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Will Nasty LED Discussion Mean 'Lights Out' for a City Official?

Ward 4 Councilman Brian Faria

Perhaps the most bizarre matter to come out of the LED streetlight discussion was one of Assistant City Solicitor Dylan Conley's reasons for not being able to "drive forward" the LED matter.

In a memo that he passed out to the City Council and made available publicly as well as in his public statement, Conley cited an investigation into Councilman Brian Faria, who represents Ward 4. The memo stated " was determined that the complaints and allegations dealt with the creation of a hostile work environment, possible violations of the City Charter § 2-12... and accordingly, Rhode Island General Laws §28-50-1 et seq, The Rhode Island Whistle Blowers Protection Act."

Section 2-12 of the City Charter relates to interference in the daily administration of the city including directing employees. Violating Section 2-12 is considered a misdemeanor and someone found guilty is removed from the Council. Historically Section 2-12 has been difficult to enforce. It was alleged several times that former Mayor Thomas Rose violated the section but then Solicitor Timothy Chapman refused to investigate the matter and there were no clear mechanisms in place for how an investigation would work, how a charge would be prosecuted and what court would have jurisdiction.

Assistant City Solicitor Dylan Conley (Courtesy of WPRI)

Conley's memo states that "the details of this matter cannot be publically [sic] disclosed pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 42-26-5(a)(1), (3), (4), (9)." Mr. Conley may have meant to refer to 42-46-5, which makes a lot more sense in context. Despite the fact that the matter is not supposed to be public, it may have found its way to social media and possibly to journalist Jim Hummel. Online claims include crossing a police line during the recent high school bomb threat, threatening a police officer's pension and verbally abusing the municipal court administrator. Whether these claims were the matter under investigation or manufactured by the social media rumor mill is uncertain.

At the meeting, Faria referred to the investigation as a "witchhunt" and stated he had not been asked about anything relating to an investigation. Faria questioned the professionalism of the memo as did Acting City Manager Malcolm Moore in writing, a part of which Faria read at the meeting. Faria told the Independent Townie that if these matters were the subject of the investigation, he will be requesting an investigation into how confidential information from this investigation was made public before even he, as the accused, was informed of the accusations.

Mr. Faria released a statement saying that the allegations have "no basis" and stated that he does not have the authority to take an officer's pension and it is unlikely that even the Police and Fire Pension Board, which Faria sits on, would be able to do so. Faria states that when he was approached by a police officer regarding his intermittently flickering headlight (the headlight incident had previously caught the attention of some Facebook commenters and later included false spottings of Faria's vehicle), he identified himself as a Councilman and mentioned "in passing" that he serves on the pension board. Faria went on to state "I just actually inquired to the Chief about this right after hearing about it on Facebook and I was told the reason it was never mentioned to me was because upon review it was simply a memo without any foundation and that’s as far as it went. Anyone that knows me personally knows that I have great respect and appreciation for every single officer and their commitment to our city." Faria also denied crossing the police line at the High School. In regards to the allegation of verbally abusing the Municipal Court Administrator, Faria said he could not comment as it involved a personnel matter.

In the past couple of years, the Farias and the Conleys, once allies in 2014, have become bitter rivals, akin to the Hatfields and McCoys. The feud began in the 2016 election in which Brian Faria ran for the Ward 4 City Council seat held by Tim Conley, uncle of Dylan Conley. Faria as well as his wife Melissa and his daughter Rachelle, also ran for the Ward 4 Democratic Committee. Brian and Melissa Faria won the Ward Committee seats in the September 2016 Democratic primary, unseating then Chair Bob Gagnon and others. Rachelle tied for the last seat, and by vote of the committee was passed over, despite a resignation at the same time that would have allowed both to serve. Tim Conley implied on social media that Rachelle was not allowed to serve in retaliation regarding an alleged police complaint against Conley's son who attended school with Faria's younger daughter.

In November, Brian Faria unseated incumbent Tim Conley, who was then made Ward 4 Democratic Committee Chair. At the December inauguration, Faria voted against Dylan Conley for the post of Assistant City Solicitor, but was in the minority. The bad blood has continued and spilled over to social media where Tim and Cathy Conley criticize Faria, Mrs. Conley has been especially critical of both Faria and his supporters including stating soon after the election that "I can't wait to see what the comments will be when Coventry and state police visit the city council meeting." and more recently "Faria thinks he is a 'former government employee' because he spent time in a federal prison." The wounds of the last election seem to run very deep for all involved.

We reached out to City Manager Malcolm Moore to inquire as to the status of the investigation but did not receive a response.