Rye City Councilman Richard Filippi gave a speech during the most recent city council meeting that called for a “return to civility,” for the good of the city and “an end to the insanity,” of personal attacks and “inappropriate behavior." He criticized the tactics of several vocal critics of the current administration and resurrected the Dapolite video incident that happened a year ago.
Members of the public, Councilman Joe Sack and those named in the speech have publicly disagreed with Filippi’s statement since he made his remarks at the Jan. 23 meeting.
Several Rye Golf Club members who were present told the council that they disagreed with Filippi’s criticisms and said that in remarking against personal attacks, he personally attacked individuals himself. When asked about the comments made about them, Filippi’s targets – Andrew Daoplite and Leon Sculti- said they were surprised by the comments and Filippi's statements about several incidents were inaccurate.
Filippi maintains that his speech was meant to be a call for people to treat each other with more respect and to speak out for city employees who say they have been disrespected or made to feel uncomfortable.
“I think we should all move back to more civility,” Filippi said. “And stop these personal attacks on each other because we’re only hurting Rye which is a place we all say we love. So that’s my point.”
The comments started with a focus on Sculti, who runs LausDeo10580, a blog that is highly critical of the current administration and where he posts information about his own active investigation of the allegedly misappropriated funds and misconduct at Rye Golf Club. Filippi continued to give his own brief account of the Dapolite incident that accused Dapolite of manipulating cameras and harassing his former boss (claims Dapolite repudiates), then also mentioned “Mr. Floatie” and Ray Tartaglione and the “Chittenden emails,” which are critical of the administration and sent to a long list of officials and members of the press.
Throughout the approximately 12 minute speech, Filippi repeatedly called to an end to personal attacks and for more civility. He also said that people have been reluctant to get involved with local government because of LausDeo10580.
Later on in the meeting, during the “citizens desiring to be heard” portion, several members of the public disagreed with Filippi and specifically defended Leon Sculti.
“Mr. Sculti is leading the vanguard for people in Rye who are tired of being misled, being sent down the road,” said Rye Golf Club member Brandon O’Brien.
He and the other RGC members who spoke commended Sculti's work investigating the alleged misconduct at Rye Golf Club and attributed his success at uncovering information to his persistent efforts.
“All he wants to do is ask questions and he is not being given the proper answers…he needs to get answers, and that’s why he does what he does,” O'Brien said.
Filippi said that people have a right to speak but that they should be respectful, and not send “nasty emails,” or make “personal attacks.”
“That was a personal attack on Leon,” said Rye Golf Club Commission Chair John Duffy of Filippi’s speech. “Maybe he has done some things the wrong way, but he has done a lot of things that have benefited this community,” Duffy said of Sculti.
Sculti said that Filippi mischaracterized his actions when the councilman claimed that he “barged into” a police arbitration meeting that was not open to the public with a camera.
“I never said a word and didn't even have a camera in the building with me,” Sculti said, adding he left immediately after he was told the meeting was not open to the public. Filippi said he heard differently from city manager Scott Pickup.
Filippi also mentioned an Oct. 15, 2012 video Sculti made that shows him asking members of city staff questions on camera.
Sculti said he did not “barge,” into any meetings, or offices, nor did he “shove cameras” in anyone’s face, as Filippi said, and was cordial. You can see the videohere.
In an interview with Patch after the meeting, Filippi said he was prompted to make the speech because of the camera interviews, which Filippi said made city staff very uncomfortable and led RyeTV director Nicole Levitsy to file a police report, although he could not elaborate further, he said.
“These people are coming to do their work and they shouldn’t have to put up with that,” Filippi said. “The should not have to feel anxiety because of how people behave to them.”
Sculti believes that Filippi’s speech was given to dissuade the administration’s adversaries from “asking for the truth from their governments.”
"Mr. Filippi's unfortunate choice of words, and healthy bit of disinformation, was nothing more than a failed attempt to distract from the city's responsibility regarding the Rye Golf Club/RM Staffing scandal," Sculti said. "His words speak for themselves. Personally, I wish Mr. Filippi nothing but the best."
Dapolite also claims that Filippi made inaccurate statements and mischaracterized his dealings with the city from last year.
“I was surprised at some of the things he said because they weren’t even accurate and he did vote with the council majority to not investigate the facts so I am curious how he arrived at some of his conclusions,” Dapolite said.
Dapolite, the 23-year-old former RyeTV employee, has stayed out of the public spotlight since July after he settled a lawsuit against city manager Scott Pickup and then resigned shorty after. Dapolite sued Pickup to remove a reprimand for allegeldy using work computers for personal reasons, he said.
The reprimand came after Dapolite sent a letter to the city council claiming that Pickup and his boss at Rye TV, Nicole Levitsky, had instructed him to tell members of the public and city officials that a contentious Fire Department workshop was not filmed, although Levitsky, Pickup and Dapolite all knew for a fact that it was filmed. Dapolite alleges the reprimand was filed in retaliation for his letter.
The letter was then leaked to the press and made a public topic. The video was later posted to the city website with poor audio quality; Dapolite alleges he found the audio level of the recording had been deliberately manipulated and lowered. Read the full background here.
The council, with the exception of Councilwoman Catherine Parker and Councilman Joe Sack, voted to turn the matter over to the Ethics Board. Parker and Sack wanted the city to investigate the incident.
After receiving the reprimand, Dapolite, represented by former Rye City mayor and local attorney John Carey, sued Pickup. Two conditions of the June settlement were that Dapolite agreed not to take further action on the allegations he made in the original letter to the council and Pickup agreed to remove the reprimand from Dapolite’s personnel file, according to Dapolite. There were other conditions involved in the settlement, but Dapolite did not ask for or receive any type of monetary compensation, he said. In July, he resigned from his position at RyeTV, an action taken separately from the lawsuit.
Dapolite also said that Filippi’s claims made on Jan. 23 that he manipulated video and that the city is not required to film workshops were also inaccurate. The council is required to film all workshops, according to a 2009 Council resolution and Dapolite never manipulated video, nor had he ever been accused of that until Filippi’s speech, he said.
Two days after the meeting, Councilman Joe Sack disagreed with Filippi and defended Dapolite in a column on MyRye.com.
“I was surprised and dismayed that one of my colleagues attacked the character and integrity of Andrew Dapolite, a life-long 23-year-old Rye resident, because the attack was part of a prepared statement which was purportedly against personal attacks, because the attack was inconsistent with my own experience with Mr. Dapolite as a truthful and upstanding person, and because the attack pertained to a set of circumstances which a majority of the city council – including my colleague in question – had heretofore repeatedly declined to investigate.”
Sack continued to explain that the Ethics Board never interviewed Pickup or Levitsky and made no investigation into the matter.
“The time may finally be right to require the relevant parties to answer these allegations. Better late than never,” Sack said, implying the council should reconsider Dapolite’s claims.
Filippi told Patch he sees no reason for the council to investigate Dapolite’s allegations because the Ethics Board said there was no issue to investigate.
“After the Board of Ethics came out and said there is no issue here, I don’t think we should waste city money on something like this.”
“Sack wants to investigate a lot of things,” Filippi said. “You have to ask what is the motivation? If Mr. Sack was ever the mayor there would never be another road paved in Rye. We’d be spending all the money on investigations.”
You can view Filippi's full comments under General Announcements on the Rye City website here.
*Editor's Note: This article has been changed slightly to reflect that Dapolite settled the lawsuit in June, 2012.
Do you agree or disagree with Filippi's sentiment? Please share your thoughts in the comments.