Letter to the Editor: I’ll Get You My Pretty … and Your 6 Lateral Transfers Too

It sure feels like Ms. Corrigan is trying to get rid of the six lateral transfers hired by the fire department in 2016, one way or another.

Ms. Corrigan is now using a 3-platoon, 56-hour work-week system as a way to get rid of the six firefighters.

Let’s look at the history of her actions:

It just so happens that she is trying to remove the same six firefighters that she complained about while testifying in the James Perry case.

Ms. Corrigan said she felt a lateral hiring process was “discriminatory” because “generally the number of firefighters that are currently employed are predominately white males” and that the CBA, charter language, the active hiring list were all “thrown away” in the lateral hiring process used. Ms. Corrigan testified that she “took it very seriously and spent a lot of time and energy trying to understand what had happened, how the laterals had come in, how the whole CBA had been — it was almost like a tip of the iceberg is this firing” and why she thought “relying on solely lateral hires is a bad idea” and “not a best practice in employment.”

When questioned further and asked about being discriminatory and if that bothered her, Ms. Corrigan replied, “It’s a fact, it’s a discriminatory practice. As you know, with employment law, there’s a lot, EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission], the Town has an affirmative action program, all of these things when you are hiring laterals, it’s a fact that you are not — you are reducing the subset. It’s a fact. It doesn’t bother me. It’s a fact you are reducing the people that can apply.”

Perhaps the tip of the iceberg stopped with Jim Perry because Justice McGuirl ruled, “This Court finds without question based on the credible evidence before it that Corrigan did not engage in ‘careful and factual consideration,’ as required by §45-1 of the CBA before terminating FF Perry for ‘just cause.'”

And, “There was no valid basis to terminate FF Perry.”

Gall-lee said Gomer Pyke, I’m sure glad Ms. Corrigan didn’t reduce the subset and followed employment law, the EEOC and the Town’s affirmative action program when hiring Ms. Dykeman and Ms. Antunes.

Also noted in the decision of that case is where the judge wrote, “Corrigan stated that her analysis revealed a structural deficit and, in her professional opinion, the lateral transfer procedures were a major contributing factor.” The only other familiar statement from Ms. Corrigan that appears to be missing was about that being “unsustainable” as well.

OK. That didn’t work, let’s try this . . . .

Ms. Corrigan now comes along with a plan to have the firefighters work more hours per week on average (56 rather than 42), while saying it is being done “due to the recognized fiscal and, more importantly, health, safety and wellness concerns from such extensive overtime hours.” So I guess if a firefighter has a bad night and works the 24-hour shift continuously and then has to work overtime, that is now somehow safer than a firefighter who works a 10 or 14 hour shift and has to work overtime.

Ms. Corrigan recognizes the changes as structural changes that will take legal opinions and potentially additional complaints for summary judgement, i.e. a softer way of saying additional lawsuits. Apparently, we haven’t spent enough yet on legal fees.

Ms. Corrigan said she will supply the council with her progress reports at the meeting on June 11. So much for the town manager search, maybe Santa will bring us a new one.

– William Higgins

William Higgins, retired EG police officer and former EMA director for the town, lives in East Greenwich.

Ethics Board to Investigate Town Manager Corrigan

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.