Developer Coccoli files ethics complaint against Town Council president

Developer Coccoli files ethics complaint against Town Council president

SCITUATE – A local developer continues to battle Scituate town leaders over the historic Hope Mill property, even after a different buyer has the town’s approval to rehabilitate the vacant site in a $56 million plan.

Vincent Coccoli, of Glocester, had been hoping to develop the 38-acre property in Scituate and Coventry with a plan similar to the one that’s been put forth by Massachusetts-based Paramount Development Group.

That group’s partner, BMP LLC, is paying $1.28 million for the site.

After a Town Council meeting in January where a majority of council members approved a tax stabilization agreement with Paramount, Coccoli filed a complaint with the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that is currently under investigation.

At the meeting, Town Council President Charles Collins Jr., following advice from the state’s Ethics Commission, recused himself from the vote because he owns rental property neighboring Hope Mill, The Valley Breeze & Observer reported.

The complaint alleges that Collins violated the ethics code by not recusing himself from talks between the town and Coccoli about a tax stabilization agreement for the Hope Mill property between June 2014 to January 2015, according to a copy of the complaint.

“Why didn’t the Town Council president recuse himself for me?” Coccoli said to The Observer. “Why didn’t you step down for me for the last 10 years?”.

“There is absolute corruption in this town,” he continued.

An investigation into Coccoli’s complaint is ongoing, said Steven Cross, chief of investigations for the commission. Investigations can take up to 180 days, he added.

Collins’ attorney did not return a call from The Observer as of Tuesday afternoon.

Town Solicitor David D’Agostino told The Observer that Coccoli is causing a “disruption” with the hope that the current buyer and/or state agencies working with the current buyer will become “chilled or turned off by the whole process.”

The commission has requested and received a “tremendous” amount of documents from the town, he said.

In addition to the complaint, Coccoli is suing the town for $21 million related to failed attempts to develop the Hope Mill. That lawsuit is pending.

As D’Agostino sees it, Coccoli “was aware of everything that the receiver filed to petition to sell this property” and had an opportunity to place a competing bid, but didn’t, he said.

Paramount’s plan calls for approximately 118 workforce, or low/moderate income, apartment units plus an additional 75 market rate units.

Because the property is in state receivership, Rhode Island Superior Court approved the purchase and sale agreement on Jan. 8, The Observer previously reported.

Paramount is moving ahead with its plans and is seeking proper approvals from state agencies, D’Agostino said. A closing on the property is not expected for another few months.