The Block Island Times

Council seeks new member

Send letter of interest by Dec. 18
By Stephanie Turaj | Dec 06, 2013
Photo by: K. Curtis

The Town Council is looking to fill the vacant seat of Sean McGarry, who resigned from the council last month. It has asked that anyone interested in filling the role submit a letter by Wednesday, Dec. 18.

The council will not make its selection on this date. Instead, it will hold a special meeting before Jan. 4 — the deadline to appoint a new member — to make a decision, said First Warden Kim Gaffett.

“How will we deal with the list of names when we get them?” asked Second Warden Ken Lacoste at a council work session on Wednesday, Dec. 4. “I don’t want it to become a situation where it will be too personal.”

Councilor Norris Pike suggested the selection be held in closed session. Others disagreed, and Councilor Chris Warfel supported the idea but didn’t think it was legally allowed.

Ultimately, councilors decided they will hold a public meeting to vote on the new member, but also said they would refrain as much as possible from stating personal opinions of candidates. Councilors did not describe the specific evaluation process will use to make the selection.

According to the New Shoreham Town Charter, the remaining councilors are responsible for appointing a new member after there is a vacancy.
The charter explains the procedure in Article IV, section 403: “Vacancies in the membership of the Town Council, from whatever cause, shall be filled by the remaining members of the Council within forty-five days of the occurrence of such vacancy... such vacancy shall be filled by a qualified elector of the Town chosen by vote of the remaining members of the Council.”

There is a vacancy on the council because McGarry had resigned from his seat at the end of a meeting on Nov. 20, after discovering he could not bid on new town contracts while in office or for one year after serving.
McGarry is co-owner of Block Island Recycling Management (BIRM), which runs the island’s transfer station. BIRM’s contract with the town expires in November 2014, and McGarry could not rebid for the job if he kept his council seat, according to a ruling by the Rhode Island Ethics Commission.
Letters of interest for the position can be mailed to P.O. Box 220, Block Island, R.I. 02807.

Other matters

At the Dec. 4 work session, a debate occurred regarding a series of documents Councilor Chris Warfel submitted with his performance evaluation of Town Manager Nancy Dodge.

Dodge requested that this set of documents not be included in her final evaluation, which was made by the council, and that the documents not be provided to the public.
“I object to these being put in my evaluation,” said Dodge. “Every one of them predated this Town Council, and therefore my evaluation.”

The documents ranged from complaints about how Dodge had handled sewer spills, to private citizen complaints. The dates ranged from 2002 to 2012.
Councilor Norris Pike said he disagreed with these documents being part of Dodge’s evaluation because they were from the past, with a different council in office. (Past councils have also reviewed Dodge’s performance.) “We cannot revisit their decision,” Pike said.

Warfel said he used the documents as “historical evidence” in reviewing Dodge’s job performance. The council began reviewing her performance in June, and presented her with a final contract renewal in October.

“I don’t think there should be a council vote on this,” Warfel said, “This is for me to enter as part of my evaluation.”

Lacoste did not offer an opinion on the matter either way; instead he suggested the council investigate a protocol on this.

The council tabled making a decision on this issue, and Lacoste said he would research a proper procedure regarding town personnel files and evaluations.
Also, there was a discussion about whether the council should ask the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) to visit Block Island and present its opinion on Deepwater Wind. Warfel had previously written a letter asking the NWF to do so, but other councilors did not agree this would be necessary.

Councilors discussed their preferences for amending the “punch list,” a list of items compiled to keep track of council issues.

Dodge updated the council on the status of several public works projects. She said upgrades to the sewer line on Ocean Ave. will begin Dec. 9 — they were delayed a week to receive approval from the Rhode Island Historic Preservation Society.

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