School Officials Seek Clarity in Consolidation Draft, Worry Reporting Structure Could Get ‘Messy’

July 27, 2017 – Town Manager Gayle Corrigan and School Superintendent Victor Mercurio unveiled a consolidation status report at the Town Council’s joint meeting with the School Committee Monday night. The joint session, before a crowd of around 190 people at Swift Community Center, took place at the start of the meeting, before the council voted to remove “acting” from Corrigan’s title and before the council’s executive session, where they voted 3-1 to approve a contract for Corrigan.

The report (find it here) outlined a two-phase timeline for consolidation, a draft finance director job description, and an organizational chart of the joint town-school finance department. Among the proposed “next steps” for the finance department consolidation would be an audit of the current school and town departments, coordination of human resources, and union and legal input. For the IT department, the plan calls for hiring a consultant to analyze school and town IT departments and report back by October or November, with implementation “effective 1/1/2018.” The plan also calls for an in-depth spending analysis of both the town and the schools.

School Committeewoman Lori McEwen immediately questioned the use of solid and dotted lines on the finance department organizational chart, in particular the meaning of the dotted lines.

“That raises red flags for me,” she said. “I’ve worked in a number of environments where they’ve had dotted lines … and they can get messy.”

She noted there was a solid line from the finance director to the town manager but a dotted line to the superintendent, even though the finance director would be overseeing four school-side positions.

“I would prefer a direct line to the superintendent,” she said.

School Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Mark agreed.

“In terms of the decisions around hiring, firing, and evaluating, the difference between a solid line and a dotted line perhaps requires some discussion,” she said.

Town Councilman Nino Granatiero said in his experience, the solid line represents who an employee reports to and the dotted line represents who an employee works for.

“You can’t have two “report to’s” because then you have confusion – who do you take your direction from?” he said. “One [person] you’re getting your direction from, your objectives, you’re doing your performance appraisals, the hiring and firing – that’s who you report to. The work for, you know you have an obligation to that person to help them meet their objectives. So when we talk about the finance role, it reports in to the town manager but it also works for the superintendent. He has to have someone to support his objectives.”

Granatiero said this system works very well in business.

Mark pushed back.

“It seems that in order to be able to work through the details … you almost have to go to hypotheticals,” she said. On the one hand, it could work well and everyone would be satisfied. “I think that in order to really get to the heart of some of the questions that we have, you have to go to the other hypothetical, which is that nothing goes so well. Or, it goes really well on the town side, but not so well on the school side. So the question really goes to the heart of, who has the authority and the responsibility to make hiring and firing decisions and what is the … dispute resolution process when the people who are being served and the people in charge disagree about the job performance of an individual?”

Town Council President Sue Cienki said these issues had been addressed back in 2004, when consolidation was first discussed (Cienki was on the School Committee at that time). “If the schools are not represented in this, it won’t work,” she said in apparent agreement with Mark.

School Committeeman Matt Plain said in his experience as an employment lawyer, he saw potential conflicts in the proposed reporting structure.

If there were a critical assignment for the School Department with a deadline, Plain proposed, what if the employee also had another assignment for the town – which would get precedence. He argued there would need to be considerable time set aside to clarify such potential conflicts.

Another area of concern for School Committee members was the IT consolidation timeline. Committeewoman Yan Sun called it “very aggressive,” and warned that IT disruptions during the school year would hurt students.

Chairwoman Mark said the School Committee would review the plan at its meeting Tuesday, Aug. 1, and come up with recommendations for the next draft.

Town Councilman Andy Deutsch was encouraged by the report but admitted the process so far has been rocky.

“I hear the School Committee’s comments today and I feel optimistic,” he said. “There’s a reason it says draft. The group of people here today can solve these problems. I don’t think everything’s been done perfectly. I’m not that naive. But … I don’t think the sky is falling. I think we have concerned people who are going to make this happen – 1.0 is great; 1.1 will be better.”

Councilman Mark Schwager, alternatively, took a much dimmer view of the process thus far.

“We essentially hired a school department employee to work for the town without the consent of the school department,” Schwager said, referring to Linda Dykeman, who was appointed to a shared interim finance director position at the school department after Gail Wilcox left her job as director of administration for the district.

“She only works there 10 hours a week,” Cienki said of Dykeman’s school department role.

“I don’t know if she has other responsibilities as well,” Schwager said. “Is she working in other capacities outside of the town of East Greenwich?”

He also questioned how the hiring took place.

“Ordinarily there’s been a process where you post those positions…. We didn’t go through that process. What is the reason for that?” he said, prompting loud clapping from the audience. “Why wouldn’t we give an opportunity for those people who had been in those positions a chance? … We never had a job description. What credentials would be required? What the salary range would be. Once you have those things, you could take time and interview.”

Consolidation may be a good idea, he said, “But this has been a flawed process.”

Schwager continued, “So here we are now, with the two principals of our consulting firm occupying the two most important administrative positions in town government, again, prompting loud clapping from the audience.”

“It’s not a good process.”

The Town Council meets next on Monday, Aug. 7; the School Committee on Tuesday, Aug. 1.

– Elizabeth F. McNamara

Corrigan to Make $160K – $37K More Than Coyle

This story has been amended twice since it originally posted, at 10:30 p.m. July 25 and at 7:45 a.m. July 26.

The Town Council voted to approve a contract for Town Manager Gayle Corrigan Monday night in executive session giving her a salary of $160,000 –  $45,000 more than former Town Manager Tom Coyle. Corrigan also gets 25 days (five weeks) vacation, one week more than Coyle. The contract (what they called a “term sheet for employment”) is retroactive to July 1.

(Coyle appears to have been making more than $115,000 at the time of his “separation” in June, around $123,000 from the looks of his check history. The contract released by the town is from 2013.)

According to Council President Sue Cienki Monday night (7/24/17), Corrigan had not been paid since her $150 an hour contract with the town through Providence Analytics ended June 30. Her new contract with the town runs through June 30, 2018, “if not sooner terminated by a majority vote of the Council.”

Corrigan gets the same number of sick days – 15 – as Coyle. The agreement does not refer to a municipal vehicle for Corrigan. Coyle and his predecessor, Bill Sequino, both had municipal cars.

The vote on the contract took place in executive session after the Town Council’s regular meeting ended Monday. The vote has not been made public.

Corrigan had been “acting” town manager until the regular session portion of Monday’s meeting, when the Town Council voted to drop the “acting” after Town Solicitor David D’Agostino said questions were raised as to that designation’s legality. According to the charter, an acting town manager is someone from the town who fills in during a search for a new town manager. Corrigan was not a town employee or elected official at the time she was appointed town manager. Rather, she had been half of the duo that made up Providence Analytics, a consultant firm hired by the town to access finances.

Cienki said during regular session Monday that the council would be conducting a search to find a permanent town manager but offered no schedule for that search. Corrigan’s contract can be renewed or extended by the Town Council; if Corrigan is terminated, according to the contract, she will not receive severance.

– Elizabeth F. McNamara

Council Votes to Make Gayle Corrigan Town Manager; Cienki Says Search Will Still Take Place

July 24, 2017 – In a procedural sleight of hand, the Town Council voted to remove the word “acting” from Acting Town Manager Gayle Corrigan’s title, making her simply the town manager of East Greenwich. The vote, 4-0, was taken after Town Solicitor David D’Agostino recommended the change, citing questions he’d received about the legitimacy of the “acting” designation. Councilman Sean Todd was absent.

“It certainly would put an end to any questions or challenges,” said D’Agostino.

“I think the concern of the community, and my concern – it’s very unclear – is this a temporary position of this individual or is this person appointed and going to remain in this position? Unless we have some kind of contractual agreement with Ms. Corrigan, that is going to be ambiguous,” said Councilman Mark Schwager after D’Agostino made his recommendation.

Councilman Andrew Deutsch asked if this change would affect Corrigan’s executive powers. D’Agostino said no, Corrigan would retain the same executive power.

Deutsch then asked, “I have to make sure we have the intention to hire a town manager beyond Ms. Corrigan…. I want to make sure we have the mechanisms in place to find our next town manager.”

Council President Sue Cienki said she’d been talking to other town councils about their search processes, including North Kingstown and Smithfield. She said yes, a search would take place.

But then, for a moment, it seemed as if a vote would not take place. D’Agostino, trying to bolster the idea that the Town Council was not wed to Corrigan if it voted to remove “acting” from her title, read from the charter about the Town Council’s ability to hire or fire a town manager.

According to the charter, he said, “The town manager shall be appointed by a majority vote of all town council members.” Then, quoting another section of the charter, D’Agostino said, “The town council may remove the town manager at its discretion by a vote of the majority of all members of the town council with or without a hearing as the Town Council in its discretion determines.”

That prompted Deutsch to ask, “ So we have to do it with all five of us here? is that accurate?”

“It does say ‘the majority of all members of the Town Council,’” replied D’Agostino in apparent agreement.

“So we can’t do that tonight?” said Deutsch.

But D’Agostino voiced a change of heart.

“You have opened the meeting,” he said. “You have a quorum. So you can make the appointment this evening.”

There were loud no’s from the crowd. One person called out, “Listen to your constituents.”

But Cienki called for a vote.

All four councilors voted to approve the change.

Schwager clarified his vote after the meeting.

“I was surprised. It hadn’t come up before to change the designation. But it clarifies the situation for the residents. Now they know that Gayle Corrigan is the town manager,” he said. Before Corrigan was appointed in June, Schwager said he’d proposed they codify that it was a temporary position.

“You could have put it in a contract, she’s being hired in a temporary capacity to hold the position until a permanent town manager is appointed. That could have been put in a contract. There is no such wording. So let’s just call it what it is,” he said.

The Town Council was to meet in executive session after the regular session Monday night with one of the agenda items being discussion of an agreement with Corrigan. When the council was asked during public comment what Corrigan was being paid, Cienki said Corrigan had not been paid since July 1, when the contract with Providence Analytics expired. Corrigan is a principal with Providence Analytics, the firm hired in April to first review school department finances for up to $15,000. When the job was extended to include town finances, a fee of $150 an hour was agreed upon, according to Cienki. But that contract ended with the end of the fiscal year.

The discussion of Corrigan’s contract in executive session also drew the ire of one in the audience, David Caldwell, who argued that the Town Council could hold that session in public if it chose to.

“If you want to close it, [Corrigan] can demand it be open. But if you want to open it, you can open it,” he said.

“That is a correct reading,” replied Solicitor D’Agostino.

“That means it does not need to be in secret, correct?” said Caldwell.

“Yes,” said D’Agostino.

Caldwell then asked Corrigan directly if she would agree to hold the discussion in public. She declined.

Resident Bill Higgins asked why the personnel manual had not been followed when Corrigan fired three town employees and hired a chief of staff and two others from the school department. The manual, he said, required posting the jobs first and allowing current employees to at least compete for the positions.

D’Agostino said Corrigan complied with the Town Charter. After the meeting, D’Agostino said there was more than one manual and that ultimately the Town Charter trumped any employee manual.

Resident Tracie Truesdell asked about the search and when it would start. Cienki said she wasn’t sure yet and that she’d prefer to wait until all five councilors were in attendance to hammer out those details.

“You appointed her town manager tonight,” replied Truesdell, in reference to the four councilors in attendance who had just voted to make Corrigan town manager, even though Vice President Sean Todd was absent.

The council also met with the School Committee to discuss consolidation efforts and a memorandum of agreement. Look for that story and others Tuesday (7/25/17).

– Elizabeth F. McNamara

Council Convenes Much Anticipated Meeting Monday at Swift – Capacity 253

Agreement with School Committee, discussion of Town Manager job on agenda

June 23, 2017 – The Town Council will meet Monday (7/24/17) for the first time since they adjourned their overcrowded July 10 meeting early amid yelling and disorder. A joint session with the School Committee is among the items on the agenda as are other items that were not heard at that failed meeting, including discussion of the Town Manager position.

The July 10 meeting took place in Council Chambers at Town Hall, which has a capacity of 165. The JULY 24 meeting will take place at Swift Community Center, which has a capacity of 253. The council decided to hold the meeting there rather than the much larger capacity auditorium at East Greenwich High School because Swift has air conditioning and public safety officials said the logistics there were more favorable.

“I met with the police chief and he provided us with ideas for an operations plan,” said Chief of Staff Michaela Antunes. “He recommended the meeting be held at Swift Gym because of the layout of the building. Also, because of the air conditioning and bathrooms. The last thing we want is someone falling ill.”

“I requested the largest space available,” said Town Council President Sue Cienki late Friday. “The public safety officers in town have indicated, besides renovations, the high school has no air conditioning. We are in the midst of a heat wave and they feel it is not safe to have a meeting in that space. They are afraid people would pass out. The largest space is Swift gym.”

Temperatures at the time of the agenda was posted late last week were in the low 90s, but the forecast for Monday showed a significant drop in the temperature. On Saturday, the final day to post an agenda for the meeting (agendas need to posted 48 hours in advance and need to include the site of the meeting and any alternate venues), the forecast for Monday was a high of 72 degrees.

The EGHS auditorium does not have air conditioning but can hold more than 700 people and was the site for Financial Town Meetings that were, until voters approved abolishing the FTM last November, held each year in June. The auditorium is also used throughout the summer by the New Life Church (which rents the space).

The joint session with the School Committee will focus on a memorandum of agreement (MOA – you can find it through the agenda link posted below) between the two elected bodies over the Town Council’s decision to take over financial responsibility for certain noneducational expenses, mainly salaries.

This decision by the Town Council, known as the “One Town” plan, assumed consolidation of those positions – finance, personnel, IT.

School Committee members thought an MOA would be negotiated and signed before any consolidation actions were taken. Acting Town Manager Gayle Corrigan, however, fired her assistant, the town finance director and the town human resources director, simultaneously hiring an outside chief of staff and naming two school department employees as joint school-town employees on June 30. This happened with the consent of the Town Council (in a 3-1 vote June 26) but without any formal discussion with or by the School Committee.

After the School Committee voiced its concern, citing potential legal problems with the unilateral action, the town hit the pause button with regard to the two school department employees Corrigan had pegged for consolidated positions. The MOA to be discussed Monday lays out the new financial responsibilities – the town is taking on around $528,000 of the school department’s salaries – but it does not include job descriptions of the new, consolidated positions.

Certain items from the July 10 agenda that are not on Monday’s agenda are a vote to add a “Fire Department” chapter to the Town Charter and restructuring of the Municipal Court. Corrigan already took action last week to shift moving traffic violations to the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal (see story posted July 18). However, Municipal Court Judge David Bazar will give a report to the council. It is his contention that the shift should only be temporary because the revenues are greater than the costs of running the court, even with new software expenses.

Councilman Mark Schwager said he was also interested in the agenda item “review of Town Council rules and guidelines” (which comes up on the agenda every six months) in light of recent emails and statements attributed to the entire Town Council.

“I was very surprised to see the message posted and emailed after the July 10 meeting,” Schwager said Saturday. It was signed by the Town Council but Schwager said the panel did not discuss any statement that would be released to the public much less vote on it.

“I felt that message was not just information. In my reading of that release, it had a certain editorial content to it that I didn’t agree with and wasn’t aware of before it was released,” he said. “We need to clarify how things are sent out. My impression is, anything that is sent out to the press or the public should be reviewed by the entire council and discussed.”

The statement sent out June 15 after former Town Manager Tom Coyle’s “separation” from the town and the hiring of Corrigan to serve as acting town manager was voted on by the council, Schwager said. He voted against it (the vote was 3-1), but he said, “that process worked.”

The meeting Monday starts at 7 p.m. There will be a signup sheet for those wanting to make a public comment. The council is limiting each commenter to two minutes.

Here is a link to the agenda and some supporting documents:…/MeetingView.aspx…

– Elizabeth F. McNamara

Corrigan Restructures Municipal Court – Moving Violations to Go to State Now

July 18, 2017 – In an unexpected move, Acting Town Manager Gayle Corrigan announced Tuesday that moving violations will no longer be heard in Municipal Court but will instead be heard by the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal. Restructuring of the court had been on the Town Council’s agenda last Monday, but that meeting was adjourned before most agenda items were heard (including Municipal Court) after it dissolved into a yelling match and the fire marshal decided there were too many people in Council Chambers.

Ordinance violations (for instance, being caught with your dog off leash), housing violations (for instance, failure to mow your lawn), and parking tickets will continue to be heard in Municipal Court, which meets twice a month at Town Hall.

“This restructure will alleviate onerous compliance of fiduciary duties associated with traffic violations and save the Town $32,000 in software upgrades,” the announcement on the town’s website reads, referring to a software purchase required by the Department of Motor Vehicles that would cost the town $11,000 this year and $7,000 in each of the next three years.

The Municipal Court first popped up on the Town Council’s agenda during the winter, including discussion of the software purchase. The council ended up voting 3-2 to retain the court.

The court ended up back on the Town Council’s agenda on June 26, this time as “restructuring of Municipal Court.” Corrigan had been on the job for 10 days at that point and this was her first council meeting. She recommended getting rid of the court entirely, citing potential cost savings, including not having to make the DMV software purchase.

But the council stopped short of voting to get rid of the court after hearing from the municipal court judge, David Bazar.

Bazar, a resident who has been the town’s municipal court judge since 2003 (he is paid $5,000 a year), noted that he had never talked to Corrigan about the court and had only heard the court was on the agenda from his clerk. He said he didn’t think the council should abolish the court based on what he called incomplete information. He said traffic violation fees are shared between the town and RITT and that income would be lost. In addition, Bazar said, police overtime would almost certainly go up because issues that are resolved in pretrial hearings at the municipal court would require a trial at RITT, a longer and more involved process.

The Town Council tabled the discussion June 26. It was placed on the agenda for the July 10 meeting.

“We wanted to have a public discussion about it,” said Council Vice President Sean Todd of why it was on the July 10 agenda. As for what changed between July 10 and now, Sean said, the acting town manager had the authority to take such actions on her own. Indeed, the press release mentions the town manager’s authority over municipal court:

“Under Chapter 72, § 72-18 of the Code of Ordinances, Municipal Court ‘shall be administered by the Town Manager. All matters of administration shall be the sole responsibility and in the sole jurisdiction of the Town Manager.’ The provision also gives the Town Manager authority to determine which cases will be heard in Municipal Court.”

It may have been Judge Bazar that alerted Corrigan to that clause in the municipal code. He said they finally spoke by phone for the first time on July 11, one day after the aborted Town Council meeting.

“When Gayle called me, I said I don’t think you have all the correct information,” Bazar said Tuesday (7/18/17). He said Corrigan mentioned the time crunch – the need to have the new software by Aug. 1.

“I suggested she could temporarily move the moving traffic violations over to the RITT while we could gather information,” Bazar said. He told her the town manager was administrator of the court so she could just make that move.

It’s unclear whether the move made Tuesday was temporary or permanent. The press release makes no mention of the action being temporary. Attempts to reach Corrigan were unsuccessful Tuesday.

Council President Sue Cienki, via text, said, “The Council always has the possibility to move the traffic violations back to East Greenwich…. This move buys us time.”

“We have municipal court status through the state and I don’t think that goes away,” said Councilman Mark Schwager.

Corrigan, in the press release, cited the low numbers of East Greenwich residents who are served by Municipal Court.

“Last year, the Town of East Greenwich issued 851 moving traffic violations. Of these, only 182 (21%) were issued to East Greenwich residents. More than half of tickets issued were paid without a court hearing. Municipal Court heard 380 moving traffic cases last year. Of those, 16% were dismissed by the East Greenwich Police Department; 55% were dismissed with a good driving record, a procedure that is also in place at the RI Traffic Tribunal; 17% were dismissed with inspection; and 7% were dismissed with community service—only 1/3 of the community service dismissals (8 out of 24) were given to East Greenwich residents.”

Judge Bazar, who heard about the decision from a reporter, said Tuesday, “Even if it’s only 8 out of 24 EG residents getting community service, that’s 112 EG kids who may have learned a lesson that’s helpful to them” during Bazar’s term.

The agenda for the meeting July 24 has not yet been posted.

– Elizabeth F. McNamara

Who Can Serve As Acting Town Manager?

July 12, 2017 – Since the Town Council voted 3-1 to appoint Gayle Corrigan acting town manager on June 22, questions have been raised as to the legality of the appointment citing a clause in the town charter that “an officer of the Town” should be designated to serve as town manager in the event of a vacancy.

The clause, F under Section C-67, powers and duties of the Town Council, is as follows:

“In the event that the Town Manager is at any time absent or unable to perform the duties of his or her office for a period in excess of 35 consecutive days or in the event that the Town Manager resigns or is removed from office or if for any other reason a vacancy exists, to designate an officer of the Town, other than a Town Council member, to serve as Town Manager with all the powers and duties of the Town Manager until his or her absence or disability terminates or until a successor to the Town Manager has assumed the duties of the office. (”

Corrigan, at the time of the appointment, was a principal in Providence Analytics, the firm hired by the town to conduct financial reviews of the school department and the town. Under the contract with the Town Council, Providence Analytics was to be paid up to $15,000 to complete the financial reviews. Corrigan was not, then, an employee or any other kind of officer for the town when she was chosen to take over for Tom Coyle, who “separated” from his position as town manager on June 22.

However, in a recent interview, Town Solicitor David D’Agostino put forth two arguments for why the Town Council acted within their powers.

His first argument is that the Town Council as the town’s legislative body has the right to appoint who they see fit.

“I think that is squarely within the purview of the council,” he said. “The town council is the legislative body, the governing body of the town. Their power is generally plenary [i.e. full]. They rule the town. They can make any decision they want to make so long as it is not against the terms of the charter.”

D’Agostino’s second argument centered on the word “officer.”

Corrigan may not have been “an officer of the town,” but who exactly is an officer of the town, he asked.

At a minimum, D’Agostino said, town councilors would seem to be town officers, based on the clause “an officer of the town, other than a Town Council member.”

Other possible officers are listed in Chapter 159 of the Municipal Code, which lists only two positions, the sealer of weights and measures and the town solicitor. East Greenwich does not have a sealer of weights and measures; D’Agostino, the town solicitor, has been on the job since May.

Four years ago, the Town Council appointed then Police Chief Tom Coyle to serve as interim town manager after then-Town Manager Bill Sequino resigned. Coyle was subsequently named town manager after a search. D’Agostino – who was not serving the town four years ago – said, “Do you make a department head the acting town manager? The issue is, whoever wrote this meant something. You could have used ‘department head.’ They could have used other language. What that leads me to conclude is, council members are officers because they are elected officials.”

Based on that, D’Agostino said, “I would argue that the police chief, or the public works director, are not officers. They are employees.”

“I did look at questions of who an officer of the town is. It all leads back to a conundrum because who is the officer? It says officer. It does not say department head. In Rhode Island … there are no cases which have defined specifically ‘officer.’”

EG resident and labor lawyer (she represents the EG fire fighters) Elizabeth Wiens had a different take on the “officer” question.

“I would say ‘officer of the town’ has to mean something otherwise, why would it be in there?” she said in an interview. “It looks like [the Town Council is] trying to make the facts fit the law.”

Wiens said Corrigan’s appointment violated the charter in two other ways – one, she is not a resident of the town (neither was previous Town Manager Tom Coyle), and two – as per section C-19 of the municipal code – the town manager “cannot make a contract with the town (with the exception of his or her own contract of employment).” Corrigan does not yet have an employment contract with the town. Rather, she is still working under the contract the Town Council signed with Providence Analytics (where Corrigan is a principal). That contract states Providence Analytics is to be paid a maximum of $15,000 for consulting on school and town finances. There has been no official accounting of how much of that money has yet been spent.

What would D’Agostino have told this council if they had sought to appoint a department head to serve as acting town manager? He emphasized the council’s legislative power to act as it pleases.

“My job is to say, here is what the charter says. Here’s what you want to do. I probably would have said, ‘Yeah, you can do it because you’re the governing body of the town.’”

Here is a link to the Town Charter and Municipal Code:

– Elizabeth F. McNamara

Town Council Sends Message After Failed Meeting

July 11, 2017 – The Town Council adjourned its meeting Monday night (7/10). They sent out this statement on the town’s email list and posted it to the town website shortly after the meeting.

Dear Resident,

Tonight’s scheduled Council meeting was adjourned early due to tremendous discord and disruption from members of the Firefighters Union and NEA. Tonight’s meeting agenda included a discussion of salary and overtime reports, and the Council intended to begin an open dialogue with the Fire Chief to understand these overages and how to prevent inflated salaries that burden taxpayers. In an effort to further promote transparency in town government, we have provided this information to taxpayers in this email.


The East Greenwich Town Council

Unaudited FY 17 Overtime by Department…/Copy%20of%20overtime%20by%…

2016 W2 Analysis over $100,000 by Department…/2016%20East%20Greenwich%20…

2016 W2 Analysis over $100,000 by Amount…/2016%20East%20Greenwich%20…

Employee 2016 W2 Compensation over $50,000…/Employee%20Census%2007-09-…

Council Session Devolves Into Yelling Match; Cienki Adjourns Meeting

July 10, 2017 – Town Council President Sue Cienki adjourned the meeting tonight after some in attendance began complaining they could not hear what was being said and asked that the meeting be moved to a larger venue.

Soon after the meeting started, the council opened it up to public comment but people in the audience – particularly those in the balcony – complained they couldn’t hear and were heard to be counting the number of people in attendance, saying the meeting was too crowded. Council Chambers was full and there were people in the hallway outside as well as on the front steps of Town Hall.

After some back-and-forth yelling between audience members and Cienki, councilors consulted with Town Solicitor David D’Agostino, who recommended adjourning the meeting and reconvening at a later date, according to Councilman Mark Schwager.

Resident Nicole Bucka described the scene as “super tense.”

Another resident who was there said no one looked good during the meeting, but that the meeting should have been moved after councilors saw the number of people in attendance.

After the meeting, Cienki blamed union members for the disruption and said they should have told her they were planning to come.

“Had the union notified me they were bringing members, which they did not, we could have had the meeting at Swift [Community Center],” she said. “No one talked to me so the idea was to completely disrupt and behave in an uncivilized manner. It was unfortunate they chose to behave this way.”

Councilman Schwager said while there were union members in the audience – and noted that some union members are residents – there were also many residents in attendance.

“We’ve set events in motion that had a lot of unintended consequences,” he said, noting there were still a lot of unanswered questions.

“We still have so many things to discuss. The whole issue of the current town manager’s contract, the search for the new town manager, the consolidation process. We initiated the consolidation process on June 26. We still have not signed a memorandum of agreement with the School Committee.

“There’s a lot of unanswered questions. We don’t have job descriptions for any of the new consolidated positions. We don’t have an organizational chart. We don’t know who works for who,” he said, referring to personnel changes that were made June 30.

When asked if this process could have been handled better, Cienki said, “People don’t like change and the reality is we have $210,000 firefighters when [Public Works Director] Joe Duarte is in need to equipment and the sewage treatment plant is in need of repairs. … People may want to ignore these fiscal facts but they aren’t going away.”

– Elizabeth F. McNamara

Town’s Consolidation Effort On Hold – In Part – After School Committee Balks

July 7, 2017 – Not so fast, the School Committee told members of the Town Council and Acting Town Manager Gayle Corrigan Wednesday morning (7/5), during a two-hour session held in response to Corrigan’s June 30 firing of town personnel and her decision to move school employees into new joint school-town positions.

“It was my understanding that a proposal was going to be put forward at the Town Council meeting June 26 as to … what was being recommended for town consolidation and I went to the meeting … expecting that to be discussed,” said School Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Mark on Wednesday. “I heard that agenda item had been shifted to July 10. When the memo came out [Friday], it was very surprising.”

Mark said Town Council President Sue Cienki called her after the vote to say that the Town Council had met in executive session and made the personnel decisions.

“I thought the school side would have the same opportunity … and that we would jointly vet the proposal, jointly make decisions about consolidated positions, and that we would jointly follow the process which in my experience is the appropriate process,” she said. “I was very much of the opinion that decisions about shared staff would be made collectively.”

Council President Cienki, who attended the first part of the meeting Wednesday, defended Corrigan’s actions Thursday.

“I had met with Carolyn and School Supt. Victor [Mercurio] and the meeting went very well about the consolidation plans,” Cienki said. “I took the plan back to the Town Council to vet and I’m surprised that Carolyn didn’t talk to the School Committee about the plan.”

Cienki cited the start of the new fiscal year, July 1, and the need to “begin the year on track” as the reason for the June 30 actions.

“The Town Council was not usurping any authority or responsibility from the School Committee,” she said.

Carolyn Mark wasn’t the only school official to see things differently.

“If there’s consolidation of a position that would alter a school department position, we need to take action on that,” School Committee member Matt Plain said in an interview Thursday (7/6).

That’s because the school department is required by state law to have an organizational chart that’s approved by the School Committee – changing the chart means getting School Committee approval.

“Regardless of the desire of the Town Council and or jointly of the School Committee and the Town Council to consolidate certain services, there needs to be a discussion as to how that’s facilitated because there are a lot of legal ramifications,” schools lawyer Matt Oliverio said during the meeting.

At issue is one position in particular – that of administrative assistant to the school finance director – because the person holding that job, Rose Emilio, was named human resources director for the town and schools on June 30. Emilio has been doing human resources work for the school district as one part of her job. While school officials recognized that Emilio’s job would be one of those potentially affected by consolidation as laid out by the town June 26, they said they expected to be part of the decision-making process in how that unfolded.

Not only were school officials apparently caught off guard by the June 30 announcement. Emilio, one of the employees directly affected by the decisions, was also surprised, according to Oliverio.

“She said she’d had a conversation with Ms. Corrigan asking if she would be interested in additional responsibilities from the town which would come with additional pay,” Oliverio said of Emilio. “I don’t think she committed one way or another. She did tell me there was no discussion about her becoming human resources director. So she was just as shocked as all of you were shocked that she was named human resources director.”

By the end of Wednesday’s meeting, Committee member Plain said he was feeling a re-set button had been pressed and that school employees were still holding the same job descriptions they had before June 30.

Town Solicitor David D’Agostino agreed.

“As I understand it, Rose Emilio continues to do her school work with no added municipal responsibilities,” he said Thursday, “pending School Committee agreement or buy-in to the One Town model.”

For the other school department employee affected by Corrigan’s June 30 announcement – Providence Analytics colleague Linda Dykeman, who Corrigan named finance director of the town and schools – she will continue to work 10 hours for the school department but dedicate the rest of her time to the town, D’Agostino said. Dykeman had been appointed by the School Committee in June to serve part-time as overseeing finance director for the EGSD.

One other area to be consolidated is IT, but no actions have yet been taken to combine the town and school IT departments.

Cienki outlined the process for that work.

“The IT consolidation piece involves having School Committee and Town Council representation, with the town manager and superintendent and an independent fifth person to develop an organizational chart for IT,” with implementation set for the fall, she said.

As for the School Committee, member Jeff Dronzek was happy that they met Wednesday and had a conversation.

“I’m glad we had it so we could get out in the open what was going on,” he said Thursday. “I think it’s important to show the town as a whole that we are willing to have our discussions out in the open.”

The Town Council meets next on Monday, July 10, at 7 p.m. at Town Hall. D’Agostino said consolidation would be on the agenda and that School Committee members were welcome to attend, but that it would not be a joint meeting.

The School Committee meets next on Tuesday, July 11, in the library at Cole Middle School, at 7 p.m.

– Elizabeth F. McNamara

School Committee Looks to Recalibrate After Town’s Unilateral Reorganization

July 5, 2017 – The School Committee will meet Wednesday morning, July 5, in an unusual session to discuss the Town Council’s “‘One Town’ consolidation plan and amended School Committee fiscal year 2018 budget,” according to the agenda posted July 2.

“We can’t talk to each other without posting the meeting,” said Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Mark. “The School Committee needs to have an opportunity to discuss what has or hasn’t happened since we last met and to figure out what our options are for next steps.”

The School Committee last met on June 20, where the panel finalized its budget after the town determined to level fund the schools but take on non-education-related costs. While some school jobs were decreased or eliminated, the French program was saved and the committee pledged to hire a curriculum director in January.

Since then, the Town Council came to an agreement with then Town Manager Tom Coyle which had him leaving that position and they appointed Gayle Corrigan, one of the two principals of a consulting firm the council had hired in March to review school and town finances, to serve as acting town manager. Ten days later – last Friday, June 30 – Corrigan fired the town’s finance director, human resources head and the assistant to the town manager and named colleague Linda Dykeman to the position of finance director for both town and schools, Rose Emilio to serve as director of human resources for the town and schools, and Michaela Antunes to serve as chief of staff.

Dykeman had been serving as interim finance director of the school department and a search had begun for a permanent replacement. Emilio had been doing HR for the school department. Antunes had been press secretary for the City of Providence and before that was member services coordinator for the Hope Club. According to a memo Corrigan sent out to town employees June 30, Antunes “will be overseeing the day-to-day activities of each department” as Corrigan works on “strategic issues.”

Mark said the appointment of Dykeman to a permanent, consolidated position shouldn’t have happened without School Committee input.

“I was told there would be shared decision-making for shared staff positions,” she said. “The town made that decision unilaterally and I don’t know the legal implication yet since [Dykeman] was under contract as an interim with the schools.”

Councilman Mark Schwager said the council voted to approve the June 30th personnel changes during executive session June 26, though he voted against it.

“The process is appalling. We’ve really lost our credibility in the way it’s gone down,” he said. “It’s just overreach. I don’t understand why. I think we could have accomplished many of the laudable goals [initially outlined in April] if we had used a more reasoned and slower process.”

As for the mood of town employees, “I’m not sure how you could be in Town Hall right now and be your most productive,” Schwager said. “There certainly is merit to consolidation but you can’t even look at that unless the process is credible.”

Town Council President Sue Cienki and Councilors Sean Todd and Andy Deutsch did not respond to interview requests.

The School Committee will meet in the library at Cole Middle School at 8 a.m., Wednesday, July 5.