RI Rambles: Local Shenanigans

For this new, locally focused side to AltFacts, we find ourselves intrigued by the shenanigans of RI town councils.

The Burrilville Town Council has been accused of lying and acting in bad faith by lawyers representing Invenergy, the unpronounceable company that wants to build a new power plant in that town. AltFacts writers remember a time when lawyers who accused each other of lying were cautious to make sure they had at least some basis for the claim first. But that sort of conscientiousness is no longer part of modern legal practice.

What’s far more interesting is the reason Invenergy is now coming down on the town. When the plant was first being proposed, the Burrillville town council essentially said, “We don’t know if this is a good idea, and it would cost millions for us to really do the right impact studies to determine whether it’s a good idea – we don’t have the money for that, so go away.”

Invenergy, in reply, said, “Well, that’s okay. We understand. We’ll give you the money.”

So the town took the money, started their due diligence as promised, and as a result began to determine that the plant was, in fact, probably going to be a very bad idea for the town. We’ll leave it to our environmental columnists in future issues to go through the reasons for this. But the town was making the results of these studies public, sharing what they found, and basically using those results to oppose the building of the plant.

Invenergy’s reaction is in essence, “That’s not what we were giving you this money for. Don’t you recognize a payoff when you get one? This is Rhode Island, for crying out loud.” Now, it’s very understandable for an energy corporation that’s supposed to be fairly experienced in the use of legal-looking payoffs and bribes to be flabbergasted at finding RI politicians who don’t understand how to take a bribe. Of course, they might just have been out-Rhode-Islanded by the seemingly innocent town council, now claiming they didn’t understand the unstated expectations that came with that funding. Either way, the idea that Invenergy is accidentally financing the case against their own power plant is a brilliant stroke of poetic justice. Kudos to either the cleverness or honesty of the Burrillville town council (one, but not both, of those is definitely on display). The fight on each side is still far from over, and the little guys in this face-off can use all the sling stones they can get. (Note: The above are not direct quotes, but rather our poetic-license reenactment of what’s gone on.)

The EG Town Council, “inspired” by Trump’s f*ck the rules approach to governance, has continued to violate open meeting laws. “People don’t need to know what’s happening with local government – that’s why we’re in charge,” a council member who doesn’t exist might have explained. The situation (covered in our InvestiGATE section last month) recently became egregious enough that, “The attorney general’s office found that the town had failed to properly alert the public about what would be discussed at the meetings,” as reported in the ProJo. This is in two instances on top of one RI Superior Court already ruled as a violation back in November. One hopes these rulings (and several others along the same lines) will lead to some better behavior down there – and one maybe that portends similar results on a national level? We’re looking at you, Obstruction of Justice!

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