At the end of December, two taxpayers, Anne Musella and Eugene Quinn, took it upon themselves to meet with Town Council President Sue Cienki and Vice President Sean Todd along with their informal financial advisor. Their concern was ​a flyer that had been sent out in May which stated the 51 percent increase in residents’ median tax bill from 2011-2016 (which was incorrect). Also addressed was the claim of an unfunded pension liability by Ms. Cienki of $86 million although the state and the Municipal Audit of the Town showed an unfunded liability of $34 million. The meeting was recorded with the full knowledge of all those who participated. There were a couple of occasions during the meeting where the recording was halted on the request of a participant.

One of the things that is particularly striking was the participation of the financial advisor – a friend of both Ms. Cienki’s and Mr. Todd’s. Although publicly Ms. Cienki claims that this person was not privy to any info that isn’t readily available to any taxpayer, if you listen to the recordings available on EG News (Eastgreenwichnews.com) or Engaged East Greenwich (https://www.facebook.com/groups/EngagedEastGreenwich/), you can hear this person leading the discussion regarding finances. There are also past emails in which this person was cc’d along with other town employees or elected officials. During the full recording you can hear all the participants agree that the info regarding the 51% was incorrect and a correction should be published.

“It seems that although I cannot ask for some of financial documents without an APRA, certain individuals are allowed this info if they are friends with the council.”

It leads to the question as to who is allowed to give recommendations on behalf of the town? It seems that although I cannot ask for some of financial documents without an APRA [Access to Public Records Act request], certain individuals are allowed this info if they are friends with the council. Also, who will be responsible for any erroneous information that this individual has given to the council? Since the council has side-stepped actual employees/official advisors of the town, how do we know what financial guidance the council is getting? If this person works for a large financial firm, is that firm responsible for any financial advice? There is no financial advisory group to the council at this time although there is one for the school committee. How does the council receive its financial guidance? If there isn’t any impropriety, why not allow the general public to see how the finances of this town are guided?

Finally, this past week, Geoff Marchant retired as the head of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Consortium. He had worked for them since 1996. He had worked in the offices in East Greenwich since 1999. All the other towns in the consortium recognized Mr. Marchant’s contributions and commended him. However the town in which Mr. Marchant had his office and which undoubtedly benefited, East Greenwich did not give him a commendation or otherwise acknowledge his retirement officially. Not only does this council not respect the truth or its taxpayers, it also doesn’t respect the hard work of its employees.

 – Renu Englehart

Renu is a member of the town’s Zoning Board of Review.