Judge Rules Corrigan’s Appointment ‘Null & Void’; Reinstates Firefighter

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

Town Manager Gayle Corrigan at the Nov. 6 Town Council meeting.

Superior Court Judge Susan McGuirl issued a scathing ruling Wednesday against the Town of East Greenwich, accusing the Town Council of a pattern of noncompliance with the Open Meetings Act and rendering “null and void” the appointment of Gayle Corrigan as town manager. In addition, McGuirl overturned Corrigan’s firing of firefighter James Perry and ordered that he be reinstated. Also, McGuirl fined the town $1,000 for violating the Open Meetings Act on June 19 and another $1,000 for violating the OMA on July 26.

Find the entire 73-page ruling here: EGFA v. Gayle Corrigan, KC17-0898.

“It is very difficult for this court to view this time – a relatively short period of time – as anything but noncompliance with the Open Meetings Act and a somewhat willful attempt to violate that act,” McGuirl read from the bench, referring to the Council’s appointment of Corrigan during a meeting held in executive session June 19 without proper notification.

“The town’s conduct directly contravened the legislative intent in enacting the Open Meetings Act, which is that public business be performed in an open and public manner,” said McGuirl, “and that the citizens be advised and aware of the performances of public officials and the deliberations and discussions that go into the making of public policy.”

McGuirl found the town committed five willful, known violations of the Open Meetings Act. In the June 19 meeting, she said, the town failed to provide public notice (about appointing an acting town manager), improperly voted in executive session (to appoint Corrigan as town manager) and failed to keep minutes. In the July 24 meeting, the town failed to provide adequate notice (of the Town Council’s intent to remove the word “acting” from Corrigan’s town manager title) and improperly voted in executive session (on Corrigan’s contract).

She continued, “In my opinion … public service is an honor. Public officials are voted upon and trusted to represent their constituents and make decisions for them. That process needs to be done in the light and not in the dark. During a short period of time, the Town of East Greenwich conducted important business in the dark. The public did not have the right to hear the officials’ explanations, their discussions and their decisions…. It’s time for East Greenwich to turn the lights back on and keep them on.”

“The judge’s decision is a wake up call that the majority of the council is off track,” said Councilman Mark Schwager, the only council member to attend the ruling. He is the lone Democrat on the council and has consistently questioned the council’s actions.

“The Town of East Greenwich is not a private corporation and it’s not a town in receivership,” he said. “Good government requires that we have a good faith relationship with our public sector employees, that we have a collaborative, cooperative relationship with our School Committee and that we have an open and honest communication with our citizens. I’m going to continue to work to implement that approach in East Greenwich town government and I hope that my colleagues will join me in that effort.”

“I have a cinderblock off my shoulders right now,” said James Perry about the judge’s order that he be reinstated. “I want to go back to work. I’m just happy. I can sleep tonight.”

Reached via text, Council President Sue Cienki said Gayle Corrigan remained the town manager.

“Judge has not entered any order yet,” said Cienki.

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4 Replies to “Judge Rules Corrigan’s Appointment ‘Null & Void’; Reinstates Firefighter”

  1. My only disappointment is the town (taxpayers) getting hit with the fine. The councilors committed the violation they should be the ones fined.

  2. Actually I believe someone else stated that the town will be on the hook for legal costs for both sides as well as any back pay etc. It could run into at least 100$K or so. That apparently is how the council is bringing fiscal responsibility back to this town, by forcing taxpayers to bear costs due to their negligence.

  3. Regarding the case at hand, the Judge ruled that Corrigan’s appointment as Town Manager is “null and void”, effective 11/8/2017 (the date of the court decision). So she is “out” effective 11/8/2017.

    So, an item on the Town Council meeting agenda for the November 14th Town Council meeting is to “Appoint Gayle Corrigan as Town Manager”. C’mon, the Town Council is “slapping the Judge and the residents of East Greenwich in the face”.

    Does this mean that Corrigan will be appointed as an “acting/interim Town Manager” or a permanent Town Manager? (i.e., agenda states that she will be appointed as the Town Manager).

    In that the Town Council has previously indicated that a search and search committee will be initiated and set up to identify and appoint a permanent Town Manager, the appointment of Corrigan, per the agenda item, should have been indicated as an acting/interim Town Manager position, in that the Judge ruled that her prior appointment is “null and void”. So, it should be back to “square one” regarding the process of hiring a new Town Manager.

    One might conclude that the wording of the Town Council meeting agenda item stating “Appointment of Gayle Corrigan as Town Manager” could be construed that she will be appointed as the permanent Town Manager. Who knows!!

    Is Cienki and the Town Council, out of spite, going to shortstop and forego the “Search for a Town Manager” process and name and appoint Corrigan as the new permanent Town Manager at this time? That would be something, wouldn’t it!!!!

    The agenda item states: “Appoint Gayle Corrigan as Town Manager”, not interim/acting Town Manager.

    So we will see, won’t we?

    The citizens and residents of East Greenwich deserve a Town Council that serves the Town, without “unnecessary controversy” and “unnecessary problem creation”, for the betterment of the town, the schools, the residents, and the good youngsters in out town. The Town Council, with its attitude, has created nothing more than unnecessary controversy. I have resided in East Greenwich for over 40 years, and have never before witnessed the “rats nest” that is being created by the Town Council and Town Manager, with what is going on in town.

    Outside of appropriate comments by Mark Schwager, the others on the Town Council have been silent. So, I guess that the other members of the Town Council are letting Cienki and Corrigan run the town into the ground.

    Prior to this “Town Council”, the Town of East Greenwich enjoyed an exceptional reputation for its town pride, exceptional schools, quality of living, great place for kids to grow up in, etc. Well, with what is going on, I would say the these good points of EG are fading away very quickly.

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