Letter: Please stop the attacks against Mr. and Dr. Douglas

Posted

To the editor:

Scott Fuller's latest inflammatory letter to the editor requires a response. 

There are some facts that Mr. Fuller is either not aware of or has chosen not to share. Mr. (Scott) Douglas actually requested a determination by the solicitor, prior to finalizing his decision to run. He inquired as to any conflict that would exist if he were to serve on the committee on appropriations, given that his wife is a school committee member. The solicitor determined that it was proper for them to both serve, as long as one of them recused themselves at any joint meeting. As it is rare for the entire school committee to interact with the committee on appropriations, Mr. Douglas chose to run.

At the financial town meeting, Mr. Douglas made his connection to his wife, and her status as a school committee member, known to all in attendance-with pride! He also made it clear that he had asked for a ruling from the solicitor, who concurred. 

Was Mr. Fuller at the financial town meeting? 

Was he unaware of Mr. Douglas' remarks prior to writing yet another inflammatory letter to the editor? 

Surely, Mr. Fuller is aware that Mr. Douglas did not "gain" a seat on committee on appropriations, but was rather voted onto the committee on appropriations.

Mr. Fuller's  letter underscores what seems like a coordinated effort, over the last year, to impugn two committed, tireless, honorable individuals who have advocated for this town and its residents for years. 

Mr. Douglas has volunteered his considerable talents on multiple task forces and committees. He has spent countless hours attending school committee and committee on appropriations meetings for years and is uniquely able to bring his knowledge of how both of those bodies function to his role on committee on appropriations.

Dr. Megan Douglas has also spent years serving this community both at the school committee level (serving on the health and wellness committee for years) and as a Girl Scout leader and volunteer in our schools. She is one of the most committed, intelligent and caring women I have ever had the privilege to know.

Obviously, I am fond of the Douglases and proudly call them friends. However, much more importantly, I am grateful for their service, impressed by their intelligence and skills and hopeful they will continue to make a difference. I am clearly not alone in my assertions, as they have both won their recent elections.  

I deeply hope the letters aimed at attacking these individuals will cease. I hope, instead, we take a cue from Megan and Scott Douglas and attack the problems our community faces.

Sincerely,

Pam Lauria

Barrington

Comments

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Erika Sevetson

Bravo, Ms. Lauria. The Douglases are two of the most ethical people I have ever met. Mr. Fuller's comments, along with his previous disparaging letter directed at the other two new members of the COA, are snide and insulting. The new members of the COA should be congratulated for taking on a thankless job--not attacked for their willingness to do so.

Friday, June 9 | Report this
Scott Fuller

When facts are not attacks!

Mrs. Lauria, I will continue to speak out for us all. I’ve lived in town for nearly 50 years; have graduated from BHS along with my wife and three children. I will never, ever, ever give up fighting for what this town has stood for well before you ever thought of moving here. Perhaps this is a problem for you. Your “Please Stop the Attacks” message is simply anti-democratic and anti- first amendment. I guess I missed the “no inflammatory speech allowed” section of the first amendment in my 8th grade Civics class at Peck Junior High School (taught by Mrs. Eddins, former Barrington teacher, who by the way was a Co-Chair of my Committee when I ran for the SC). Maybe you should try a stint in Singapore to see if you like their “free speech code”.

Ho hum, so predictable. A “wife of a public school teacher” is now upset that the new “husband and wife” arrangement on the COA and SC is being impugned (at least in her mind). Heaven’s to Betsy….I didn’t know the truth hurt this much. You might have thought I’d channeled Charles Manson by the tone of her recent letter. This fine lady of course, along with her new “team” are ardent supporters of every school budget increase and expenditure, regardless of its current and long-term damage to the taxpayers of the town. Taxes this year alone will increase nearly 7% (a 15 year record). Mrs. Lauria cannot fathom that we now have a new COA member that cannot meet or vote on any SC matter (and that’s two-thirds of the annual budget). So, the Solicitor “permitted” the arrangement, privately (for now). Big deal! And the Solicitor is on ice’s thin edge.

I would love to see Mr. Ursillo’s public opinion in writing based on the Chapter 36 R.I.G.L.Ethics laws that supports such an arrangement (it’s just a little too easy to sit back and make a few broad-laid statements privately to a prospective candidate at the FTM). I’d especially like his take on the “to avoid the appearance of any impropriety” policy statement. Mrs. Lauria conflates her very personal relationship with the “new couple” with a clear-eyed assessment of the mess that’s been created by them. “How is this not an obvious appearance of a conflict of interest”, “How are the highest ethical standards to be met?” Oh yeah, I heard the “government planner” tell the crowd he takes this seriously. What’s he going to say, “Of course I won’t talk to my wife about any of this while we’re enjoying our shrimp cocktail and glass of Chardonnay?”

I think episodes of Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone” are more comprehensible than this silly, indefensible scheme. Barrington town governance is now at its lowest ebb in more than fifty years.

Mrs. Lauria, I actually ran for and won a seat on the SC for four years. I have first hand knowledge of the process and procedures between the two committees. You’ve stated that it is “rare for the SC to meet with the COA.” This is not even remotely true. There are many meetings and interactions/communications between the two groups over a period of several months each year; not just one as you’ve stated. The new government planner COA guy stated he wanted to have even more meetings between the two committees, if you’ve read his recent proposals (but he’s now prohibited from doing so based on the initial Solicitor’s confidential assessment). And if he cannot meet with the SC now, then how effective can he be as a member of the COA? Seriously!

You may recall that the Superintendent had to recuse himself from negotiating union contracts a few years ago as his wife was (and still is a Barrington School teacher). At least the Superintendent had the sense to request guidance from the RI Board of Ethics. Will the new husband and wife team do the same? If they are as “honorable” as they portend to be, they should have already filed a request with the Ethics Commission to gain a ruling and specific guidelines if this arrangement is to continue. Specifically, I would ask the Commission if Mr. COA is allowed to have any input/vote on any SC budget, not just mere attendance at COA/SC meetings? If Mr. COA has to vote to cut the municipal vs. SC, can he avoid the appearance of impropriety? What exactly is it that he can/cannot participate in or vote on regarding SC matters?

Does this arrangement really make any sense? Is this really in the best interest of all residents and taxpayers?

I know, I know, they’ve done so much for Barrington… so many committees and so much time given, but with so few results. It reminds me of Hillary when she equated her “air time travel” with that of an amazing accomplishment. Thankfully, their full-throated support of the “nanny state” school start time measure has thus far failed miserably. How will all our “sports” parents react when their child’s team has to forfeit a game due to a late arrival (an issue East Greenwich is now grappling with their attempt at later start times). Let’s hope its hand doesn’t rise again from the grave.

And this is the type of leadership that you support? Good luck!! I’ll take the $400K saved per year and let the parents take care of their kid’s bed time. I digress.

Oh believe me, Mrs. Lauria, I’m more than aware of remarks at the FTM, the Solicitor’s “ruling” and those of the new “family arrangement” between the COA and SC. In spite of your personal fondness for these folks, can you remotely understand that, due to this situation, many in town are fed up with “business as usual” and need/desire change in governance. Balance, affordability and fairness are the hallmarks of good local government. The “new couple” is unbalanced in both their plans and goals. They are on record as being opposed to those of us who do support the schools, but not an unaffordable, unbalanced government that supports an oppressive tax plan. Have you driven on our roads lately? Maybe they can afford Rumstick Rd. taxes, but not everyone can! Moreover, we’re opposed to “phony democratic schemes” such as the one you and others tout that the FTM is the bee’s knees of democracy. Hooey!

On October 29, 1941, U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill in a speech to Harrow School, said, "Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, give up.” Nor will I, Mrs. Lauria.

You are free to support your friends. I will not call your editorial about me “inflammatory”. I simply call it free speech and will defend your right to say whatever you choose, as preposterous as it may sound. I simply choose to support the best interests of ALL residents in town. I desire a government that is fair, accountable and affordable for ALL taxpayers; doctors, lawyers, teachers, business owners, laborers, retirees, home owners and renters alike.

This recent development is a disgrace and it’s a clear conflict of interest (the Solicitor even addressed it as such). Your new friend on the COA has at the least, a full-time recusal regarding school matters coming his way; at best, a diminished, blemished role. He might be great at strategic planning (although the SC already has a strategic plan), but lacks street cred where it counts; fiscal/tax policy and analysis. Sadly, the other candidates for the COA, who actually articulated viable strategies for reducing taxes while sustaining a quality education system, were all rejected for the 3 candidates whose sole goal was to control the COA and do the bidding of the SC. We are now left with a single COA member who cannot participate in 100% of all meetings and decisions. Facts are stubborn things they say and you certainly seem to embrace or acknowledge only those that support your goals. If I’ve offended you, and this is another “inflammatory opinion letter”, then I’ve done my job by exercising my first amendment rights. I encourage you to do the same.

Because you and those you support, just don’t get it.

I’ve invested more in this town than you’d ever know. And Mrs. Lauria, by the way, I’ve just begun!

Sunday, June 11 | Report this
Ken Block

While I can respect passion in politics, I (and a great many others) completely reject scorched earth politics. It is a tactic unbecoming to almost everyone, and is certainly way out of place in a small town like Barrington.

Scott Fuller is engaged in an incendiary attack against Scott and Megan Douglas. Rather than engage in a mature conversation (something that every one of us should endeavor to do as a model for our children), Mr. Fuller's language fairly screams off of the page.

Mr. Fuller is making unsubstantiated claims that the Douglases are somehow violating Rhode Island State Law by holding positions on the school committee (Megan) and the Committee on Appropriations (Scott). In fact, Mr. Fuller in his latest diatribe even refers to Rhode Island General Law Title 36 ethics laws as the place where an alleged violation has occurred.

Rhode Island General Law 36-14-15 is the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees. Exactly where in this law are the Douglases in violation by each holding a separate elected office in which neither has anything to gain financially from their positions or other employment?

If Mr. Fuller cannot specifically state which aspect of 36-14-5 has been violated, he really ought to shut down this outrageous series of attacks and rethink his basic approach to public service.

In the likely event that Mr. Fuller has not actually read the Code of Ethics, I am posting a link to it here: http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/TITLE36/36-14/36-14-5.HTM

We all live in a small town and should endeavor to have cordial relations with everyone.

If Mr. Fuller decides that continued invective is somehow the right way to go, and decides to continue pressing his what I believe are baseless claims of ethics violations on the part of the Douglases, I point him to RI General Law 36-14-5(k), which in its entirety is as follows:

(k) No person shall knowingly and willfully make a false or frivolous complaint under this chapter.

Ken Block

Barrington

Tuesday, June 13 | Report this

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