Despite his qualifications, former Ward 5 Councilman Carlo Pisaturo Jr. was denied a seat on the Warwick Sewer Authority Board by a 4-5 vote during Monday’s council meeting. Those voting against the appointment were Council President Bruce Place, Ward 1 Councilman Steven Colantuono, Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson, Ward 6 Councilwoman Donna Travis and Ward 8 Councilman Ray Gallucci, had various reservations about approving the appointment.
One of the issues for Gallucci, along with Vella-Wilkinson and Travis, is that if Pisaturo had been appointment, there would have been multiple members from the same ward.
The board, which is comprised of five members, already has a person representing Ward 5 in Peter Ginaitt. The remaining members are Steven Sylven of Ward 4, Gary Jarvis and Aaron Guckian, both of Ward 1, and Fred Sullivan of Ward 2, who Pisaturo would have replaced.
If Pisaturo currently lived in Ward 7, 8 or 9, said Gallucci, he would have backed him.
“The Sewer Plant is in Ward 8,” Gallucci said. “In 2010 we got devastated [by the historic floods]. I was there for the people of Ward 8 and I believe somebody should be appointed who has the same qualifications Carlo has from either Ward 7, 8 or 9. That is my only objection.”
Ward 4 Councilman Joseph Solomon disagreed.
“Mr. Gallucci, with all due respect, there is another appointment in Ward 5 – Peter Ginaitt,” said Solomon. “What I find ironic here this evening is that I look around to my colleagues on the council and, for the most part, I’ve seen each and every council member here vote for confirmation on boards and commissions with individuals from the same ward and to change horses this evening. I wonder how genuine they’re being here [and] if that is an adequate excuse.”
Solomon went on to say that while Vella-Wilkinson recently introduced legislation that aims to avoid appointing multiple people from the same ward to boards and commissions, the council voted Monday to reappoint three members who all live in Ward 1 to the Juvenile Hearing Board. Vella-Wilkinson was the sole member to oppose the appointments.
Solomon added, “I think [Pisaturo] possesses the tools and would be an excellent candidate.”
Ward 5 Councilman John DelGiudice shared Solomon’s sentiments. He noted that the members of the Sewer Authority represent the entire city, not just the areas they reside.
DelGiudice also said Pisaturo would have been the best person for the position due to his experience in the field, as Pisaturo was employed by Garofalo & Associates from April 1999 to July 2011 as a resident engineer and construction inspector. There, he worked on sewer and water systems in areas in Rhode Island, including Cranston, Providence and North Providence, as well as Fall River, Mass. He oversaw construction, adhered to specifications and materials in construction.
Further, he’s worked on bridges, streets, sidewalks and city parks.
“Carlo has the qualifications…and I think it would be a shame to let someone like Carlo slip by without making use of the assets he could bring to the table simply because he comes from Ward 5,” said DelGiudice. “He would be a strong advocate for sewers throughout the city.”
Further, said DelGiudice, Pisaturo, who was elected to in 1992 where he served for 12 years, proposed a $130 million bond issue relative to the initiation of sewer development in the City of Warwick in 1994.
“He led the charge on that and was largely responsible for the passage of the $130 million bond issue,” said DelGiudice. “He can bring all that knowledge to the table and share it with the members of the Sewer Authority Board and move the board forward in the future.”
Vella-Wilkinson, a member of the Appointments Committee, as well as Colantuono, found Pisaturo’s résumé to be extremely impressive. However, they had issues that there would be potential conflicts of interest because of Pisaturo’s previous work with some of the vendors.
In that case, said Vella-Wilkinson, he would have to excuse himself from certain votes, which, in essence, would ultimately leave the seat empty.
Colantuono said while he’s not worried about what ward Pisaturo resides in, he’s more interested in possible conflicts of interest.
“I’m concerned about that,” he said.
As far as the issue of a conflict of interest, Pisaturo originally retired earlier this year but went back to work for the company temporarily. He plans to retire again from his position within the month.
Additionally, DelGiudice said that if the council intends to disqualify people who have worked in the industry because they may or may not have a deal with someone they previously worked with, it would be nearly impossible to find a candidate who is uniquely qualified.
“It just doesn’t make sense,” said DelGiudice. “We need people who have worked in that field. [He] has all of the qualifications, and I don’t believe there is anyone more qualified than Carlo.”
Vella-Wilkinson raised another concern. She expressed frustration that she was never given an opportunity to seek someone in her own ward who is uniquely qualified to serve on the board. Ward 9 Councilman Steven Merolla said he was amused by the entire debate.
“I’m kind of chuckling here as I listen to everybody because it was only about a year ago that we all voted to disband the Warwick Sewer Authority,” he said. “Remember why? Because it was so badly mismanaged.”
He also recalled Pisaturo’s positive impacts on the council in the 12 years he served.
“Carlo always had an opinion and was never afraid to voice it,” Merolla said. “Looking at that Sewer Authority, that’s a very refreshing change. You really need an independent voice.”
But by the end of the discussion, the majority ruled and it was decided that Pisaturo would not be appointed. Before the meeting adjourned, Pisaturo was able to voice his opinion via the 15-minute period that allows people to share their thoughts.
He said while personal conflicts always exit, he was able to put aside his feelings when he served in the council and would have done the same as a member of the Sewer Authority.
“I feel my knowledge and expertise could have been a big asset to the Sewer Authority, but I guess some of the members of the council didn’t feel that way,” he said. “To the people who voted for me, I thank you.”