"Kerfuffle" as Warren council delays BCWA appointment

Town Planner Bob Rulli out as applicant for seat, while town attorney still researching former BCWA employee's bid

By Ted Hayes
Posted 2/12/20

The Warren Town Council is holding off on filling a vacancy on the Bristol County Water Authority Board of Directors until members get legal answers as to whether a former authority employee can …

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"Kerfuffle" as Warren council delays BCWA appointment

Town Planner Bob Rulli out as applicant for seat, while town attorney still researching former BCWA employee's bid

Posted

The Warren Town Council is holding off on filling a vacancy on the Bristol County Water Authority Board of Directors until members get legal answers as to whether a former authority employee can serve.

Two hopefuls — Brian Mellor of 21 Colonial Drive, and Warren Town Planner Robert Rulli of Middletown — had submitted applications to fill a seat vacated last year and the council was expected to vote on an appointment Tuesday night.

But amidst what council president Keri Cronin called a "kerfuffle" over the applicants on Facebook, it was determined that Mr. Rulli, a Middletown resident, cannot serve on the board as he does not live in Warren. Still unanswered is whether Mr. Mellor, a 30-plus year BCWA employee, pensioner and former head of the BCWA Teamsters Local 359, can.

At Tuesday night's meeting, Warren Town Solicitor Anthony DeSisto said he would like to look into the BCWA's enabling legislation to determine if a former employee can serve.

"You have to be a non-employee for one year or more and you're able to apply," Mr. Mellor said, approaching the council during the discussion. "I don't know why the town solicitor can't find out."

"I've been criticized on this," Mr. DeSisto replied, facing Mr. Mellor. "So I'm not going to give you an off the top of the head answer. You're going to get an answer in writing."

The council voted to delay a vote on the appointment until the March meeting, giving Mr. DeSisto time to render an opinion, and also voted to re-advertise the vacancy in case any other residents wish to apply.

Mr. Rulli
Though his name and address — listed as 514 Main St., Warren Town Hall — was still on the council's agenda Tuesday, Mr. Rulli had previously withdrawn his application after it was determined that he was not eligible to serve.

Ms. Cronin said following the meeting that, prior to Mr. Rulli's application, Mr. DeSisto had advised him that applying was proper as the BCWA's enabling legislation does not specifically prohibit a non-resident from serving. However, she said, further research determined that the Warren Town Charter does just that.

"The enabling legislation does not have that (residency requirement) but our charter does and it trumps that," Ms. Cronin said. "So, a non-resident is not qualified to apply for the BCWA."

On Wednesday, Mr. Rulli said he never meant to suggest that he lived at town hall when he wrote 514 Main St., the town hall address, on his application. Instead, he said, he listed that address as he serves as the town planner.

As for why he chose to apply, he said it comes down to an opportunity that he believes could have benefitted the town:

"The only representation municipalities have on the board are citizen members and while there is no criticism of their contributions, it was also acknowledged that none of the municipalities have staff representation on the board," he wrote in an e-mail to the Warren Times.

"With budget issues, fee increases, grant opportunities, proposed dam removal and identification and funding of redundant water sources, among other issues, intellectually one could argue that professional staff representation on the board in addition to the citizen representation deserves further discussion."

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