The Block Island Times

Ethics Commission to investigate complaint

Against Town Councilor Warfel
By Lily O'Gara | Aug 20, 2014

According to Attorney Jason Gramitt, the Rhode Island Ethics Commission made an “initial determination” regarding Dr. Albert Casazza’s complaint against Councilor Chris Warfel during its meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 19. It was the Commission’s first thorough look at the complaint, which was filed in mid-July. Although Gramitt said that the group made “no determination as to the merit of the complaint,” it was decided that the facts as presented warranted an investigation. Investigations typically take about 180 days, Gramitt said. After the investigation is conducted, a determination as to whether Warfel is in fact in violation will be made. As the complaint is civil in nature, a monetary penalty will be imposed if a violation is found.

The complaint was also filed after a heated June 25 Town Council meeting, during which a physical altercation between Cliff McGinnes, Sr. (a co-owner of Block Island Power Co.) and Warfel almost occurred.

The complaint alleges that Warfel has used his position on the Town Council to advance his personal interests.

The beginning of the complaint reads: “The gist of the Complaint is that Christopher Warfel (“Warfel”) furthered his financial interest in solar energy by repeated appearances before the New Shoreham Town Council, of which he is a member. It is also alleged that he appeared before the Energy Utility Task Group (EUTG) while he was a member of that Board and before the New Shoreham Planning Board, as a Town Council member.”

“I think it’s an honest complaint and, so far, the Commission thinks it’s worthy of investigation,” Casazza said. “As it goes through, we’ll see.”

Casazza said that he expected the investigation to result in a proven violation.

“I think they investigate a lot of things,” Warfel said in response to the news. He said that, other than the violations First Warden Kim Gaffett faced in 2013, he does not have much experience on which to base his expectations. Warfel said he was surprised that Gaffett was found in violation, and that he has “no idea” what his own investigation will turn up.

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