The board of the Bristol County Water Authority postponed its election of officers Wednesday evening because of an accusation of possible “irregularities” 17 years ago by a Barrington member who was to be nominated for chairman.
The Barrington board member who is at the heart of the accusation is Allan Klepper. The charge involves an eminent domain taking of land owned by a former water authority board member who allegedly benefited financially from the taking in 1996.
Klepper reportedly was aware of and signed off on the land taking when he was secretary of the board. He is not being accused of a crime or of breaking the law. He is being charged with not doing the due diligence necessary as a board member at that time.
The accusation was made by Marina Peterson of Bristol, a frequent BCWA critic who heads the East Bay Patriots organization. She made the accusation in a comment she posted to a on Tuesday afternoon.
Here is Peterson’s comment to :
“The possible nomination of Allan Klepper as Chairman of BCWA should not move forward due to the appearance of prior irregularities during his prior term as BCWA Secretary.
During the mid 1990's, an eminent domain land taking was signed off by Mr. Klepper in his capacity as BCWA Secretary on behalf of a company owned by a prior BCWA Board member. The details of this land taking show that the property was flipped by the ex-board member via a company owned by this ex board member resulting in a substantial financial gain.
It has been alleged that at the time, Mr. Klepper was sufficiently aware of the background details to have questioned this transaction.
This may represent an ethics violation that may still be investigated under the Bristol County Water Supply Act.
The record of this event, and the possible investigation that could occur under the Act, appears to question the viability of Mr. Klepper's candidacy as Chairman of the BCWA Board.”
Klepper said he learned of the allegation in a letter from Peterson that was forwarded to him by Barrington member Robert Allio, one of the members of the board to receive her letter.
Klepper’s response to the allegation was vitriolic even as he said he has no idea what Peterson is accusing him of. But he said this allegation "questions my “integrity” and borders on libel or slander.
“I don’t know what I’m accused of,” said Klepper. “But she’s questioning my integrity. I would like to get to the bottom of this.”
“Bring it on,” said Klepper. “Let’s go to the Ethics Commission tomorrow.”
BCWA attorney Sandra Mack said Peterson has been asked already by BCWA Executive Director Pamela Marchand to “bring in whatever evidence she has” to back up her claim.
“I really don’t know what she is accusing Allan of,” said Mack, who explained that as secretary, Klepper would have routinely signed off numerous documents, including minutes of meetings he might not even have attended.
Peterson, who sat in the back of the Council Chamber in the Barrington Town Hall, did not respond at the meeting. After the meeting, though, she said: “I heard for the first time tonight that I have been contacted to bring in evidence.”
“Maybe I’ll get a letter tomorrow or next week,” Peterson said, “but this is the first I’ve heard of it. Why would they tell you that?"
Peterson said anyone who wants to take the time can go the Warren Town Hall to get her so-called evidence about the land transaction.
“It’s all public record,” she said. “It shows the transfer.”
Another comment to by garymm appears to detail this transaction. It says:
“There were two properties involved in this transaction, one being on the Kickemuit, and one not on the Kickemuit. There was one owner of both lots.
That owner applied for a subdivision to the Town of Warren on the lot not on the water. The record shows that the Town of Warren let it go through without Warren Planning Board approval (that is in the record).
On January 31, at 1:11 in the afternoon, the subdivision was filed with the town of Warren by the original owners. According to the continuing records, one minute later, the land containing the subdivision (i.e. the land not on the Kickemuit) was purchased by a former BCWA Board member via his company.
Within a month, the BCWA Board voted to take this subdivision and the other lot on the water via eminent domain under the Bristol County Water Supply Act. Mr. Klepper in his capacity as secretary signed off.
Six months later, a bill for the first piece of property being the subdivision land was submitted to the RI Water Resources Board for payment, but marked up by around $90K from the purchase price in January.”
Mack said she advised the board not to proceed with the Wednesday's election “because I felt the board was in an unfair position without sufficient information.”
“It is also unfair to Allan to have this hanging out there without evidence that could lead to a conclusion,” she said.
Board chairman John Jannitto, who has attacked and been attacked by Peterson before, lashed out at the accusation as “backroom politics.” He also slammed the Patch for running , which actually dealt only with the nomination process for board chairman.
“I am not saying he broke the law,” said Peterson of Klepper. “But in his fiduciary role, it was his burden to find out what was going on, to vet things. He did not give this as much due diligence as was needed. He didn’t show good judgment.”
For that reason, Peterson said, she brought up the 1996 land taking.
Klepper’s election also would simply overlook the need for continued change, “new eyes, new people” in charge of the water authority, she said.
“Why old school when the water authority is supposed to be taking on a new face, a new persona?” she said. “You can’t put in a chairman who was there with all the questionable things going on.”