It has become a regular feature of Town Council meetings since June 8, when the council voted on the Fiscal Year 2018 budget even as Councilman Mark Schwager was still posing questions about it and urging the council to delay the vote pending more discussion: Schwager, the council’s lone Democrat, makes requests or asks questions of the Town Council that go unanswered.
At the Town Council meeting Monday, Schwager raised four issues – none for the first time – with his fellow councilors.
First, Schwager expressed disappointment that the Town Council “could not agree on a consensus statement” in response to comments made by Town Council President Sue Cienki toward two firefighters in which she threatened their genitals.
“As elected officials, we must act in a way that respects both the trust placed in us and maintains the high standards of professional conduct … our community expects,” he said.
He also again requested that the Town Council discuss invoices paid to Providence Analytics for Town Manager services in June 2017. Providence Analytics – comprised of now-Town Manager Gayle Corrigan and now-Finance Director Linda Dykeman – had been hired by the town in April to conduct an analysis of school department finances and, then in May, to analyze town finances. Corrigan was named acting town manager June 19 but worked without a contract for the first several weeks. Providence Analytics billed the town for her services as town manager from June 19 through June 30.
“My concerns are related to billings by Providence Analytics for town manager services when there was no contractual agreement for the provision of these services and no mechanism for processing these payments,” Schwager said Monday.
He again reiterated a request for clarification from Town Council President Cienki on a number she used in an August letter to town residents for the town’s unfunded pension liability. In the letter, Cienki said the town’s unfunded pension liability was “more than $86 million.” Schwager said the number he received from the state Treasurer’s Public Finance Management Board was $34 million.
Schwager quoted from a response he got from the Treasurer’s office: “Generally speaking, the financial health of the Town of East Greenwich is strong both in absolute terms and relative to other Rhode Island municipalities.”
Schwager also called into question numbers used in a mailing sent out by the town to residents in May that, he said, exaggerated the increase of town tax between 2011 and 2016 by more than 300 percent, referring to this video by resident Gene Quinn as explanation.
“Let’s get our numbers right so we can make good policy,” said Schwager. “I request that the numbers in the Town Council President’s letter and the town budget mailer be confirmed by our finance director and corrected if found to be inaccurate.”
Finally, Schwager said he had asked since July that the Town Council involve the town’s Personnel Board in the search for a permanent town manager and to assist in the review of contractual provisions in our collective bargaining agreements. “At the present time, there have been no meetings with the Personnel Board and no future date for a meeting has been scheduled.”
– Elizabeth F. McNamara