“Sue me, sue you blues”

Thu, 08/05/2021 - 2:45pm

To the Editor,
We are writing to express our support for the members of the Block Island Tourism Council currently being harassed to resign by fellow council member Steve Filippi. We discussed this matter in Minipod #8 during which we erroneously reported that there was already a lawsuit pending on the issue. We regret this error.
It is our belief that when the facts of this case come to light it will be shown that Steve violated an agreement made with his fellow council members to temporarily suspend promoting Block Island as “open” at the onset of the Pandemic. In an interview with Channel 10 somewhere around June 10, 2020, Steve was introduced as owner of Ballard’s and President of the Tourism Council. He then went on to promote and encourage tourism on Block Island, directly violating the agreement he had made only hours earlier. The headline from an article based on the interview found on the Channel 10 website dated June 11, 2020 states, “Tourism Council wants visitors to know Block Island is open.”
We find it reckless that someone of Steve’s stature in our community would put his own self-interests before the health and safety of our residents. Beyond that we find it in extremely poor taste that one so privileged would find it necessary to induce undue stress and possible financial hardship on his fellow council members who are all decent, honest, hard-working, salt-of-the-earth members of our community. Steve’s grievance is frivolous, spiteful and by design a sort of two-pronged chess move. First, it is meant to draw attention away from the fact that his error in judgement is the real issue here. Second, due to a letter sent to said members of the tourism council by Steve’s attorney threatening legal action should they comment on the matter, it has effectively rendered them unable to defend themselves. The Tourism Council’s legal advisor had, to that point, also recommended they remain silent. Steve has effectively bought the conversation and has been allowed to spin it however he wants.
We are demanding that Steve stop pressing this issue and step down from the Tourism Council. We believe it was a bad fit in the first place. One of the Block Island Tourism Council’s goals has always been to shift our narrative away from that of the island being a place to “come and party” towards making it a place for families to visit and enjoy nature.
Based on Ballard’s Facebook page which boasts dozens of advertisements featuring shot menus with the tagline, “Shots make the ultimate summer party!” and pictures of young women in bikinis shooting plastic faux syringes full of liquor into their mouths, we find his business model diametrically opposed to the goals of the Tourism Council. And when one accepts a position as a community leader there is no firewall between your actions and your words.
We respect the hard work Steve’s done at Ballard’s and his business acumen. He’s done a wonderful job at promoting himself as a person who cares about our community. Unfortunately, it’s our opinion that his business interest and the goals of the Tourism Council are at odds.

We invite you to listen to our initial discussion on the matter featured during Minipod #8.

Rich Tretheway and Marc Scortino
Two Guys on Block Island Podcast