Complaint centers on Corrigan’s hiring of business partner Dykeman as finance director.

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

The state Ethics Commission voted Tuesday to investigate a complaint filed against Town Manager Gayle Corrigan alleging she had a conflict of interest in recommending her business partner Linda Dykeman to the job of finance director for the Town of East Greenwich.

Investigators for the Ethics Commission will look into the complaint, including interviewing those involved in the complaint on both sides. The investigators may issue evidence or witness subpoenas. They have 180 days to complete the investigation.

Launch of an investigation is not a finding of guilt.

The complaint was filed by resident Bill Higgins, who is retired from the police department.

“The final straw for me was the Jim Perry court case,” Higgins said Tuesday, referring to Corrigan’s testimony in September against James Perry, who had sued the town for wrongful termination after he was fired in August for allegedly falsifying his resume. Corrigan told the court there had been anomalies in the process that resulted in Perry’s hire in 2016. Perry and six other men were hired as so-called “lateral transfers” in 2016. Corrigan testified the lateral transfer hires should not have happened.

In November, Superior Court Judge Susan McGuirl ruled in favor of Perry, along with other findings against the town, and ordered that Perry be reinstated.

“When Corrigan hired her business associate [as finance director], there was no hiring process,” Higgins said. “There was really no vetting of the people Corrigan hired and the Town Council’s just going along with this. It shows a lack of transparency and a lack of due diligence on their part.”

In his complaint, Higgins argues Corrigan recommended Dykeman for the position of finance director in violation of state law (R.I.G.L 36-14-5), which states that public officials cannot use their office to benefit business associates. Corrigan and Dykeman are partners in the company PEOpeople LLC (also known as Luzon Associates).

Corrigan and Dykeman were hired as consultants by the town last spring. After reviewing the town and school finances, they presented their analysis at a meeting June 5 in which they also unveiled the so-called “One Town” consolidation of some town and school expenses. Two weeks later, on June 19, former Town Manager Tom Coyle agreed to separate from the town and the Town Council appointed Corrigan to serve as acting town manager. (Judge McGuirl ruled against the town in that hiring, rendering it “null and void” because it was not properly noticed and was done in secret. The council reappointed Corrigan in November.)

According to Higgins’s complaint (Corrigan Ethics Complaint), one week later, on June 26, Corrigan recommended Dykeman to the role of finance director during a Town Council executive session. The council agreed to the hire and, on June 30, Corrigan laid off Finance Director Kristen Benoit along with two other town employees. Benoit had been making around $104,000; Dykeman earns $127,000.

Calls to Corrigan and Town Council President Sue Cienki for comment were not returned.