The Tiverton Town Council took no action on a citizen complaint filed against a Fort Barton Elementary secretary who had political pins on her desk, upholding the town clerk's dismissal earlier this week.
Town Clerk Nancy Mello conducted an investigation into an Oct. 29 complaint by resident Donna Cook that alleged that the positioning of three Tiverton 1st pins on the secretary's desk violated the Town Charter's restriction on using town resources or employes to influence voting contests.
When Mello visited the Fort Barton School to investigate the claim on Oct. 31, she found one of the Tiverton 1st pins on the secretary's desk, reportedly buried under papers.
"That pin was not supposed to be there, but just because there was one pin there, I don't think it rises to the level of the council doing a full investigation with witnesses and everything," said Mello.
Mello said Supt. William Rearick contacted her after she began touring the schools to investigate the complaint and personally sent out emails to faculty, employees and administrators to remind them that political literature is prohibited in school.
Based on the absence of a widespread problem and that the secretary was unaware of the political position of Tiverton 1st, Mello dismissed the complaint.
Cook, the complainant, disagreed with Mello's decision.
"It has not been answered as to how [the pins] got there, it is a locked, secured area and no one seems to know how they got in there," said Cook, alleging that the secretary should have had knowledge of what the pins symbolized.
She called the process undemocratic told the council her rights to due process were not being followed in being denied a hearing before the council.
"This is not being summarily dismissed," said Andrew Teitz, town solicitor. "We have a very detailed report of what the clerk did. She followed her duty to determination, gave all the facts and explanations, as she did here publicly. If you have other evidence that this was a widespread practice going on in other schools, then i think you have the right to refile it just as you would in a criminal proceeding."
Resident Justin Katz agreed with Cook that the process is ambiguous.
"The pins to me are a pretty minor issue," he said. "What concerns me most is the charter and if it is being followed. I think it needs clarification."
Council President Edward Roderick and councilman Jay Lambert both voiced support for Mello's verdict. Councilwoman Joan Chabot, however, voiced concerns over precedent.
"This sets a precedent based upon seeing that there was a violation and it didn't rise to a level that it was brought to the Town Council, it was dismissed," said Chabot.
She requested that Mello report back to the council on any history of all charter violation complaints that were filed and not heard before the council.
In other business, the council voted 6-1 to renew its contract and retain Ursillo, Teitz & Ritch as town solicitors.
Councilwoman Chabot voted in opposition to renewing the contract, citing the legal firm as the sole bidder. She said a request for proposals should be sent out to probe for other options.