Councilman Granatiero Expresses Frustration With ‘Vague’ Questions

The Executive Session item referring to a job performance review of the fire chief was removed from the agenda with no explanation.

Public comment during the Sept. 25 Town Council meeting.

Town Councilman Nino Granatiero expressed frustration with what he called “general” questions in an exchange with a resident during public comment at the Town Council meeting Monday night at Swift Community Center. Caryn Corenthal had asked why the Town Council did not respond to questions posed by speakers during public comment.

“Since April, May, there’s been crickets. Nothing. No answer. I’ve asked a question. [Councilman] Mark [Schwager] asked a question, many other townspeople have asked questions. Nothing. I think you at least owe us a reason why you are not answering questions,” she said.

“When I’m asked a question directly, I answer it. I’m about the most upfront, honest person you’re ever going to meet,” responded Granatiero. “There have been very, very general and very vague things said at public comment. … I can’t answer general things. I’ve had people come up here and call me a racist, a misogynist, a bully. None of this stuff is true. And I’m not going to sit here and answer it.”

A bit later he said,

“If anybody has sent me an email over the past six, eight, nine months – it feels like nine years – I’ve answered it, OK? … But I will not answer general things, because what I find is when you answer general things, it gets twisted around. And frankly I don’t have the time for this crap…. So, if you have specific questions about the town, and how things are going, et cetera, I’d be happy to answer that.”

After the meeting, Granatiero said he was hearing from many residents outside of the Town Council meetings – five times as many – who are in support for what the Town Council is doing. With regard to the people who attend the meetings – according to the fire marshal, 104 people attended the meeting Monday – Granatiero said most were union supporters.

The meeting got to public comment – the final item on the public agenda – in 15 minutes, far quicker than for usual Town Council meetings. That’s because the agenda was brief and a couple of items were tabled, notably the item “Town Council Rules and Guidelines.”

Vice President Sean Todd, who ran the meeting because Council President Sue Cienki was absent, said the rules and guidelines would be tabled but that the town manager and other town employees would review them Tuesday.

During Council Comments, Councilman Mark Schwager had asked what method Town Solicitor David D’Agostino had used to decide what rules should be changed.

“There are some new changes that I don’t remember being raised in a meeting before. Where are these coming from?” Schwager asked.

“They are really just recommendations that I’ve made based on seeing how things develop with the council,” D’Agostino said.

Councilman Andy Deutsch said he thought the first rule, about adding items to the agenda, should not be changed, in particular, that two counselors could add something to the agenda. The draft released with the meeting agenda had changed that language to “Any two members of Council may request items be added to the agenda,” putting more power in the hand of the council president.

“It’s important that it remain two counselors,” Deutsch said.

Nine people spoke during public comment Monday. In addition to Corenthal, five spoke out with questions or complaints about recent Town Council actions. Another woman praised the EMTs of the EG Fire Department, who she said had saved her life several times in recent months. Ed Field said he was glad the Town Council cut taxes this year.

We support your efforts to consolidate services where you can, to save money where you can and to control expenses where you can,” he told the council.

The final commenter, Fat Belly’s owner and EG resident Scott Parker, said he was there to register his unhappiness with the valet situation on Main Street. He said valet drivers working for other restaurants were parking cars on Main Street in front of his establishment and it was hurting business.

– Elizabeth F. McNamara

This Week In EG: Register to Vote; Savor EG

A weekly article that lists happenings in East Greenwich and nearby. If you have something you’d like to add, send your information to egreenwichnews@gmail.com.

Monday, 9/25 

Musicians perform weekly at the EG Farmers Market.

EG Farmers Market – It may be fall but it’s going to feel more like summer at the Farmers Market today. On the grassy area next to Eldredge Elementary on First Avenue, from 2 to 6 p.m.

Meadowbrook Farms Open House 

Town Council meeting Here’s a preview about the meeting. 7 p.m. at Swift Community Center.

Tuesday, 9/26

National Voter Registration Day – The Town of East Greenwich joins over 2,500 partners nationwide in hosting a National Voter Registration Day 2017 event at the East Greenwich Town Clerk’s Office (Town Hall, 125 Main Street) as part of a 50-state effort to register voters. From 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Zoning Board meeting – They meet at Town Council Chambers in Town Hall at 7 p.m. Here’s the agenda.

Eldredge Elementary Open House

Wednesday, 9/27

Hanaford Elementary Open House

Thursday, 9/28

Savor East Greenwich – The kickoff for EG Restaurant Week will be held at the EG Yacht Club on Water Street will feature culinary samples from a number of local restaurants and live music. Presented by the EG Chamber of Commerce. Tickets are $30. Click here to buy. Starts at 5:30 p.m.

Frenchtown Open House 

Sunday, 10/1

Briggs-Boesch Farm Tour – A farm tour guided by Pat’s Pastured in conjunction with the East Greenwich Municipal Land Trust and Rhode Island’s Land Trust Days!  Come see the pigs, chickens, ducks and turkeys. 830 South Road (please park in parking lot by Briggs-Boesch white farm sign at trail head, across from subdivision). All ages welcome. 2 p.m.

OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE

Recycling is OFF this week.

EG public schools fundraiser for hurricane relief It started at Meadowbrook, but quickly moved to include all six EG public schools, a fundraiser for school district devoted by hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Students are raising money at school as well and that money will be included in the overall donation. The goal is $5,000. Donate here.

Register for email updates from the town – Sign up through the town’s Notify Me system and you can receive anything from a weekly email listing meetings and events to targeted emails about specific boards and commissions you are interested in. In addition, you will be notified in case of emergencies (i.e. parking bans, other important information). Click here to get started. And, for those who signed up before August, revisit the link if you have specific topics about which you’d like more information.

Town Council To Discuss Fire Chief’s Job Performance Monday

It’s deja vu all over again, with an executive session agenda item that reads exactly like the one that ended with former Town Manager Tom Coyle “separating” from the town June 19. This time, the employee in question is Fire Chief Russell McGillivray.

The agenda reads, Closed pursuant to RIGL 42-46-5 (a) (1), discussions concerning the job performance, character, or physical or mental health of a person in the employ of the Town of East Greenwich, provided that such person affected shall have been notified in advance in writing and advised that they may require that the discussion be held at an open meeting. Find the full agenda here.

Corrigan testified Friday, during the trial of the EG firefighters union versus the Town of East Greenwich, that she had lost confidence in McGillivray and that his report on the fiscal impact of the 2017-19 firefighters contract was incorrect, saying the pay for six lateral firefighter hired in 2016 far exceeded what McGillivray represented.

Later Friday, McGillivray said he had not been aware of Corrigan’s lost confidence.

He has since been notified that his job performance would be discussed Monday, according to a source in the fire department.

At the Sept. 11 Town Council meeting, attorney Tim Cavazza was seen going into the executive session at Swift Community Center. Cavazza is the lawyer hired by both North Kingstown and Providence in recent years in legal battles with firefighter unions in those municipalities. His presence suggests the Town Council may be considering legal action against the firefighters.

Also on the agenda Monday is a review of Town Council guidelines. Among the proposed changes regards who can put things on the Town Council agenda. Currently, the Town Council president reviews the agenda (which is put together by the town manager and the town clerk), and any two council members may add items to the agenda. The proposed change reads: “Any two members of Council may request items be added to the agenda.”

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at Swift Community Center.

– Elizabeth F. McNamara

Judge Closely Questions Corrigan on Firing, Management Practices

After both lawyers were done questioning Town Manager Gayle Corrigan – whose decision to dismiss firefighter James Perry is at the heart of Firefighters Local 2238 versus the Town of East Greenwich – Judge Susan E. McGuirl had many questions of her own for Corrigan Friday.

Corrigan had testified earlier in the day about following best practices in her role as town manager.

“Do you believe it’s best practice to email someone at 10:15 [at night] to fire him?” asked McGuirl.

“That’s just when I got to it,” Corrigan responded.

Corrigan fired Perry Aug. 19 via an email to his brother, Bill Perry, the union president. She said he had lied on his resume, specifically because he listed Firefighter 1 and 2 certifications when he didn’t actually have Firefighter 1 and 2 paper certificates. As had been reiterated several times over the five days of the trial, training for firefighters in Rhode Island has historically been done in-house and often without awarding paper certificates. That is changing, but Perry was first hired as a firefighter in Coventry in 1989 and went full-time in 1999. Having a certificate was not required by the fire department.

McGuirl also questioned Corrigan’s due diligence, a term she used to describe her decision to fire Perry.

“Tell me again that means,” said McGuirl.

Corrigan explained that she’d looked at Perry’s job file and tried to get a copy of his certifications from the state fire academy. She had testified earlier that she’d asked for help from EG Fire Chief Russell McGillivray but he did not produce any certifications before going out on medical leave.

McGuirl asked, “Is this all you did? … You thought it was inappropriate to talk to Mr. Perry?”

“Yes,” said Corrigan, citing privacy concerns. Perry had been injured on the job and was out of work on Saturday, Aug. 19, the night he was fired.

“Did you talk to the union?”

“No,” said Corrigan.

“Did you talk to the chief?”

“At that point, I’d lost confidence in the chief,” Corrigan said.

“Did you talk to the former town manager?”

“No. It was not appropriate,” said Corrigan.

“Did you speak to anyone at Coventry Fire District?”

“No,” said Corrigan.

Did you speak with any firefighter in the interview process?”

“No,” said Corrigan.

“Prior to termination, was firefighter Perry given an opportunity to try to verify his training?”

“No,” said Corrigan.

“You made a decision based on the record you had in front of you,” McGuirl said. “That is still your position, that he intentionally misrepresented?”

“Yes,” said Corrigan.

McGuirl also questioned Corrigan’s management practices.

Corrigan testified Thursday that she was able to fire Perry without the charter-required recommendation of the fire chief because, at the time, she held the administrative duties of fire chief.

Earlier on Aug. 19, the day Perry was fired, the Town Council had named Capt. Thomas Mears acting fire chief, but had added the words “for operations” in the motion. According to Corrigan, that meant Mears only had the operational responsibilities not the administrative duties of chief.

“The charter doesn’t limit the acting fire chief’s responsibilities,” McGuirl told Corrigan Friday, referring to the EG Town Charter. “Did you ever have a look at that section of the charter?”

Corrigan said Mears couldn’t hold administrative duties of fire chief because he was in the union.

McGuirl also asked Corrigan about the meaning of “certified” and “certification.”

“I believe they mean verifiable,” said Corrigan.

“You were aware that some firefighters did not get certificates?” said McGuirl.

“I’m not disputing that they were trained,” said Corrigan, “but that piece of paper means something. I’m disputing the “certification” word.

McGuirl asked Corrigan which of EG’s 36 firefighters had paper certificates. Beyond Perry, the five additional lateral transfers and two EG firefighters, Corrigan said she didn’t know their status. She said she also didn’t know the status of all the firefighters in Central Coventry Fire District, where she continues to serve as district manager, nor did she know the certificate-no certificate breakdown in Central Falls – which she helped manage through bankruptcy.

Town Solicitor David D’Agostino asked Corrigan a few more questions after the judge was finished.

“Are you able to verify that Mr. Perry has Firefighter 1 and 2 NFP 1001-1002 certification?” he asked.

“No, I cannot,” replied Corrigan.

D’Agostino then referred to the firefighters’ contract (CBA), citing that an employee may be dismissed for just cause after careful and factual consideration.

“Do you believe Mr. Perry was fired for just cause?”

“Yes,” said Corrigan.

“Do you believe it was done after careful and factual consideration?”

“Yes,” said Corrigan.

By the end of Friday, testimony for both sides ended, McGuirl told D’Agostino and union lawyer Elizabeth Wiens to submit post-trial briefs.

“I want them quickly,” the judge said. “It’s a matter of some urgency.”

Closing arguments will be heard Oct. 3.

– Elizabeth F. McNamara

Better Than Last Year, But School Transportation Problems Persist

Last September, the EGSD bus situation was a dumpster fire – buses late to pick up kids, late to arrive at school, late to arrive back in the neighborhood, caused by the move from a three-tier bus system to two-tier, with the addition of later start times at Cole Middle School and EGHS mixed in (mainly a headache for after-school away-game buses).

This year, the transportation picture is a lot brighter, but not without its kinks. In particular, three weeks into the school year, several buses heading to Cole are arriving inside the 10-minute-before-school goal. A week ago, the administration requested that students across the district arrive at bus stops five minutes earlier. That should help.

But the biggest issue seems to be for those families whose children used to receive bus transportation but this year do not because the district is now enforcing stricter walking perimeters. The loudest voices – but not the only voices – have come from the Hill and Harbor neighborhoods for children who attend Cole. Some of those students now have a 1.5 mile walk to school via routes (Post Road or First Avenue to Middle Road) some parents argue are not safe.

Why just add another bus, or two? Each additional bus would cost $75,000, a prohibitive sum when the EGHS library is without a librarian and other staff cuts were made this year.

School Committeeman Jeff Dronzek, at the School Committee meeting Tuesday evening, wondered if certain transportation-related issues were not really school issues at all, but were more about public safety involving the town.

“The kinds of conversations that are coming to the [transportation] subcommittee are broader than our scope,” he said. “We’re being asked to make decisions on safety … and the quality of our roads and sidewalks.”

Dronzek said the schools need to work with the town.

“If we need more resources, they need to come from somewhere. If it’s crossing guards, does that become a supplemental appropriation?” he said.

In funding the schools considerably less than the School Committee requested this year, the Town Council said the School Committee could come back and seek “supplemental appropriations” for needed expenses. In particular, they were referring to special education, for which spending is notoriously hard to predict.

“I agree. I think it is a bigger discussion. It’s a joint discussion,” said Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Mark. She said she and Supt. Victor Mercurio would talk with Town Council President Sue Cienki and Town Manager Gayle Corrigan.

Transportation Subcommittee member Anne Musella also spoke up about safety issues for walkers.

“Many of the safety concerns relate to traffic violations,” she said. “To what extent should the kids’ education money be spent on safety for drivers who violate traffic laws?”

She also said Ocean State drivers need to be held to account when it comes to school arrival times.

“This is not a function of the routes,” she said. “We need Ocean State to work with us and we need the district to enforce the routes.”

– Elizabeth F. McNamara

Corrigan: I Held Administrative Duties of Fire Chief When I Fired Perry

Town Manager Gayle Corrigan said she didn’t need the recommendation of the fire chief to terminate firefighter James Perry because she held that administrative power at the time. 

“In my view, I retained the administrative duties of the fire chief,” she testified in the fourth day of a Superior Court trial to determine if Perry’s firing was part of an ongoing feud with the firefighters and the Perry family. James’ brother Bill Perry is the firefighter union president. Bill Perry’s wife was laid off from a job she held in Town Hall two days after James Perry’s dismissal.

“I had an acting fire chief for operations only,” she said. “I didn’t have a fire chief.”

One of the arguments in the firefighters’ case against the town is that Corrigan did not get a recommendation to dismiss Perry from the fire chief, as required by the town charter. Fire Chief Russell McGillivray was out on medical leave the Saturday, Aug. 19, when Corrigan fired Perry. Only earlier that day, Capt. Thomas Mears had been appointed acting fire chief in an unusual Saturday morning meeting. But, Corrigan testified, Mears was only acting fire chief for operations, not for administrative duties. 

McGillivray had told Corrigan on Aug. 18 that he would return to work on Aug. 21. Corrigan testified that she had no idea what McGillivray’s medical condition entailed and said she could not be sure he would be returning to work so soon. That was why, she said, the Town Council had to meet on a Saturday to approve appointment of an acting fire chief. (McGillivray returned to work on Aug. 22.)

In court Thursday, Corrigan said she fired James Perry because “he lied on his resume.” Perry testified Wednesday that he completed the training, but never received certificates. 

Corrigan said she thought Perry listed “Firefighter 1 and 2” on his resume under “certifications” because he wanted to better his chances for hire.

“It’s a very common practice that people will embellish their resume,” she testified. “Of course it made Mr. Perry look better through this process.”

Statements on a resume have to “mean something,” Corrigan said. “If it doesn’t, it devalues all the other people going through the process.” 

Corrigan reviewed the files on all five lateral firefighters hired in August 2016 and noticed that three of the probationary firefighters said they were Firefighter 1 and 2 certified on their resumes but did not have paper certificates on file to back that up so she asked Chief McGillivray to get those certificates, she said. Shortly after that request, McGillivray took a fall, injuring himself. He took a medical leave without getting those certificates to Corrigan. The other two firefighters handed in certificates after Perry’s dismissal.

According to earlier testimony, Firefighter 1 and 2 training is basic training for new firefighters and firefighters would be not be able to keep their jobs if they could not get that certification. Perry had been a full-time firefighter in Coventry since 1999 before taking the EG position in 2016.

Corrigan said she didn’t reach out to Perry about the certificates because she only dealt with the fire chief. 

“The chief reports to me,” she said. She did not reach out to Capt. Mears – the new acting chief – that Saturday either.

Corrigan added that the process for the lateral hires in 2016 circumvented the usual hiring practice, in which applicants are taken from a list of new recruits. 

“You believe solely lateral hiring is a problem,” union lawyer Elizabeth Wiens asked Corrigan. 

“It’s a fact. It’s a discriminatory practice. You’re reducing the subset of people who can apply,” Corrigan responded. She noted that there had been a woman on the hiring list. There are no women firefighters on the EGFD. 

Later, Corrigan admitted she had applied to be a firefighter in Providence and in Central Falls but had not passed the standard physical test for firefighters known as the PPA.

Corrigan was hired to serve as acting town manager for East Greenwich June 19, on the same day former Town Manager Tom Coyle “separated” from the town. The firefighters union is also arguing that the Town Council violated the Open Meetings Law during that meeting, since the vote to appoint Corrigan to the job was done in executive session. Council votes must be taken in open session, according to state law. In addition, the agenda for the meeting said nothing about appointing a new town manager.

Earlier Thursday, Bill Perry testified that Corrigan and the town were “clearly” retaliating against the fire department and said he had feared for his family. He noted the firing of his brother Aug. 19 and his wife Aug. 21 as well as the response to a complaint he had made against Town Council President Sue Cienki in which the town acknowledged that Cienki made an inappropriate comment to Perry and another firefighter (she threatened their genitals) but declined to take action.

During cross examination, Town Solicitor David D’Agostino asked Bill Perry about Cienki’s remarks.

“Albeit vulgar and perhaps inappropriate, was it possible those statements were made in a jocular manner?” D’Agostino said.

Perry said no. He said he waited more than a month to file the complaint because he feared it would provoke retaliation, only filing it after what he called continued “provocation” from the Town Council.

“Put yourself in my shoes,” said Perry, “making a complaint against the Town Council president. I was in fear. This is the last thing I wanted to do.”

The trial at Kent County Courthouse continues Friday at 9:30 a.m. with Corrigan still on the stand.

– Elizabeth F. McNamara

James Perry Takes Stand, Defends His Resume

James Perry considers himself Firefighter 1 and 2 certified. “Absolutely,” he testified Wednesday, the third day of the trial of Perry and the EG Firefighters Association, Local 2238, against the Town of East Greenwich.

That’s why, he said, he included “Firefighter 1 and 2” under “certifications” on his resume.

That’s at the heart of the larger aspect of this trial, in which the union is arguing that Perry was fired illegally and should be reinstated. The town, alternatively, says Perry falsified his resume, since he did not actually have certificates to back up his claim of being Firefighter 1 and 2 certified.

The union is also arguing that Perry’s firing was retaliation against his brother, Bill Perry, an EGFD lieutenant and head of the firefighters union. Bill Perry had lodged a complaint against Town Council President Sue Cienki in July for comments she made during a meeting. In addition, the lawsuit accuses the town of violating the Open Meetings Act around the hiring of Gayle Corrigan as town manager. Corrigan was the one who fired James Perry.

The trial in Superior Court is before Judge Susan E. McGuirl.

As was covered extensively in Tuesday’s testimony, firefighter training in Rhode Island in the 1980s and 1990s – when Perry was trained – and even into today, is largely an in-house affair that takes place on the job over several months. Perry testified Wednesday that he started as a “call” firefighter at Anthony Fire District in Coventry in 1989 (call firefighters, he explained, are paid by the call). He applied to become a full time firefighter there in 1999.

Perry testified that he had “five to six months” of on-the-job Firefighter 1 and 2 training. (In testimony on Tuesday, Capt. Howard Tighe of the state Fire Education and Training Coordinating Board characterized Firefighter 1 and 2 as “the basic of all basic needs” training.) When asked by union lawyer Elizabeth Wiens how Perry knew he had completed the training, Perry said the fire chief called him in and told him he had completed his Firefighter 1 and 2 training.

Perry spent the next 17 years working as a fulltime firefighter in Coventry, rising to the rank of lieutenant. In 2014, he said, he also starting working as a per diem dispatcher for the EG Fire Department. When the EG department decided to hire lateral transfers in 2016, Perry applied.

“I liked the department. I liked the town. I thought it would be a good fit,” Perry said.

During the EG interview process, Perry said he told the interviewers that he was Firefighter 1 and 2 certified but that he did not have actual certificates.

“Did you intend to mislead the town that you had a paper certificate?” Wiens asked.

“Not at all,” said Perry.

Perry was hired by EGFD in August 2016. He injured his shoulder and neck during a call in late June and was out on disability when Corrigan fired him Aug. 19. In an email she sent that Saturday night to Bill Perry as head of the union, she said the reason for firing Perry was because he had falsified his resume by listing Firefighter 1 and 2 certifications.

Perry testified that Corrigan had not questioned him about his resume prior to her firing him.

On cross examination, Town Solicitor David D’Agostino asked how someone who wasn’t in the fire service would know that Perry was Firefighter 1 and 2 certified.

Perry said he would explain about training process.

D’Agostino also asked why Perry had not included mention of his Firefighter 1 and 2 certification but had mentioned that he was EMT certified on the resume he submitted for the EGFD per diem dispatch job in 2014.

Perry said he wasn’t sure if EMT certification was needed for the dispatch job but decided to mention it since he might need to counsel 911 callers in the midst of a medical emergency.

The next witness up was Bill Perry, who testified only briefly before court was adjourned for the day.

The trial at Kent County Courthouse continues Thursday starting at 10 a.m. Town Manager Gayle Corrigan is expected to testify after Bill Perry.

– Elizabeth F. McNamara

High School Library Space Is Open, Not Staffed

The School Committee took up the issue of the lack of a library media specialist at East Greenwich High School at its meeting Tuesday night. While Principal Michael Podraza has figured out a way to open the library space itself – technology staffer Donna Wales has moved her office there – it remains without a library media specialist.

“There’s no substituting the lack of a library media specialist in that space,” Supt. Victor Mercurio conceded.

The cut of a library media specialist was made in June. The Town Council level funded the schools this year but did provide some budget relief by taking on some non-educational school expenses (such as the salary for the finance director). Still, the contribution from the town was considerably less than the schools had requested. In June, the School Committee was faced with cutting French at Cole, some athletics, Chromebooks at EGHS or cutting a library media specialist. At the time, according to School Committee Chair Carolyn Mark, the hope was that Cole and EGHS could share a librarian.

“The scheduling threw a monkey wrench into the process,” Mark said. She was referring to changes to teacher planning time made to the schedule at Cole Middle School.

So, in August, it was decided to cut the library media specialist at the high school.

Mercurio said the lack of a LMS at the high school was concerning but that the high school would not lose its accreditation. Still, he said, the accreditation organization (NEASC) would “in all likelihood” tell East Greenwich it needed to “figure this out and figure it out soon.”

School Committee member Matt Plain asked how the lack of an LMS might affect the district’s effort to meet the Basic Education Plan (BEP). Mercurio said he wasn’t sure.

“If we’re falling below our BEP obligation, we would certainly want to contemplate going to the Town Council for a supplemental appropriation,” Plain said, referring to the Town Council’s offer to give over additional funds if the School Committee felt an education requirement was at stake.

“I would cringe to see us go a whole school year without a library media specialist,” said committee member Jeff Dronzek. He also encouraged the committee to consider asking the Town Council for supplemental money.

When Mark opened up the meeting to public comment on the issue, Hanaford library media specialist Beth Gorter spoke of her extensive duties and about the importance of that role both for students and teachers, helping with technology as well as more traditional book cataloguing. But she also addressed the specific needs of high school students.

“The librarian is the person whose duty it is to teach our students, at all age levels, how to be responsible, ethical and efficient users of information, wherever that information comes from and especially if it comes from the internet,” she said. “Having students go from a high school with no certified library media specialist into college is unthinkable.”

“I think it’s just a shame that there hasn’t been another idea of how we get around this,” said resident Nancy Semonian Day. “Kids have only one place they can go for academics.”

“We all understand that the School Committee was placed in an impossible position when the Town Council level funded the budget last year,” said resident Kate Goldman. “But I’m disappoint to see … a lack of innovation …  a lack of energy around these issues.”

Goldman referred to a comment made by a resident during the spring about what he saw as an excessive budget line for photocopies and printing, and she mentioned the possibility of negotiating lower electricity rates with National Grid.

Like Day and Gorter, Goldman also touched on spending on athletics. While all three said they supported school athletics, they questioned the lose of a librarian to spending on sports.

“You could take 10 percent off the top of every team,” Goldman suggested.

She encouraged the School Committee to be creative.

“We need to start thinking differently about this stuff.”

Chairwoman Mark said the School Committee would “explore other options.”

– Elizabeth F. McNamara

Firefighter Trial Testimony Revolves Around Training Protocol

Station One on Main Street.

What does it mean to be “Firefighter 1 and 2” certified? That was the underlying theme of the second day of the trial pitting the Firefighter James Perry and the EG Firefighters Association, Local 2238, against the Town of East Greenwich. Perry and the union accuse the town of both improperly firing Perry and taking that action because Town Manager Gayle Corrigan was looking to retaliate against EGFD Lieutenant Bill Perry, who is president of Local 2238 and happens to be James Perry’s brother.

The lawsuit also includes accusations of two Open Meetings Act violations around the hiring of Corrigan as, first, acting town manager, then town manager. The trial in Superior Court is before Judge Susan E. McGuirl.

Corrigan fired Perry on Saturday, Aug. 19, citing Firefighter 1 and 2 certifications listed on Perry’s resume that he could not produce. Part of the union’s argument is that Corrigan fired Perry without first getting a recommendation for that firing from the fire chief, as required by the town’s charter. Another part of their argument centers around just what it means to be Firefighter 1 and 2 certified as well as the fact that members of the original interviewing panel (Perry was hired before Corrigan became town manager) have said Perry alerted them that he was Firefighter 1 and 2 trained but did not have actual Firefighter 1 and 2 certificates.

The town, through Town Solicitor David D’Agostino, is arguing that Perry’s decision to say on his resume he had Firefighter 1 and 2 certificates amounts to a lie, or in legal terms, a material misrepresentation.

During testimony, Capt. Howard Tighe of the state Fire Education and Training Coordinating Board, said the vast majority of firefighters are trained internally, i.e. by the fire department or district that hired them and he said he didn’t know which departments or districts gave out actual paper certificates.

“The majority of firefighters who have over 10 years of service,” Tighe said, “it’s not uncommon at all for them to say they completed a certification process.”

When asked by union lawyer Elizabeth Wiens how he would interpret reading “Firefighter 1 & 2 certified” on a resume, Tighe said he would think the candidate had “completed a course internally … to the Level 2 standard.”

Upon further questioning by Wiens, Tighe said, “When you get a person on the job for several years, it was commonplace to know they were certified.”

James Perry spent 23 years working as a firefighter in Coventry, rising to the rank of lieutenant, before taking a lateral position on the East Greenwich Fire Department in August 2016.

During cross-examination, D’Agostino asked Tighe how he would handle someone who listed a Firefighter 1 or 2 certification but didn’t have the paperwork.

“I have seen people write it that way,” Tighe replied. “When we’re talking about Firefighter 1 and 2, it makes sense. A lot of these departments didn’t issue certificates because they had internal training.”

Judge McGuirl also questioned Tighe, asking him if fire safety certification was a state requirement. Tighe said it was not. McGuirl asked if there was a municipal fire academy. Tighe said the state just began offering a municipal training program last March but that 85 percent of firefighter training statewide was done internally.

The judge asked Tighe if he would consider it misleading if an applicant had on his or her resume that they had Firefighter 1 and 2 certification but it turned out they no actual certificate. Tighe said no.

Capt. Thomas Mears of the EGFD also testified Tuesday. Mears was serving as acting fire chief the night Perry was fired. He said he was not consulted about the decision to fire Perry and that, had he been consulted, he would not have recommended firing him.

Mears testified that he had completed trainings once in Coventry (where he worked briefly before coming to work in East Greenwich) and twice in East Greenwich, including one time for paper certification.

“Were trainings any different when you were trained and didn’t get a certificate and when you were trained and got a certificate?” Wiens asked. Mears said no.

The trial continues Wednesday (9/20) at 11 am at Kent County Courthouse. James Perry is expected to take the stand.

– Elizabeth F. McNamara

Firefighter Trial: Was Perry’s Firing Invalid or Did He Lie On Resume?

Superior Court Judge Susan E. McGuirl heard opening arguments Monday in the trial over the firing of Firefighter Jim Perry, two alleged open meetings violations and the appointment of Gayle Corrigan as acting town manager. The trial is expected to last through Wednesday.

Arguing for plaintiffs James Perry and the EG Firefighters Association, Local 2238, lawyer Elizabeth Wiens said Town Manager Gayle Corrigan fired Perry – who had been hired as a lateral transfer from Coventry Fire District in 2016 – without the recommendation of the fire chief, as required by the town charter.  Corrigan notified union president Bill Perry (who is the brother of James Perry), of the dismissal via email Saturday night, Aug. 19. At the time, Acting Fire Chief Thomas Mears was on duty because Fire Chief Russell McGillivray was out on medical leave. According to Wiens, Corrigan did not consult with either Mears or McGillivray before terminating Perry.

Wiens also outlined a timetable she said showed the underlying reason for Perry’s termination was retaliation against Bill Perry for a complaint he lodged against Town Council President Sue Cienki for using threatening language against him and one other firefighter during a meeting with town and fire officials in June. Wiens said Corrigan contacted Chief McGillivray to discuss James Perry’s resume just one hour after Bill Perry filed his complaint.

In addition to James Perry’s firing Aug. 19, Bill Perry’s wife, a clerk in the East Greenwich finance department, was laid off Aug. 21.

In his opening argument, Town Solicitor David D’Agostino said the case centered on an employer’s right to terminate an employee for cause. Specifically, D’Agostino was referring to Perry’s listing on his resume that he had two firefighting certifications when in fact he had neither. While such certifications were not required as part of the application process, D’Agostino said that the town was within its rights to fire Perry since Perry had listed the certifications on his resume.

“It was a material misrepresentation of fact,” said D’Agostino.

Firefighter 1 and 2 certifications are “the bible of firefighting,” Chief McGillivray testified later on Monday – the basic knowledge needed by every firefighter to do his or her job. According to Wiens, and later corroborated by McGillivray, it was not uncommon in the 1990s, when Perry was going through training, for firefighters to receive Firefighter 1 and 2 training but to not receive an actual certificate.

How did McGillivray, who was part of the team that hired Perry, know that Perry was really certified with Firefighter 1 and 2 training if he did not have a certificate?

A 27-year firefighter would not keep his job without Firefighter 1 and 2 training, McGillivray testified.

Significantly, McGillivray said he and the rest of the hiring team (then-Town Manager Tom Coyle and then-Human Resources Director Sharon Kitchin), were aware that Perry did not have actual Firefighter 1 and 2 certificates.

Training was discussed, McGillivray said, and Perry told the interviewers that while he had Firefighter 1 and 2 training, he did not have the physical certificates.

“Did it alarm you as fire chief that [Perry] put down on paper certifications he did not have?” D’Agostino asked.

“No,” said McGillivray.

During D’Agostino’s examination of McGillivray, he asked about him about the decision to hire firefighters from other departments (i.e. lateral transfers), even though the fire department had a list of interested applicants. D’Agostino had said in his opening argument that the town’s lateral transfer process was full of “anomalies.”

McGillivray said the fire department had had a problem retaining firefighters after they had received their training. He said since 2011, the department had lost at least six newly trained firefighters to other departments and that then-Town Manager Tom Coyle suggested trying lateral transfers. Before being named town manager, Coyle had served as East Greenwich’s police chief and during his tenure in that job he had hired five former Warwick police officers who had worked out well for the town. Lateral transfers save money up front because they do not need to attend a training academy (paid for by the sponsoring town).

D’Agostino will continue his examination of McGillivray on Tuesday. In addition, Wiens said she is planning to call Captain Thomas Mears, Captain Howard Tighe of the state Fire Education and Training Coordinating Board, and James Perry. Tuesday’s session will begin at 9:30 a.m. at Kent County Courthouse.