Warwick Police have charged Rob Cote, leader of last summer’s Car Tax Revolt, for making harassing phone calls on the basis of a complaint by Terry DiPetrillo, an employee of the Department of Public Works.
But Cote, who was notified Tuesday morning by police of the complaint and appeared at the station later in the day, says he’s the one being harassed.
In an email exchange, he says he feels the situation “is politically motivated against me for leading the charge in the Car Tax Revolt and for helping Channel 12 News uncover the gross mismanagement of the Warwick DPW and the attempt to cover up the theft by DPW workers at the city yard, and for being vocal in my community.”
Cote continued, “I have made numerous complaints to the Warwick Police about being harassed by city workers, including Mr. DiPetrillo, at council meetings and in public, and I have written letters to the mayor and his administration about this, all of which have gone unanswered with no investigations. This shows a pattern of behavior by the DPW and the administration for speaking out against what is obviously wrong in this city, in yet another attempt to sequester an opposing political dialogue.”
Cote also showed a Warwick Beacon reporter emails confirming proof of at least six complaints.
He emailed the reporter a post on craigslist.org that was sent to him by a member of the Car Tax Revolt. The post was dated May 13 of this year and reads, “your [sic] crossing a bridge into dangerous territory. I understand your [sic] upset with the way city employee's [sic] conduct their daily work (or lack of it in some isolated cases) but what your [sic] doing now is becoming VERY personal to many. I'm not threatening you in any way just trying to help. When you cause a man to lose his job You give that man nothing else to lose. Sometimes you have to throw in the towel before the war gets ugly, no harm no foul. What are you really going to gain? You've put yourself in a position where the police really aren't even going to rush to your aid...Think about it.”
In a phone interview Tuesday, Captain Robert Nelson said DiPetrillo filed the complaint as a result of an investigation involving harassing phone calls allegedly made by Cote.
According to Cote, he attempted to contact DiPetrillo numerous times after an incident that occurred June 28. At first, Cote said DiPetrillo’s phone was busy, but he ended up speaking to DiPetrillo twice for a timeframe of less than two minutes.
They then had a “heated” verbal argument immediately after the incident.
Cote, along with his friend from Massachusetts, Phil Cottone, had just returned from a fishing trip at Point Judith and were traveling east on West Shore Road in Cote’s truck, his boat in tow, June 28.
At first, said Cote, he didn’t see or hear DiPetrillo, who had pulled up to the right side of Cote’s vehicle.
Cottone then got Cote’s attention, as Cottone said Dipetrillo was yelling profanities and pointing at Cote while making obscene gestures. Cote said he was taken by surprise because he said he has been friends with DiPetrillo for more than 20 years and called him as a means to find out why DiPetrillo was behaving in such a manner.
“There was a large pickup truck that pulled up to the right side of us and a guy with a shaved head looked over at Rob and flipped him off,” said Cottone, who has known Cote for nearly a decade. “There was an exchange back and forth and Rob asked him to pull over a number of times so they could talk.”
After that, Cottone said, he and Cote went to Cote’s home and had dinner. A day or two later, Cottone received a call from the WPD.
“I told them the other individual initiated the inappropriate gesture,” Cottone said. “I’ve known Rob long enough to know that if something is wrong, he wants it fixed. Rob is uncovering some stuff and he’s speaking out against people that aren’t working. It’s about time someone stands up.”
Yet, Nelson said DiPetrillo did not mention anything about the alleged exchange on Post Road. Rather, DiPetrillo said Cote made a series of phone calls to his city cell phone in consecutive order and left vulgar messages within a 30-minute time frame.
“He did not explain to the police officer what happened in the previous driving incident,” said Nelson of DiPetrillo. “He said, ‘This person will not stop calling and he has left several messages.’ At such time when the police officer did hear the messages, it was enough to be considered harassing phone calls. The obscenities are illegal.”
DiPetrillo was contacted for comment but did not reply in time for press.
Cote said he would contest the charge in court.