Common Cause, RI ACLU Ask Town to Cancel Meeting to Avoid More OMA Violations

Say the Town Council needs to know what it’s voting on.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

The open government coalition Access RI has sent a letter to Town Council President Sue Cienki urging her to cancel tonight’s meeting, saying that the agenda item to ratify all decisions made by Gayle Corrigan as town manager is a violation of the Open Meetings Act.

“We believe that the agenda for tonight’s meeting is in clear violation of the Open Meetings Act (OMA), R.I.G.L. § 42-46. Specifically, we believe that agenda item (2)(c), “Ratification of all actions taken by Gayle Corrigan as Town Manager from June 19, 2017 – November 14, 2017,” is in violation of § 42-46-6(b).”

Superior Court Judge Susan McGuirl’s ruling that the Town Council violated the Open Meetings Act is how the town got in this situation to begin with. McGuirl nullified Corrigan’s appointment by the council June 19 because appointment of a town manager was not on the agenda for that meeting even though the council was aware that then-Town Manager Tom Coyle would be leaving that post either by termination or by mutual agreement. (The later course took place.)

From the letter:

“Even assuming the Town Council has the authority to ratify “all” the previous decisions of Ms. Corrigan, it is difficult to comprehend what “all” means. Does the Town Council, in direct defiance of a court decision, plan on ratifying decisions that Judge McGuirl found were made in violation of the Town Charter?”

“The Town Council needs to know what it’s voting on,” said RI ACLU’s Steven Brown, “and the public has the right to know what it’s voting on.”

Judge McGuirl is going to enter an order on her ruling at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

That action turns the decision into an order from the court. Up until this point, Corrigan could remain as town manager but once the order is entered, that’s when the “null and void” comes into effect.

 The town may request that McGuirl “stay” the order – in others, delay its implementation.

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One Reply to “Common Cause, RI ACLU Ask Town to Cancel Meeting to Avoid More OMA Violations”

  1. It is unfortunate that we have a Town Council that depends on legerdemain and splitting hairs to advance their agenda. They’ve been censured for doing so yet continue with their ham-handed way of doing business. We are seeing the same thing on a national level which causes me to think that the two are related as different songs from the same hymnal.

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