, recently sent out a rebuttal email.
Collette wrote: “The fact is that the Charlestown Democratic Town Committee has not taken a formal position on the town administrator’s actions, which are a personnel matter that should not be politicized as the CCA is doing. Several of our members have indeed spoken and written eloquently as individual citizens in support of Mr. DiLibero and our hard-working town staff, as is their right.”
Slattery and Gentz have made complaints about DiLibero that are similar to the CCA’s.
“If we had been informed, we would have sought the town solicitor’s advice, and quite possibly chosen not to pursue the [meteorological] tower, given the formal objections that had been raised by the U.S. National Parks Service,” Slattery said. A 158-foot tower was moved from the campus of Chariho High School to the park in early 2011 to measure wind speeds at the park.
Gentz said that he was “shocked” when he found out about the communication between DiLibero and the National Park Service, and that the council had not been made aware of it.
DiLibero also came under fire in February for editing and approving an email, written by Parks and Recreation Director Jay Primiano, in support of the installation of sports lighting at Ninigret Park. DiLibero said in an official statement that his involvement with the email was not intended as advocacy, as his critics had charged.
Slattery recommended that a reprimand be placed in DiLibero’s file over the matter. A vote was taken and passed 3-to-2, with Slattery, Gentz and DiBello in favor of the reprimand, and Avedisian and Frank opposed.
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