Editorial: Ulterior motives in council bickering?

Editorial: Ulterior motives in council bickering?

The Westerly Sun

There appears to be a sinister motive behind the politicking and poor behavior of the Westerly Town Council recently.

Acting president Mario Celico has taken it on the chin for defending his position as president and ruling with an iron fist when it came to attempts by other councilors to force a vote on reorganizing leadership of the council. Celico was vice president before the former president, James Silvestri, resigned in June. Celico has since declared he is the chair by virtue of his vice presidency and Silvestri’s resignation.

The debate over parliamentary procedure, and Celico’s ruling that it would take a two-thirds majority to overturn his decision that a motion to call for a new election of officers was out of order, has been addressed by town attorney William Conley. Conley ruled that Celico was wrong and that a simple majority can overturn the chair’s ruling. Celico has made reference to hiring a parliamentarian to sort through all of this.

There are rumblings in the background indicating that all of this maneuvering is about much more than the president’s position. Rather, it may be about Town Manager Derrik Kennedy’s position. Of course, none of this can be confirmed for the record. These maneuvers are not agenda items, after all.

The move to call for a new election of officers was made by Democrat Ed Morrone. Democrats have long held sway over Westerly Town Hall. Years ago, in a ridiculous scene repeated every two years and attended by no one outside the inner sanctum of the Democratic Town Committee, the party chair, from the steps of Town Hall, would “announce” to the world the Democratic candidates for various offices.

And every two years on that date, in a stroke of good fortune for the local press — this newspaper and a radio station — the Providence, Boston and New York media outlets had crowded calendars and could not cover this one-ring circus.

There is talk that Morrone and his faction on the council, William Aiello, Jack Carson and Karen Cioffi, want to take power and oust Kennedy, who came in as an outsider after a long period of local insiders sitting in the manager’s seat. Councilors Jean Gagnier and Philip Overton are on the opposite side of this move.

In November, when Cioffi was elected by the other six to fill the council’s vacancy, there was talk that she was no fan of Kennedy’s, because he had appointed Richard Silva, an outsider, as police chief over the inside candidate, Capt. Shawn Lacey. Who knows for sure if this conspiracy theory has any legs to it? It shouldn’t.

Kennedy faced criticism early and often, including from us, after being appointed as a 30-something, by-the-book, professionally trained municipal admnistrator. He shook things up in Town Hall, didn’t respond promptly or fully — or sometimes at all — to our questions, and made heads spin when he wanted to bring high speed internet to downtown with a company of questionable background.

He has also straightened out the finance department, brought accountability to municipal work,taken the budget process to a higher level, and is trying to get road repairs on a budget schedule, something this town desperately needs.

Celico has gone to desperate measures to keep his position. Maybe he’s fighting for Kennedy, too, but he’s handling this whole mess in an ego-obsessed manner. And if he is fighting for Kennedy too, he’s making a mess of his mission.

We are no fans of Celico’s ways, but for the other faction to come clean and dispel any Kennedy-hunting speculation, perhaps they could outline in public just why this reorganization needs to take place and what they have on their agenda.       


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