Tiverton planner resigns, citing conflicts planning board

Siciliano said relationship with some members was 'untenable'

By Ruth Rasmussen
Posted 6/10/22

Citing an 'untenable' relationship with some members of the Tiverton Planning Board, Town Planner Jennifer Siciliano is resigning her position with the town, effective mid-June.

In a letter to …

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Tiverton planner resigns, citing conflicts planning board

Siciliano said relationship with some members was 'untenable'

Posted

Citing an 'untenable' relationship with some members of the Tiverton Planning Board, Town Planner Jennifer Siciliano is resigning her position with the town, effective mid-June.

In a letter to Town Administrator Chris Cotta, Siciliano said she and her family are relocating out of state. Additionally, she said the relationship issues between her and some board members made it “untenable” to continue her employment. She did not respond to requests for further comment.

Siciliano was hired in May 2020. In an emailed statement, Cotta said she has been a “wonderful employee” who has great knowledge and expertise as a planner.

He said he preferred to let Siciliano respond personally to questions about the concerns she has with the planning board, but he offered insight that hinted at some of the challenges he believes she faced in her position. 

“There are some members of the planning board who believe the planner and the clerk in the planning office are their personal employees and that they must take direction only from them,” Cotta said, noting that all town employees are hired by, take direction from, and report to him, either directly or through the head of their department.

“All vacation, personal and sick time or family medical leaves are granted through the town administration, and it is the administration that evaluates and provides recognition with the consent of the town council for all non-unionized staff. No employee of the town works for or reports only to a volunteer board or commission,” he said.

In describing the responsibilities of planning department employees, Cotta said they are there to serve the public, in addition to advising and supporting the planning board —  which he said is a limited role — and reporting to the town administration.

“Jennifer has worked very hard with the solicitor, building and zoning and the public works offices, in addition to mine, to assist constituents in possible developments and or conceptual matters that never see the planning board. She has provided fair and unbiased research related to potential litigation matters that come before the town with respect to past actions of the planning board and has assisted me in vetting various potential buyers of municipal property and has instructed numerous parties prior to planning so that they can determine what hurdles they may face.”

Cotta described Siciliano’s resignation as a huge loss for Tiverton, adding that he fully understands her reasoning and wishes her all the best.

The planning board consists of nine members. Currently, one seat is vacant due to the resignation of Susan Gill in March. Gill was chair at the time of her resignation, and Stu Hardy, who has served on the board for more than a decade, has assumed that position.

Asked if he had any response to Siciliano’s statement that her relationship with some planning board members made it “untenable” to continue her employment with the town, Hardy said, “My views on the administration of the planning office in the past two years or so is a matter of public record in planning board meetings. Further comment is unnecessary.”

Four members, including Hardy, are up for reappointment in July. Hardy said he has applied for reappointment.

Town councilors Jay Edwards and Deb Janick are council liaisons to the planning board. Asked to comment on the likelihood that those whose terms are expiring would apply for reappointment, Edwards was non-committal.

“We will wait and see what happens. It is hard to attract people to boards and commissions,” he said.

Edwards said he does not want to see experienced members leave the board, though he has heard from some people in town that the board has problems. Those who complain, he said, are typically the ones seeking to get projects done and don’t like the planning process and requirement for due diligence. He added he is sorry to see Siciliano leave her position.

 

 

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