By Elizabeth F. McNamara
Town Councilman Andy Deutsch said Superior Court Judge Susan McGuirl has given the Town Council “a unique opportunity for the second chance” to appoint a town manager. The question is, will that be Gayle Corrigan?
The Town Council is meeting Tuesday night to address McGuirl’s ruling last week that the council’s June 19 appointment of Corrigan to serve as town manager is null and void because the council did not put the appointment on the meeting agenda and did not hold the vote in public session.
So, the council’s agenda for Tuesday night lists three items: appointing Corrigan town manager, ratifying her contract and ratifying all of her decisions since she started serving as town manager June 19.
“I’m going to vote to ratify the decisions she’s made up until November 14th,” said Deutsch.
He’s less sure about voting to appoint Corrigan.
“The question on my mind, if not her, then who?” he said.
There are options. The council could appoint a department head as interim town manager. Former Town Manager Tom Coyle was first appointed interim town manager in 2014 (while still serving as police chief) before the council decided to offer him the permanent job. When Bill Sequino was hired as town manager in 1988, he took over for then-Public Works Director John Cooke, who had been serving as interim town manager.
About Judge McGuirl’s ruling, Deutsch said he stands behind his votes, including his votes on Corrigan.
“I’m a logical thinker. I’d assume if we don’t have a town manager we’d need to get one,” he said. Deutsch was referring to the council’s vote June 19. At that meeting, the council voted to approve a separation agreement with then-Town Manager Coyle. That item had been on the agenda. Then the council voted to appoint Corrigan acting town manager. That item was not on the agenda. Both votes, and any discussion, were held in executive session.
“I would have done every vote I’ve taken on the council standing on a street corner,” he said. “It doesn’t look good but we weren’t trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. There was no nefarious intention.”
Deutsch said he did not receive any training on the Open Meetings Act when he became a town councilor one year ago. McGuirl ruled the town violated the Open Meetings Act five times.
Deutsch said he had supported the decision to fire James Perry because of what he called “oddities” in the hiring process but that he accepted Judge McGuirl’s decision that Perry be reinstated.
About Town Solicitor David D’Agostino, Deutsch said, “We rely on our town solicitor who is really supposed to guide us on these sorts of things.… You rely on professionals to give you the best advice. We didn’t get that.”
D’Agostino was hired in May. He also serves as solicitor for the Central Coventry Fire District, of which Corrigan remains district manager.
Although Deutsch hinted he had some reservations about reappointing Corrigan, he declined to comment on her job performance. And he said he was not personally bothered or embarrassed by Judge McGuirl’s decision.
“I respect it. People make mistakes. A lot of times, people forget that we’re human. My personal feeling, I would have preferred not to be on the front page of the Providence Journal [the day after the ruling]. The judge is giving us an opportunity to do this. I’m grateful for that.”
Councilman Nino Granatiero expressed his opinion about the ruling and here and Councilman Mark Schwager here. Council President Sue Cienki issued a statement about the ruling. Council Vice President Sean Todd did not respond to a request for comment.