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LED Streetlight Petition May Not Happen After All

"The lawyer's truth is not Truth, but consistency or a consistent expediency."
- Henry David Thoreau

As was the case at the previous Council meeting, the topic of the LED petition was again a controversial matter with pointed criticism between Councilman Brian Faria and Assistant City Solicitor Dylan Conley, a City Council appointee.

At the start, Faria explained his interest in the project since he was elected, but that he became very passionate about it after the death of a colleague of his daughter, who was struck by a vehicle while riding his bike in a poorly lit area.

Ward 4 Council Member Brian Faria

Faria brought up how frustrated he was at the previous meeting. "I'm a team player, I would ask what is the LED streetlight update" Faria opined "What we really need is good communication between council members and the law department." Faria then called up Assistant City Solicitor Dylan Conley with an update on the matter.

"I took the time to watch the last Council meeting, to identify each area of concern that was raised at that Council meeting and write a memo corresponding to the issues and concerns brought up at that Council meeting" Conley opened his remarks. He then began to go through each statement Councilman Faria made on the LED Streetlights in general. This did not sit well with Faria "Not to interrupt, I did receive your attack, I did receive your brief and myself, the City Manager and the City Solicitor felt that this was a malicious personal attack. I'm speaking as a gentleman, we want to move forward."

In moving forward, Conley expressed concerns regarding liability for state roads, with the language of the purchase and sales agreement. "The petition to the PUC is required by the Municipal Streetlights Investment Act, whenever you have an administrative remedy required by law, you cannot go to any other court of law until you exhaust your administrative remedies." Conley explained. "That means that our petition needs to include every single legal issue that could arise out of the transaction... we would either raise or waive effectively every claim we would have related to streetlights... the petition does not just relate to price"

Faria then asked Mr. Conley "Why did you state in your March 5th email that it's in draft format 'once it is complete and ready to be filed we will send you a copy'" Faria then addressed Solicitor Greg Dias "Why at the last meeting Mr. Solicitor did you state it was 95% done, if there was never an intention to do this petition?"

Dylan Conley, Esq. (Courtesy WPRI)

Conley explained that a hearing on all matters of the petition would be in a 90 day window, that the decision would be binding state-wide on National Grid and that it would take "an exhaustive legal effort." Conley further stated that this was originally intended to be a group effort among multiple parties but that process with the other parties had "stymied."

"We are elected, the accountability falls on us" Faria stated "Why didn't you ever communicate this to the Council?" Faria then raised an email by former City Manager Timothy Chapman stating the petition would be out by February 16th. Faria then asked where the 95% complete petition is. Conley stated "to say that something is completed and ready to be filed does not indicate it is prepared to be litigated."

"I'm not gonna get an extra lightbulb" Faria stated "I have no agenda, I just want to bring this to the finish line." Faria continued "This has been on the docket all these months and at no point did anyone take the initiative to say I'd like to come in and speak on this." Conley stated he had requested the item to be in executive session back in October (prior to the November resolution to move forward) and also stated that Faria went into the Law Department and yelled "Why can't I get a petition!" and stormed out. Conley also stated that Faria was invited to a meeting two weeks ago on the issue, but City Manager Malcolm Moore confirmed that the Councilman was not invited to that meeting.

Conley continued to discuss that the Solicitor's office had a "deluge" or legal work as a reason why there was a "gap" in driving the issue forward. These reasons included firefighter grievances, the two-vs four year term issue and "the investigation into Councilman Faria..." Councilman Faria objected at that point "That's what Mr. Conley really came here to say" stated Faria. "There is no basis to whatever political witch-hunt this is, I haven't been asked a single question and have no idea what this is about. It's a malicious attack." Conley replied that he listed all legal issues taking the Solicitor's Office time, "nothing was excluded or particularly chosen"

Pivoting back to the LED matter. Faria stated "We are no closer than we were in January... I've been mislead into believing there was a petition and there hasn't been, don't fall for the spin." Faria stated that Mr. Conley never contacted him even after Dias had stated he would have Conley contact him. Faria said that if Conley had told him that other options needed to be looked at, he would have accepted that. "But none of this was ever communicated to the Council."

The matter was concluded with Mayor James Briden stating "the most constructive step now is to discuss this in executive session." The matter will be taken up in Executive Session at the next Council meeting.

History of Tension

Assistant Solicitor Dylan Conley is the nephew of former City Council Member Timothy Conley, who served as Faria's predecessor in the Ward 4 Council Seat and who had lost the seat to Faria in 2016. Tim Conley is now the Chair of the Ward 4 Democratic Committee.

Faria voted against the appointment of Dylan Conley as Assistant City Solicitor. Dylan's father, Senator William Conley both worked with recently suspended City Manager Timothy Chapman for many years in the city's Law Department as well as rented office space in the same building owned by former State Representative George Caruolo.