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Cavazza is a partner in the Providence law firm Whelan, Corrente, Flanders, Kinder and Siket, LLP. Robert Corrente, a partner in the law firm, worked with Aiken on the Cianci case during his tenure as Rhode Island’s U.S. Attorney.
McGillivray declined to comment. Aiken also declined to comment.
Aiken spent 34 years with the FBI. He gained a bit of celebrity this past year when he participated in the popular “Crimetown” podcast, which spent its first season looking at Providence and its history of organized crime and corruption.
9:04 A.M. – A T’s Restaurant employee told police his cell phone was taken after he had left it on a table near the back of the restaurant. That afternoon, the employee went to the police department to say his cell phone had been found lying on top of a mailbox near the UPS store in the same plaza.
8:15 A.M.- Police were called to EG Fire Department on Main Street after a RIPTA bus hit a light fixture in front of the station. The cost to replace the light was estimated at $5,000.
4:52 P.M. – Police arrested a North Kingstown woman, 59, for shoplifting from Dave’s Marketplace. The woman allegedly took a pork shoulder, and Sabra Spinach and Artichoke dip. Both of the items were recovered and valued at $16.27. She was issued a District Court summons and was given a no trespass order for Dave’s Marketplace.
Wednesday, Sept. 6: Small Car Fire
9:30 A.M. – Police were called to Flood Ford on South County Trail to help EGFD with a car fire. When police arrived, the fire had already been put out. It had apparently started in the engine while the car was being serviced. When East Greenwich Fire showed up they made sure that the fire was out completely.
Thursday, Sept. 7: Property Damage
10 A.M. – A Reynolds Street resident told police a large truck had hit a Stop sign and a street sign while attempting to park, knocking them down.
Friday, Sept. 8: More Property Damage
4:30 P.M. – The owner of Finn’s Harborside told police one of his employees had been running on the roof of the restaurant without permission and had tripped, falling on a skylight, damaging it. The owner said he only learned of the incident from his son, who had seen a video of it on Snapchat.
Saturday, Sept. 9: Stolen Bike & Fire
11:15 A.M. – A Prospect Street resident told police that his son’s bike had been stolen sometime between Sept. 4 and Sept. 9. The estimated value of the bike is $400.
5:12 P.M. – Police helped direct traffic after EGFD was called to Besos Kitchen and Cocktails on Main Street because of a small electrical fire in the basement.
Sunday, Sept. 10: Larceny
3:15 P.M. – A Pardon’s Wood Lane resident told police someone broke into his car while it was parked in the driveway. The car had been unlocked. The resident told police a pair of sunglasses and some loose change had been taken. It appeared someone had rifled through the middle console but nothing was missing.
In the end this article is mostly about social and emotional competence. It is, however, also a bit about values and mankind’s tragic dichotomy – that being the conflict between the wonders our brains create and the ability to manage them. In today’s troubled political climate how we handle such concerns is essential. We most likely could say the same about our daily matters.
Even though we have placed a man on the moon mankind still struggles with the same emotional concerns the ancients faced. In fact, we continue to handle them in a like fashion.
So, you are either in love with the “tell them off” style of politics or disgusted that civil discourse has taken a vacation. You are also either elated over being able to get news instantaneously or overwhelmed by what you perceive to be slanted coverage. When once upon a time “the most trusted man in America” told us “and that’s the way it is” we now ignore any information that doesn’t fit into a certain worldview. So much for living in the Information Age.
The Old Testament in the Bible tells us of a tower that, because of man’s hubris, led to a communications catastrophe. Have we replicated this feat through our use/abuse and reliance on the Internet? Have we accessed so much information that we now are unable to decipher accurate and inaccurate facts? We all are well aware of Kellyanne Conway’s “alternative facts” statement. We have to begin to ask ourselves why, with all of our brainiac accomplishments, do such things occur. How come we are having such a hard time discerning things that once were considered common sense?
While computers have brought about many positives, how humans ascertain what to read/listen to and believe is concerning. There are millions of people who believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim who was not born in the United States. There are millions of people who view dinosaurs as a hoax. There is a conspiracy theory waiting to be unleashed for just about anything. How did this happen?
There is a science fiction movie titled “Forbidden Planet” which was made in the 1950s. The technology is dated and some of the acting hokey, but the pictures premise is fascinating (and reflective of the topic at hand).
Forbidden Planet goes something like this. Astronauts land on a planet that was once inhabited by a race known as the Krell. The Krell have been gone for years, but long ago created an incredible civilization. Their intelligence had advanced to the point where almost anything they desired could come about through telepathy. In fact, even though they have been long gone – the machines created, through vast knowledge, still work (after thousands of years). What happened to such a remarkable culture?
For all of the Krells’ prowess intellectually (they were like humans) they were still subject to the same primal desires.
Even though they had performed wonders their ID still was powerful. The ID and incredible power are often a bad mix. Thus, the self-annihilation of an amazing society. They telepathically destroyed themselves.
I often wonder if we can handle some of the advancement brought about by our intellect. For all of the cures, trips into space, and cyber communications we still create weapons to destroy ourselves. We still use technology to argue over Facebook comments. We still find ways to misuse the incredible things our minds have concocted. Look no further for examples than our own social and political worlds. When you stop and think about it, mankind has not really kept up in the social/emotional learning arena.
Each year schools are evaluated by tests to determine effectiveness. Over the last decade, or so, we have assumed that our schools are underachieving due to poor test scores. Soon punishment and embarrassment ensue. While this is going on calls for school reform begin to be heard over again.
Throughout this recurring ritual, little attention is paid to social competence (getting along, caring, working together). Little attention is given to emotional intelligence (self awareness, critical thinking, reflection, handling stress). Finally, little attention is given to adults modeling behavior, parent involvement and connecting people to a community, et cetera.
For years, educators and employers have been recognizing the demise of social competencies concerning young people. Anxiety along with depressive illnesses have proliferated over the last decade and the number of individuals being prescribed medications for these conditions continues to rise. It seems as though anxiety and depression have become common fare for today’s living.
Once it was harsh elements and the struggle for food. Later, disease, war and superstitions became the issues of the time. While all of these concerns are still in play, new ones have arisen – especially in the so-called civilized world.
Contrary to what you might hear on TV, your chances of getting killed by someone from a civilized nation far exceeds that of losing your life to someone from the Third World or less than rich and powerful nation. This is quite easy to prove. Look at the 1900s. Which nations killed more human beings over that period – civilized versus not so civilized? As we drum up fears about Afghanistan, Cuba, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Vietnam (don’t forget these guys) forgotten are the real culprits. England, France, Germany, Russia, China, Japan and the United States have done far more damage. Perhaps we have to redefine what constitutes civilized.
My point is simple – intellectual powers and emotional competencies are two (apparently) completely different things. Don’t you think that we should be placing way more emphasis on the latter for our young people? Don’t you think that History, Philosophy along with the Arts should be valued as highly as Math, Science, and Technology? Don’t you think we should expect more from our leaders than bluster, threats, and solutions that fail to factor in common sense?
I recently wrote an article about leaders and how they are chosen. One might want to consider their ability to make emotionally rational thoughts. Titles and resumes (only) have gotten us in trouble before. What about recognizing those social and emotional skills that help to connect and build good will?
Camouflaging success with accoutrements only delays the inevitable. That inevitable being our need to reach out, connect, learn from, and help. Sure, it sounds simple (for tree hugging liberals like myself!). But just as sure, without doing so, we will continue to fight each other and delude ourselves into thinking that money, power and a “better-than attitude” constitutes success. We owe it to our futures to not become the new “Forbidden Planet.”
Bob Houghtaling is the East Greenwich substance abuse counselor. He is also head of the Academy Foundation and is on the board of East Greenwich News.
The Executive Session item referring to a job performance review of the fire chief was removed from the agenda with no explanation.
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 councilors 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.
National Voter Registration Day – The Town of East Greenwichjoins over 2,500 partners nationwide in hosting a National Voter Registration Day 2017 event at the East Greenwich Town Clerk’sOffice (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
Hanaford Elementary Open House
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
Historic cemetery cleanup – The EG Historic Cemetery Commission is looking for volunteers to help clean up Cemetery #35, the Clement Weaver Lot located at 650 Cedar Ave. This cemetery has more than 50 stones and is one of the remaining lots the Commission has not yet restored. If you love history, love being outdoors on a crisp fall day or simply need community service hours, they would love to have you. Contact From 9 a.m. to noon. For more information, contact Lea Hitchen at the town Planning Dept. at 886-8643.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.”
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.