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Newport Needs Change; This is Why, and this is How | Beth Barnes

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“Hi Laura (Dolgin), You probably noticed that I purged my entire e-mail…This was due to a concern that the new mayor would make emails associated with the lawsuit’s public in the name of transparency…” On the same day this email was sent by former mayor Paul Monette, Laura (Dolgin), former City Manager answered, “Smart move…”  This was occurring one day after I took my mayor’s oath; a secret and concerted plan to ‘purge’ public documents, in a conscious effort to thwart my campaign promise of transparency.  Concealing and purging public records is anything but a ‘smart move’, and claiming it was in an effort to deny the new mayor transparency is egregious.    It seems ironic that the one piece of advice former Mayor Monette gave me as the new mayor was, “One key thing to remember is not to conduct any formal business via e-mail.”   Let’s all ask, why?

This email thread is shocking but not surprising as I read it now, after resigning from my elected office.  It was not the first and only time I was denied information as I tried to understand the complexity and entirety of my new elected role.  I had never served in public office so I had a tall mountain to climb, and lots of questions.

On May 3, 2023, less than 2 months into my role, I watched a video of the Governor on a visit to Newport, proudly saying that the state was working with the city on the issue of the downtown hole.  Clearly as mayor, I was interested to know what this meant.   I sent an e-mail to Laura (Dolgin) asking for more information, as the mayor.  Of course, there would have been information the former mayor and council would be privy to that the general public was not, I wanted to be briefed and updated.   Her response, “No urgency on this.” 

I then received emails from two council members, today I would like to share the e-mail from Kevin Charbonneau who is currently running for re-election.  What follows should interest and concern every voter in Newport.  Here are excerpts from his lengthy e-mail:

“I am greatly concerned about your emails to have this information explained to you when it is literally only a few key strokes away.  I can only imagine what the City’s bill will be from our City Attorney as he receives copies of emails and questions seemingly on a daily basis.  I was curious when you inserted yourself in negotiations with the Gateway Lease agreement.  This is NOT the Mayor’s responsibility, it is our City Managers job.  Time and time again we have seen the City Manager do outstanding work and putting Newport in a favorable light.  Since my time on the Council there has been a small, vocal group of residents who are ready and waiting to publicly chastise and berate the City Manager for any perceived error, making the most of each incident much like a public stoning.  I had hoped for change a more civil discourse, but that does not appear to be the case.  Here’s what you need to do:  Research the voluminous data on EB 5 which is free and accessible, this will probably answer some of your questions.  Let the City Manager do her job!   She answers to us, but her job is to run Newport City and bring any issue to the Council that requires our input.  We do not need to be involved in the day to day operations.  We are all on the same page as the direction we want Newport to go (I believe we passed a 5 year plan). 

These incessant, derogatory emails bashing our City Manager need to stop, now!  If you have questions or concerns Mr. John Wilson can be a viable resource to provide an answer and also history of the subject matter.  To write that you want to be an active, integral and immediate part of this conversation is, in my opinion, an overstep of your authority.  You speak only for the City only with the Council’s assent.  I must have missed the part of the meeting when the council said to reach out to the various entities you mentioned that your meeting with.  Unless I missed something you are doing this to educate yourself, not on behalf of the city.

Just stop, I’ve had all I can take.

I do not want a reply to this email.”

Mr. Charbonneau is clearly doing a great disservice to you, the voting public.  I was simply asking logical and important questions, yes, to educate myself in an effort to serve and understand to my best and highest ability.   Mr. Charbonneau was denying me the right to important and privileged information, thus denying me the right to see the big picture as mayor.  I find this letter to be woefully unprofessional, blatantly misogynistic and unbecoming of an elected and serving city council member.  Not to mention rude and disrespectful.  

Time for new blood, new ideas, vision and old fashion courtesy…it IS possible.   Please use your vote to move Newport forward with integrity, respect and transparency.   

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