Almost since the new Tiverton Town Council was sworn in, one has gotten the sense that the word has gone out among local activists: Everything must be a scandal.
The prior council pushed too hard — refusing to compromise and going too aggressively for political kill shots — and consequently lost not only their attempts to change the Home Rule Charter, not only the total control of gambling revenue they were seeking, but also control of the council itself. So, their allies reasoned, they must make the next two years seem like a nonstop scandal so Tiverton voters would change course again in 2020. (Some of them are clearly still hoping for a political kill shot in the form of a recall election.)
Not even two months into the new council’s term, and the phony double-standard cannot be denied. Following a vote of the council to appoint a new Town Solicitor, Council President Robert Coulter signed the related contract, and the three continuing members of the prior council, led by former President Denise DeMedeiros, objected that the contract requires a ratifying vote. A resolution that the council will consider on Tuesday, January 22, makes clear that no such requirement exists, but one detail is especially important to emphasize.
Rewinding back to the time when the prior solicitor, Anthony DeSisto, was hired, the minutes of the March 18, 2015, Town Council meeting reveal the following:
Council President deMedeiros announced the Town Administrator will meet with the firms appointed in the morning and prepare an agreement of terms.
Obviously, there was no official contract in place at the time of that vote, and the record shows that there never would be one. DeSisto was Town Solicitor for three years and nine months with no contract other than the terms he proposed as part of his application.
True, the circumstances were different. That appointment followed a longer search process, whereas the appointment of current Town Solicitor Giovanni Cicione was done in a more expedited fashion in order to create time for the longer process to be done with care.
The key point of this post, however, is that the supposed scandal of the ratification vote is not a scandal at all. No ratification is required by law, and having an agreement with the town’s lawyer without a ratifying vote is also the past practice.
Featured image: A screen grab from the video for the March 23, 2015, town council meeting.