Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Hiding a resolution in plain sight or the parliamentary two-step

Middletown's Common Council played a bit of a parliamentary trick on the public Monday night when it introduced a resolution as an amendment to the agenda, thereby avoiding public notice of the resolution and the vote.

In adding this resolution to the agenda as an amendment, it circumvented the right of the public to examine pertinent materials, formulate and ask questions, and attempt to influence council members to vote appropriately.

The resolution reads as follows:

10-19 Resolution: Authorizing the Mayor to sign all documents between the City of Middletown, White Rock Holding Associates, LLC and Kleen Energy Systems, LLC regarding the River Road Collector Wells and Storage and Treatment Facility.

The Council held a workshop in July on the matter which raised many questions, without satisfying answers. And despite the fact that very little new information was available, the Council slipped the resolution onto the agenda, virtually unnoticed, and voted its passage.

The problem of skipping public oversight is vexing. This particular deal, negotiated by mayor Sebastian Giuliano, is a key element in allowing Kleen Energy to build it's power plant along the Connecticut River in Middletown's Maromas section. Without the water promised through this deal, the plant could not operate.

As resident Shannon Brown noted, the deal might be good, or it might be bad, the problem is the public can't decide because the details have been witheld.

The original deal was struck by the previous mayoral administration, and Giuliano originally was not in favor of the plan. Something changed his mind, though he hasn't shared the epiphany with the public.

And there are questions about how much the city gets in the deal, how much it will eventually cost the city, and the effect this project will have on the environment. There are also questions about a man who originally brokered the deal, and has now been called a "silent partner" by the Hartford Courant. The Courant also reported today that Philip Armetta owns the land on which a leased pump drilled into the Connecticut River aquifer will be built. Armetta was indicted last year in a major investigation conducted by the U.S. Attorney's office into racketeering by Connecticut trash haulers . Recently he pleaded guilty to misprision of felony, which means he knew about felony but did not report it. Is this an ideal business partner for a long term deal with the city? It doesn't seem to be a question the city wants to consider.

The Councilors were provided with some financial information by the city's financial director, An those who voted for it glowed with praise for its virtues, calling it the type of plant that any community would welcome (although most of the power generated will be for Fairfield County and Long Island, and neither locales is clamoring for the plant), and a plan that will provide a free industrial well to the city, and a source of income through potential water sales (though details of water rates, and cost of operation were not available.

Councilman David Bauer who spoke at length about the hidden costs of the project, was treated with polite derision by those in favor of the plan.

It makes one wonder why such an important deal was voted on as an amendment, with little public oversight, at midnight, as the second-to-last item on an agenda, at a meeting in August at the height of vacation season. A cynic would suggest that the timing was completely intentional.

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