Town Council presidency case moves to R.I. Supreme Court

Town Council presidency case moves to R.I. Supreme Court

CUMBERLAND – A Superior Court judge last week dismissed Peter Bradley’s legal challenge over his lost council presidency due to lack of standing to determine the matter, kicking the matter to Rhode Island Supreme Court due to Bradley’s decision to re-file.

Bradley is blaming town attorneys for protracting a case that could have easily been settled if they’d handled it differently.

“This is really unfortunate for the taxpayers, because the situation did not need to drag out in this manner and they are the ones footing the legal bill,” he said. “If the town’s attorneys and my fellow council members were confident in the resolutions passed in August, a new council president would have been elected. If that was done, I would have brought a claim in Supreme Court. Instead, they left things open-ended by not voting in a new council president and that led to the Superior Court filing.”

If the town’s lawyers wanted to get to the merits of the case, he said, that could have happened, “but they chose to raise a technicality as opposed to getting a ruling on what happened in August.”

Council President Pro-Tempore Craig Dwyer, filling in for Bradley as the legal case proceeds, characterized last Friday’s decision by Judge Melissa Long as the town successfully defending itself and protecting its taxpayers.

Asked for clarification, he confirmed the matter was filed in the wrong court. He said the judge not only dismissed Bradley’s claims for money damages from the town, but refused to act to reinstate him to the council presidency.

All of this could have been avoided on multiple occasions if Bradley had simply acted in a different manner during what has been a lengthy process, said Dwyer, who deemed Bradley’s behavior leading to his ouster as council president “egregious.”

The town, in a response to Bradley’s request for a court ruling in his favor, maintained that because Bradley is seeking a declaration that he is the rightful owner of the council presidency until the next prescribed vote of the council, Superior Court lacks jurisdiction in the matter.

Bradley sued the town and certain town officials in August based upon his removal from the office of council president.

“In multiple counts, Bradley sought to have the Cumberland taxpayers pay him money damages and attorneys’ fees for his removal,” said Dwyer. “The court’s ruling confirms that the council presidency is not the property of Peter Bradley or any other politician but, rather, is an office that belongs to the taxpayers and residents of Cumberland.”

Bradley told The Valley Breeze that he has an obligation as an elected councilman and president of the council to make sure the town charter is upheld.

“This is an important issue for the town in years to come, so I have to push for a ruling,” he said. “It’s too bad that roadblocks created by the solicitors are delaying that, expensive ones at that.”

Bradley is challenging that the rest of the council had the authority under the town charter to enact resolutions at their Aug. 21 meeting both establishing a procedure to remove him from the presidency and actually removing him.

“The council voted to remove Bradley based on information it obtained from an investigation of allegations of improper activity by certain town employees,” Dwyer said in his release. “In the course of the council’s investigation, facts were brought to members’ attention leading to serious concerns with respect to then President Bradley’s leadership and conduct.

“While the council found no basis for the allegations of improper activity by the town employees, the concerns regarding Mr. Bradley’s leadership and conduct were such that the council thought it necessary and appropriate to remove Councilor Bradley from the position of council president,” added Dwyer. “In the Superior Court’s decision of Nov. 1, the court took no action to alter the council’s decision to remove Mr. Bradley from the office of council president.”

Part of the town’s argument in this case revolved around the idea that members wouldn’t be able to oust a council president even if they showed up drunk to a meeting, but Bradley’s attorneys counter that such an action would be covered under “disqualification from office” provisions in the charter.

Filings by the town claim that Bradley started a rumor about two municipal employees participating in an after-hours tour in which they allegedly had sexual relations at the town’s public safety complex, which lawyers contend was later disproven through an investigation. Bradley says he never said anyone had sex, only that it was relayed to him by Chief of Police John Desmarais that there was an after-hours tour. A tour, as it turns out, did occur, The Breeze previously confirmed, but happened just prior to 5 p.m. and there were three people present, according to video surveillance.

Bradley initially told School Committee member Raymond Salvatore about what he claimed to have heard from Desmarais. Salvatore then passed on that information to his wife, Town Solicitor Kelley Morris. Morris is not handling the court proceedings for the town, with Assistant Solicitor Peter Squires taking on those duties.