Charter panel finalizes list of changes

Charter panel finalizes list of changes

The Westerly Sun

WESTERLY — The Charter Revision Commission should have a lawyer and a member of the Town Council present for all of its meetings. Those are two suggestions the panel is making as it winds up its work.

The commission put the finishing touches on its final report and proposed charter modifications Wednesday. The report now moves to Town Clerk Donna Giordano, who will distribute the recommendations to the Town Council. The commission is expected to formally present its report to the council on July 11.

The commission took a few minutes to discuss suggestions for the next group charged with reviewing the entire charter.

“We kind of got thrown into this with very little guidance,” said Lawrence Cioppa, commission chairman.

A comprehensive review of the charter is required every seven years. The Town Council can appoint a commission at other times or a commission can be seated following submission of a petition calling for changes to the charter.

“Have the Town Council provide a solicitor for every meeting. It got a little crazy with us needing legal opinions but not getting them for a week or two,” Cioppa said.

Having a member of the Town Council present for all commission meetings would also be helpful, Cioppa said.

The next commission should conduct its meetings in accordance with Robert’s Rules of Order and should agree on a report format toward the beginning of its deliberations, Cioppa said.

Stephen Turano, a commission member, suggested going through the charter from start to finish rather than the commission’s approach of tackling specific “big issue” sections and later going through the whole document. Commission member Nina Rossomando offered a similar suggestion, saying the commission could have been more efficient in its approach.

Paula Ruisi, a commission member, filed a minority report outlining her opposition to one of the commission’s proposed changes to the charter. A majority of commissioners approved a recommended charter amendment that would establish a Development Services Department as well as a director of the department. Town Manager Derrik M. Kennedy announced creation of the department and position in December as a name change. Ruisi argues Kennedy failed to follow protocol by seeking the Town Council’s approval of the new position and department. Amy Grzybowski, who had served as director of code enforcement and grant administration, was named director of development services by Kennedy. The director of code enforcement and grant administration position was also not created through an action of the Town Council.

“Violations of the charter and town ordinances diminish the credibility of the charter, the Town Council, and the town manager, Ruisi wrote in her report.

The commission asked Giordano not to share its report with anyone until it is submitted to the council. Specifically, commission members said they did not want Kennedy to see the report before the council receives it.


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