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Council Holds School Committee Subpoena, Invite Votes till Sept. 21

Warwick City Hall
The City Council will consider a new ordinance outlining new rules for determining who will be issued concealed carry gun permits on April 6.
The City Council will consider a new ordinance outlining new rules for determining who will be issued concealed carry gun permits on April 6.

Warwick, RI – The Warwick City Council postponed votes on a subpoena of the School Department’s “Ragosta Report” on the handling of inappropriate student contact allegations against Gorton Junior High School Science Teacher Mario Atoyan and an invite to the School Committee to discuss it Monday night.

Both votes will be revisited during the Sept. 21 meeting.

The invitation was postponed so Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson can amend it to include Mayor Scott Avedisian and coordinate a suitable time for all three parties to meet.

Originally, the invitation was directed only to the School Committee Chairwoman, but was amended to include the entire School Committee, at the suggestion of School Committee Vice Chairman Eugene Nadeau during the Aug. 2 Council meeting.

Councilman Steve Merolla mentioned that following the Council’s Aug. 2 meeting, when the original meeting date was set for that evening, Sept. 14, he called the School Committee Chairperson, and learned they could not make that night’s meeting since they’re involved in contract negotiations at the moment.

It shortly became clear that no one on the Council had coordinated with the Mayor and the School Committee to ensure they were free to attend a meeting with the City Council, so the vote was held for a week so Vella-Wilkinson could make those arrangements.

The subpoena vote was also postponed until the Sept. 21 meeting when councillors became unsure whether they were requesting the correct documents.

Councilman Edward Ladouceur asked the Council’s legal counsel John Harrington whether they needed to specify whether they wanted the written or audio version of the School Department’s“Ragosta Report.”

Harrington replied that he believed he’d heard school officials mention a transcript of the report, which was delivered to the School Committee in May and then sealed.

The “Ragosta Report” was prepared by attorney Vincent Ragosta in May on the handling of allegations against Gorton Junior High School Science Teacher Mario Atoyan, placed on leave pending the results of his day in court on unrelated sexual assault charges in North Kingstown brought against him March 20.

Despite former School Superintendent Richard D’Agostino’s claim that Atoyan had no prior incidents alerting officials he was a safety risk, a parent had reported the teacher drew a picture of male genitals on her 13-year-old daughter’s arm a year prior to his arrest in North Kingstown, according to

School Department officials have repeatedly rebuffed City Councillors’ efforts to obtain access to the Ragosta Report, citing it falls under the personnel exemption of state Open Meetings Law, according to Vella-Wilkinson.

“We absolutely have a right to know what that report says,” said Vella-Wilkinson, since it was paid for with public funds, and delivered to a public body. But the subpoena might compel the School Committee to hand it over.

“This is apparently the only way that we’re going to get it,” said Vella-Wilkinson, referring to the subpoena.

Council President Donna Travis said she’s spoken to School Committee Chairwoman Jennifer Ahern, who told her that she’d hand over the report to Avedisian, but only if the Council wasn’t allowed to see it.

The idea that the document would be released secretly to one elected official on the condition it’s kept secret, “…is outrageous, frankly,” Vella – Wilkinson said.

Harrington warned the council that a subpoena is not a guarantee that the Council will get the document. “There’s legal rights on the other side,” he said.

Vella Wilkinson said she would also draft a separate resolution asking for a binder kept by Gorton Jr. High Principal Jeffrey Taylor containing information on Atoyan. The principal said he wouldn’t hand it over without a written demand, Vella Wilkinson said.

Vella Wilkinson said she would use the time between meetings to draft a resolution to also subpoena the Taylor’s information on Atoyan.


Rob Borkowski
Author: Rob Borkowski

Rob has worked as reporter and editor for several publications, including The Kent County Daily Times and Coventry Courier, before working for Gatehouse in MA then moving home with Patch Media. Now he's publisher and editor of Contact him at [email protected] with tips, press releases, advertising inquiries, and concerns.

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