Kent supervisor sues 3 board members

By MICHAEL RISINIT
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: December 27, 2004)

KENT ­ A lawsuit filed by Democratic Town Supervisor William Tulipane and his deputy against the three Republicans on the Kent Town Board aims to overturn appointments the three made and void any business they conducted during meetings where they excluded the deputy.

Tulipane and Richard Quaglietta, head of Kent Town Democratic Committee, filed the suit last week. The legal action could add more disharmony to the already divided board as they attend to town business. But the suit, Tulipane said, is needed to protect the power of future town supervisors.

"My thinking is we can't think in terms of the short-sighted benefit or penalty," Tulipane said. "We have to think in the long term about how actions they're taking now will affect the position of supervisor in years to come."

The suit is focused on two issues. The first concerns a half-dozen liaison positions Tulipane filled in January, only to see the three GOP members eventually pass resolutions removing those named and installing others. The five-member Town Board includes Tulipane; Republicans Kathy Doherty, Patricia Madigan and Louis Tartaro and Democrat Joseph D'Ambrosio. D'Ambrosio isn't involved in the suit.

Traditionally filled by Town Board members, the liaisons are go-betweens with the board and various town organizations. Tulipane placed residents with specific knowledge in about six of the 35 volunteer positions, such as the owner of a large vehicle repair business with the municipal garage. The appointments are at the supervisor's discretion, according to state law governing towns.

"I was not looking for party hacks or political patronage. I was looking for people with background so we get some benefit to the town," Tulipane said.

Madigan and Doherty declined to comment late last week, saying they hadn't been served yet. Tartaro wasn't available for comment.

The suit's second focus is the claim that the three Republicans shut Quaglietta out of a closed-door executive session and then held another meeting the following day without notifying him. Tulipane appointed Quaglietta as his deputy in January.

The state Open Meetings Law requires boards to meet in public, except when discussing specific topics that could harm the public or individuals if disclosed. Such topics include discussions of personnel, public safety and real estate transactions.

On Dec. 6 with Tulipane out of town and Quaglietta presiding over a meeting, the board voted to go into a closed-door session. Quaglietta was told he couldn't participate.

"It's as simple as that," said Jonathan Lovett, the Democrats' lawyer. "Under town law, the deputy serves in his place."

Robert Freeman of the state Committee on Open Government questioned whether Quaglietta had a right to be in the executive session. As an appointed deputy without the right to vote, Freeman said, he may not have a right to be in the closed-door meeting.

Tulipane said he is paying his own legal fees, which is he is seeking to recoup from the defendants should he win in court.

Reach Michael Risinit at mrisinit@thejournalnews.com or 845-228-2274.Reach Michael Risinit at mrisinit@thejournalnews.com or 845-228-2274.



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