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Harrington: Judge Rules on Council’s Ragosta Report Subpoena This Week

Warwick City Hall
 Warwick City Hall.
Warwick City Hall.

Warwick, RI — The Warwick City Council OK’d a ban on powered boats on Sand Pond and parking restrictions on Wells and Rowe Avenues Monday night before learning Judge Bennett R. Gallo will decide their fight to subpoena the School Committee for a copy of the “Ragosta Report” by week’s end.

Shortly after the Council voted 6-2 to subpoena the School Committee for a copy of the “Ragosta Report” Sept. 22 on the handling of allegations of inappropriate conduct with students against Gorton Junior High School Science Teacher Mario Atoyan, the School Committee filed a motion to quash it in Superior Court, said Council legal counsel John Harrington.

Harrington said the School Committee argued the Ragosta Report should be exempt from the subpoena because it’s protected by attorney-client privilege, since it was prepared by attorney Vincent Ragosta.

Harrington and Warwick City Solicitor Peter D. Ruggiero  countered with their own defenses of the subpoena. Harrington said he argued the Ragosta Report isn’t necessarily protected under attorney-client privilege simply because it was prepared by an attorney.

Harrington said the burden is on the School Committee to prove attorney-client privilege applies in this case. Judge Gallo is reviewing the report personally and is expected to issue a ruling on whether the School Committee must honor the City Council’s subpoena by the end of the week.

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Harrington mentioned the impending ruling as the City Council discussed the merits of issuing a second subpoena, this time of Gorton Jr. High School Principal Jeffrey Taylor.

Taylor has a binder containing information on Atoyan, said City Councillor Camille Vella-Wilkinson. The principal won’t hand it over without a written demand, Vella Wilkinson has said.

While Councillor Steven Merolla cautioned asking for the report might jeopardize pending cases against Atoyan, Coucillors Camille Vella-Wilkinson, Donna Travis, Steven Colantuono and Edward Ladouceur expressed support for subpoenaing Taylor.

Vella-Wilkinson repeated her interest in getting to the bottom of the school department’s handling of the reports of Atoyan’s inappropriate contact with students, with the aim of preventing a repeat of how the reports were handled in what she characterized as a cover-up.

“I find this to be an insult to the law-abiding teachers in the City of Warwick,” Vella-Wilkinson said.

“I don’t want statements made by individuals in public that are going to jeopardize the criminal investigation,” Merolla said.

“Until I get the information that I feel we and the taxpayers are entitled to,” Ladouceur said, he’ll keep pushing for more information on how the incident was handled.

“The longer it (withholding information) goes on the more it makes them (students and teachers) insecure,” said Councilwoman Kathleen Usler.

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During the discussion, Harrington noted the first subpoena would likely be decided this week, perhaps rendering a second, similar subpoena irrelevant. The Council voted to postpone a vote on subpoenaing Taylor till next week.

In other news, the Council also approved:

Gas Powered Boats on Sand Pond ban (Second Passage) — The City Council OK’d banning gas and propane-powered vehicles on Sand Pond. Violation would be punishable by a fine of $50 for the first and second offense.

The Council also apporoved a Parking Restriction on both sides of Wells Avenue from the intersection of Wilbur Avenue to the locked access gate for the sports complex and a Parking Restriction on the north side of Rowe Avenue from the intersection of Wilbur Avenue to the pedestrian entrance/exit for the sports complex and no parking between two signs to be posted on either side of Rowe Avenue at the end of the roadway.

The Council postponed a vote on  Snow removal ordinance amendments till Nov. 16. This resolution makes several changes to the city’s snow removal ordinance, including applying it only to the owners of property nearby a “priority sidewalk”.