Corrigan Continues Assault on Fire District Merger

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

Town Manager Gayle Corrigan (left) presented another chapter to her look back at the 2013 merger of the East Greenwich Fire District into a town department, continuing her argument that it took place without due diligence and with grave financial consequences for the town. (Find her report here.)

As she has done several times in the months since she’s been town manager, Corrigan said the fire department was too expensive and needed to be fixed.

Her solution: restructure the department into three platoons that work 56 hours a week from the current four platoons and 42-hour work week. The town has sued the firefighters to be able to impose the restructure immediately; firefighters say they have a valid contract until 2019.

Corrigan’s report, while repeating arguments made in earlier reports, did take more exact aim at some of the people in charge in recent years. In particular, she cited what she said was the inexperience of former Town Manager Tom Coyle, former Town Solicitor Peter Clarkin and former Fire Chief Russ McGillivray in negotiating contracts.

However, Coyle served as police chief before becoming town manager and negotiated contracts in that position; Clarkin negotiated several rounds of contracts for three unions during his tenure in East Greenwich before adding the firefighter contract; McGillivray came from the larger West Warwick Fire Department and served as deputy chief in EG for three years before becoming chief. McGillivray and Coyle both hold master’s degrees in public administration.

Corrigan questioned the increase in the number of “service calls” (i.e. miscellaneous calls) between 2013 and 2014 (when the district became a department). As she said, the increase was due to the decision to classify alarm box resets as service calls.

In a phone interview Thursday, McGillivray (who took over as chief in 2013) offered this explanation for the classification change: “We were just trying to account for the hours and the work that the fire department was doing. When we went from the fire district to the fire department, I saw that social services and police department were very data driven and I wanted to get a better accounting of the work we actually did.”

Meanwhile, the total number of incident calls (including service calls) has risen steadily in recent years.  Even if service calls are subtracted, the fire department had more than 1,000 additional incidents in 2017 than it had in 2006, the year the fire district topped out at 36 total firefighters. In 2006 there were 2,386 incidents; in 2017, there were 4,121 (665 of them classified as service calls).

Corrigan also highlighted a jump in rescue billing rates between 2015 and 2016, but said she had not yet looked into the cause for the increases.

Former Fire Chief John McKenna (who served as chief from 2005 to 2010) was at the meeting Monday and during public comment he said that spike came after the billing company – Comstar – went from using a base rate and subcategories in its billing charges (for instance, separating out fees for starting an IV or using oxygen) to having one blended cost. McKenna, who now works in private industry, said the change was for all Comstar clients, public and private. McGillivray gave the same explanation Thursday.

In her report, Corrigan spoke about raises, saying some firefighters got a 48 percent raise in the current contract, while everyone else in town got 2 percent raises.

According to firefighter union president Bill Perry, the firefighters got a 2 percent raise like everyone else but he acknowledged that six so-called lateral transfers (firefighters hired from other departments) were given the salary of a second-year firefighter instead of a first-year firefighter, which came out to about $3 more per hour for those six firefighters (a 2 percent raise that year would have been in the range of 50 cents an hour).

He said he did not know where Corrigan got the 48 percent figure.

During public comment Monday, Perry urged the council to talk to other municipalities where they have put in a three-platoon system. There have been four.

In North Kingstown, town officials imposed a three-platoon system that was fought extensively and expensively in the courts; firefighters there lost after it was ruled they did not have a valid contract. A three-platoon system was also imposed in Providence, but the city abandoned it after years of litigation and went back to a four-platoon system. The city had to pay Providence firefighters several million dollars in overtime accrued during the three-platoon, 56-hour work weeks. Tiverton and Central Coventry Fire District also have three-platoon systems – Tiverton’s through negotiation and Central Coventry’s was imposed after that district went bankrupt. Corrigan runs Central Coventry.

“Do your due diligence. We have an active contract,” said Perry. “I would hope that everybody would be adults and sit down instead of having attorneys become wealthy off the community. Nobody benefits from that.”

“Bill, we’d be happy to sit down,” Council President Sue Cienki said.

The last attempt to negotiate failed in December; both sides blamed the other side.

Corrigan said she would present “phase one” of her restructuring plan at the April 9 Town Council meeting.



 

This Week in EG: School Panel to Discuss Joint Finance Director   

A weekly article that lists happenings in East Greenwich and nearby. If you have something you’d like to add, send your information to egreenwichnews@gmail.com.

Monday, Feb. 5

Library Valentines: Engaged EG is holding a valentine-making session to express your love of libraries – especially the EGHS library, currently closed due to lack of funding for a librarian to staff it. From 4 to 6 p.m. at the EG Free Library on Peirce Street. Stop by with your kids (or without!) to make a valentine or two. Supplies and nut-free snacks will be available.

Tuesday, Feb. 6

Tech Nite at New England Tech – An open house at the East Greenwich campus. From 3 to 7 p.m.

School Committee meeting – On the agenda (find it here), the panel will approve members to an ad hoc revenue committee, which will be looking for ways to raise money for the schools. They will also discuss the 2018-19 school calendar. In the library at Cole Middle School starting at 7 p.m.

Toastmasters International – All are welcome to attend this meeting of the Ocean State Club chapter at Warwick City Hall, 3275 Post Road. From 7 to 9 p.m. For more information, check out their website.

Wednesday, Feb. 7

Lunch on the Hill – If you are looking for some good food and company, stop by the dining room at St. Luke’s Church on Peirce Street where you will find both. A free lunch is offered every week, sponsored by various local churches and restaurants – a different church-restaurant combination each week.From 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

Public Forum on Homework – All are invited to attend this conversation about homework led by schools Supt. Victor Mercurio. There will be a second forum in January. In the library at Cole Middle School at 6:30 p.m.

Planning Board meeting – On the agenda, the board will take up again the condominium proposal known as Coggeshall Preserve on 62 South Pierce Road, as well as a 16-unit residential proposal for the building at 461 Main Street (just north of Centreville Bank). The board meets in Council Chambers at Town Hall at 7 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 8

Skating Salute to the XXIII Winter Games – The Olympic Winter Games may be taking place in South Korea, but some local skating luminaries will be performing in a special show at the Alex & Ani Skating Rink in downtown Providence. From 5 to 6 p.m. For more information, click here:

School Committee meeting – This is a special meeting to discuss the town-school organizational chart, specifically, how it is working to have a combined town-school finance director. Find the agenda here. In the library at Cole Middle School starting at 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 10

Collegia Ancora Concert – A professional chamber choir, Collegia Ancora is dedicated to enriching Rhode Island through the choral arts, performing music from all different time periods, sacred and secular. This concert explores the rich choral madrigal, spiritual and folk traditions. At St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 99 Church St. Tickets $20, $10 for students. 5 p.m.

OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE

Recycling is ON this week.

Town Boards Need You! – Here’s the list of town boards with vacancies.

  • Affordable Housing Commission
  • Board of Assessment Review
  • Cove Management Commission
  • Historic Cemetery Advisory Commission
  • Historic District Commission
  • Housing Authority
  • Juvenile Hearing Board
  • Municipal Land Trust
  • Planning Board
  • Senior and Community Center Advisory Council

In you are interested, go to www.eastgreenwichri.com/TownGovernment/BoardsCommissions for more information and an application or come to the Town Clerk’s Office at 125 Main Street. Submit applications and resumes to the same address or via email to lcarney@eastgreenwichri.com.


Donate to East Greenwich News during February and take part in a sustaining donor match! Show your love for local news – click here to learn more.

This Week in EG: Council to Vote on Interim Fire Chief

A weekly article that lists happenings in East Greenwich and nearby. If you have something you’d like to add, send your information to egreenwichnews@gmail.com.

Sunday, Jan. 21

Engaged East Greenwich meeting – This new community group is holding an organizational meeting to talk about upcoming projects (including installing Little Libraries) and results of a survey they conducted. They welcome residents to come and share their concerns. Learn more about the group on their Facebook page here. In the Community Room at the East Greenwich Police Station (176 First Ave.). From 6:30 to 8 p.m.

Monday, Jan. 22

Middle Road CLOSED just west of Route 2 – Middle Road will be closed between Route 2 and Stone Ridge Drive from 7 a.m. until it is completed later in the day. Detour signs will be posted and police will help direct traffic.

Exploring Mindfulness Meditation – Meditation at East Greenwich Free Library on first and third Mondays. No experience necessary; all are welcome. Free. 6:30 p.m. at the library. For more information about this program or the Friends of the Library, contact: friendseglibrary@gmail.com.

Town Council meeting – The panel meets in executive session at 6:30 p.m. to discuss candidates to the Town Manager advisory search committee, then will hold a brief public update on the search at 6:45 p.m. The regular session begins at 7 p.m. On the agenda, the council will vote on a new interim fire chief, approval of an employee social media policy and review of council rules and guidelines. At Swift Community Center.

Tuesday, Jan. 23

School Committee meetingOn the agenda, a schools-town discussion update, second reading of the EGHS program of studies, and a draft RFP for a programmatic audit (as discussed at their last meeting). In the library at Cole Middle School at 7 p.m.

Zoning Board meeting – The agenda (find it here) includes six items, including zoning variance request for a 9-unit residential development on Castle Street. The panel meets in Council Chambers at Town Hall at 7 p.m.

Wednesday, Jan. 24

Lunch on the Hill – If you are looking for some good food and company, stop by the dining room at St. Luke’s Church on Peirce Street where you will find both. A free lunch is offered every week, sponsored by various local churches and restaurants – a different church-restaurant combination each week.From 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

Thursday, Jan. 25

Special Ed Advisory Committee meeting – Parents and others interested in special education are invited to attend EG SEAC’s monthly meeting. Committee members encourage parents with children who have an IEP to fill out a homework survey (find a link to the survey on the meeting agenda here). The meeting starts at 9:30 a.m. In the Superintendent’s Conference Room at the School Department, 111 Peirce St.

OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE

Recycling is ON this week.

Register for email updates from the town – Sign up through the town’s Notify Me system and you can receive anything from a weekly email listing meetings and events to targeted emails about specific boards and commissions you are interested in. In addition, you will be notified in case of emergencies (i.e. parking bans, other important information). Click here to get started. And, for those who signed up before August, revisit the link if you have specific topics about which you’d like more information.

LOOKING AHEAD

Thursday, Feb. 1

East Greenwich Academy photo exhibit – If you’re interested in wonderful old photos and East Greenwich history, join us at the library in the Silverman Meeting Room on February 1st from 5 to 7 PM to look at the EG Historic Preservation Society’s exhibit of the East Greenwich Academy. Refreshments will be served and some former members of the Academy will be on hand. Photos will be on display for the entire month.

Friday, Feb. 2

Painting and Pastries Fundraiser – A fundraiser for the EGHS Class of 2020. In the cafeteria at EG High School at 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Feb. 7

Public Forum on Homework – All are invited to attend this conversation about homework led by schools Supt. Victor Mercurio. There will be a second forum in January. In the library at Cole Middle School at 6:30 p.m.

If you have an event or meeting you would like to see here, send information to egreenwichnews@gmail.com.

Fire Chief Says Firefighters Are Professional

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

Acting Fire Chief Christopher Olsen appeared before the Town Council Monday night to answer questions about the department’s oldest fire engine, which is in need of costly repairs and is slated to be disposed. But Olsen took a minute to praise the East Greenwich firefighters.

“These firefighters did a great job in this past storm. I just wanted to put it out there and I’m very proud of this department. I’m also very proud of the fact that these firefighters that we have are very professional. I just want you to know that,” he said to the council. Then he turned toward the audience behind him. “And I want the people out there to know their fire department, their firefighters, are professional. I just wanted to let you know that as well.”

The words were notable in and of themselves because of the relentless negativity coming from town officials toward the firefighters in recent months.

But it was particularly striking in comparison to his words to the council just a month earlier, when he outlined what he saw as deficiencies in the department and cited the firefighters “lack of professionalism,” during a report that lasted nearly 90 minutes.

Asked about his apparent change of heart after the meeting, Olsen said he’d gotten to see more of the firefighters’ work in the last month.

“It’s different talking to the firefighters, watching them do their job,” he said. “I wanted to let the community know they have an excellent fire department. No one in this town needs to worry.”

Olsen added that his last day will be Monday, Jan. 22.

It’s unclear who will be following Olsen as acting fire chief or the plan to hire a full-time replacement. Through Chief of Staff Michaela Antunes, Town Manager Gayle Corrigan said Wednesday Olsen would be on the job until a new acting chief is named and that a successor had not yet been recommended to the council.

The Town Council meets next on Jan. 22.

Bob Houghtaling Gets a Group Hug

Town drug counselor Bob Houghtaling presents year-end program statistics to the Town Council.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

[Editor’s Note: Bob Houghtaling is a member of the board of East Greenwich News – information we should have included when this story originally posted. Our apologies for the omission.]

Town Council President Sue Cienki wanted to set the record straight.

“Ok, so let me correct any misinformation that may have gotten to you,” she said to resident Anthony Soscia (EGHS Class of 2017) after he spoke during public comment at the Town Council meeting Monday about how important Bob Houghtaling was to the community. “The reason that Bob is here tonight is to talk about the work he has done.”

Houghtaling, the town’s long-time drug counselor, had presented his year-end program statistics earlier during the meeting. But Soscia and other people who spoke in public comment praised Houghtaling and his work as if his job was in jeopardy.

Cienki said she asked Houghtaling to present his report to the council during a public meeting because she viewed it as a “commercial” for the work he was doing, a well-deserved “pat on the back.”

Resident David Caldwell said he was relieved by Cienki’s praise of Houghtaling but questioned whether or not Cienki would be willing to say Houghtaling’s job would remain as it’s been – as a town employee who provides services to school children and town residents through programs, clubs and counseling.

“We all love Bob,” said Cienki. She said any change would be to get more money from the state (by way of a grant) to add to what Bob can do in East Greenwich.

“What can we do to work with Bob? What does he need? Let’s get him more money from the state,” Cienki said in response to Caldwell.

Councilman Andrew Deutsch said he wanted Houghtaling – whom he has credited with helping him during high school – to be on the job until his young daughter gets through high school.

Resident Tracie Truesdell said she thought she knew why people had decided to speak Monday in support of Houghtaling.

“I just want to say, I’m really sorry we have people coming up and cheering for Bob because what this is illustrating right now is a complete distrust of the council,” she said.

After the meeting, Olin Thompson, chair of the Juvenile Hearing Board and one of those who commented Monday, agreed.

“Our town leadership seems so focused on cutting costs without regard to what we lose with those cuts,” he said. “I wanted them to know that Bob’s tireless work literally changes the lives of our kids, and our community, for the better. He’s a priceless treasure and we are so lucky to have him.”

During the Council Comments portion of the meeting, Cienki spoke praised Houghtaling for a third time.

“I wanted to thank Bob again,” she said. “I’m not quite sure how one person does everything that he does.”

After the meeting, Houghtaling said he thought the praise for his work was really about something larger.

“In a lot of ways, they were encouraging the council not to forget the importance of community,” he said. “I’m a department of 1 but with 1,000 ‘employees’ who willfully volunteer tons of their time to create this thing we call East Greenwich.”

You can watch the meeting on the EG Town Democratic Committee’s Facebook live video here. Houghtaling’s presentation begins at 53:30. Public comment follows.

This Week in EG: Town & School Meetings; Xmas Tree Pickup

Late afternoon sledding at Academy Field on a cold Saturday.

A weekly article that lists happenings in East Greenwich and nearby. If you have something you’d like to add, send your information to egreenwichnews@gmail.com.

Monday, Jan. 8

Exploring Mindfulness Meditation – Meditation at East Greenwich Free Library. No experience necessary and all are welcome. Free. 6:30 p.m. at the library. For more information about this program or the Friends of the Library, contact: friendseglibrary@gmail.com.

Town Council meeting The council will hear reports from the finance director as well as town substance abuse coordinator Bob Houghtaling, who will offer year-end statistics for his work in the community. The executive session (which is closed to the public) includes three items relating to the firefighter union, including to pending lawsuits. The council will also be discussing town manager search advisory committee choices in executive session – each member was asked to submit one name. Check out the full agenda here. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at Swift Community Center.

Tuesday, Jan. 9

School Committee meeting In addition to financial issues (where the district is, budget to actual; sewer bill update; the panel will discuss the website and the agenda includes a segment on “career and tech education.” School district lawyer Matt Oliverio will also be outlining what steps the School Committee could take to prepare for the 2019 budget process, including an independent audit. Find the full agenda here. In the library at Cole Middle School starting at 7 p.m.

Wednesday, Jan. 10

Lunch on the Hill – If you are looking for some good food and company, stop by the dining room at St. Luke’s Church on Peirce Street where you will find both. A free lunch is offered every week, sponsored by various local churches and restaurants – a different church-restaurant combination each week.From 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

Historic District Commission meeting –  On the agenda are three residential and commercial items as well as the request by the Planning Board to render an opinion regarding the historic rehabilitation of the existing structure located at 62 South Pierce Road, part of the Coggeshall Preserve condominium development proposed for that site. The panel meets at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers at Town Hall.

‘Vaping in the Boys Room’ – A community awareness forum to focus attention on vaping in school and among school-age young people. Conducted by town drug counselor Bob Houghtaling and EGHS Resource Officer Steven Branch in the Community Room at the police department. All are welcome. 6:30 to 8 p.m.

OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE

Recycling and Christmas tree pick up are ON this week. Christmas trees will be picked up – just make sure they are bare of artificial decorations.

Register for email updates from the town – Sign up through the town’s Notify Me system and you can receive anything from a weekly email listing meetings and events to targeted emails about specific boards and commissions you are interested in. In addition, you will be notified in case of emergencies (i.e. parking bans, other important information). Click here to get started. And, for those who signed up before August, revisit the link if you have specific topics about which you’d like more information.

LOOKING AHEAD

Thursday, Jan. 18

An Evening of Poetry – The EG Library Lions is sponsoring an evening of poetry in the library at East Greenwich High School. From 6:30 to 8 p.m. All are welcome.

Saturday, Jan. 20

First Ladies’ Fashions – From Martha Washington to Melania Trump, the styles worn by our presidents’ wives have fascinated Americans. Join us on Saturday, Jan. 20, when the Friends of the East Greenwich Library present “First Ladies’ Fashions.” Clothing historian Karen Antonowitz will examine the fashions worn by our first ladies, from Martha to Melania – those who changed contemporary fashion, followed it or had no effect on it at all. In this illustrated program she will explain how the fashions worn by first ladies reflected our society and the history of the time. The program begins at 1 p.m. at the East Greenwich Free Library at 87 Peirce Street. Light refreshments will be served.

 

This Week in EG: Council Meeting, Tree Lighting (& Santa!) at Town Hall

A weekly article that lists happenings in East Greenwich and nearby. If you have something you’d like to add, send your information to egreenwichnews@gmail.com.

Benny’s third – and final – East Greenwich incarnation, at 5600 Post Road.

Monday, Nov. 27

EG Benny’s closes Come 5 p.m., the venerable Rhode Island chain will close doors in East Greenwich for the last time. If you missed it when it ran originally, be sure to check out Mark Thompson’s excellent remembrance of Benny’s in EG.

Community Supper – Christ Community Kitchen offers a free monthly dinner for any and all who would like to meet and dine in community. This month, the menu is turkey! Dinner is served starting at 5 and everything wraps up by 6:30 p.m. In the dining room at St. Luke’s Church, 99 Peirce St. Donations are accepted.

Town Council meetingOn the agenda, the council will be voting on annual victualing and liquor licenses. The council must approve all such licenses and business taxes and sewer fees must be paid up. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at Swift Community Center.

Tuesday, Nov. 28

Zoning Board meeting – On the agenda, Ocean State Veterinary Hospital is seeking a variance to add onto its building on South County Trail and the owner of Kai Bar on Main Street is requesting that the board review its earlier decision on valet parking. That same owner is also seeking parking relief for 205 Main St. (former site of Flex Appeal), where the owner is looking to open a hookah bar. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers at Town Hall.

Wednesday, Nov. 29

Lunch on the Hill – If you are looking for some good food and company, stop by the dining room at St. Luke’s Church on Peirce Street where you will find both. A free lunch is offered every week, sponsored by various local churches and restaurants – a different church-restaurant combination each week.From 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.Learn more and check out the full schedule here: Lunch On The Hill Info Sheet.

Planning Board meetingOn the agenda is a discussion and recommendation to the Town Council on changes to the zoning ordinance pertaining to medical marijuana. In particular, the board will be looking at amendments of the “Terms Defined,” “Table of Permitted Uses,” and changes to the standards of review for “cooperative cultivations.” The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers at Town Hall.

Friday, Dec. 1

Town Hall Tree Lighting … and Santa! – The annual tree lighting events start at 5 with live music. Santa arrives at 6 to light the tree and then kids can visit with the jolly fellow in Council Chambers and get their picture taken. [Editor’s Note: The original date posted with this item was incorrect. We apologize.]

Saturday, Dec. 2

Fall ’17 Festival of Little Plays – The St. Luke’s Little Theatre presents three short plays, “Death Knocks,” by Woody Allen; “Checkout Time” by Tom Maguire, and a scene from “The Little Flower of East Orange,” by Stephen Adly Guirgis. The event is free but donations to benefit Loaves & Fishes RI will be accepted. 8 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 3

“Fezziwig” Fundraiser – The East Greenwich Academy Foundation’s annual “Fezziwig” fundraiser (as in Mr. Fezziwig, Scrooge’s generous and fun employer from A Christmas Carol) takes place at Frank & John’s Pizza on Main Street. $10 per person (or more if you can manage it) and open to all. Meet new friends, enjoy delicious pizza and raise money for the cause of your choice.

Fall ’17 Festival of Little Plays – The St. Luke’s Little Theatre presents three short plays, “Death Knocks,” by Woody Allen; “Checkout Time” by Tom Maguire, and a scene from “The Little Flower of East Orange,” by Stephen Adly Guirgis. The event is free but donations to benefit Loaves & Fishes RI will be accepted. 3 p.m.

OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE

Recycling is ON this week. Yard waste will be picked up through Dec. 8.

Register for email updates from the town – Sign up through the town’s Notify Me system and you can receive anything from a weekly email listing meetings and events to targeted emails about specific boards and commissions you are interested in. In addition, you will be notified in case of emergencies (i.e. parking bans, other important information). Click here to get started. And, for those who signed up before August, revisit the link if you have specific topics about which you’d like more information.

Town Holiday Donation ProgramFamilies in need should contact Department of Senior / Human Services (DSHS) as soon as possible.  Those needing assistance in providing gifts for their children during the December holidays can complete an application at the Department’s office, located at the Swift Community Center, 121 Peirce Street or call 886-8638.  The deadline to complete an application is Friday, December 1st.  Applications received after December 1st will be matched with donors contingent on availability. Donor and recipient personal information is strictly confidential.  Gifts will be delivered, unwrapped to the Swift Community Center by Monday, Dec, 18.  Each adopted family will be contacted to make arrangements for gift distribution.

December Holiday Meals – The town’s Senior Services offers holiday meals to needy residents. The deadline to sign up is Wednesday, Dec. 6. To see if you are eligible and to register, contact Carol Tudino at ctudino@eastgreenwichri.com or 401-886-8638.

Cienki Cancels Meeting on Corrigan Citing Capacity Concerns

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

A resident holds up a sign reading, “Lights on, EG!”

With every seat taken and many people standing, Town Council President Sue Cienki cancelled the special session scheduled for Tuesday night, saying that they needed a larger venue after 50 to 60 people were not able to get into the meeting at Swift Community Center by the 7 p.m. start. The Town Council was to vote on the appointment of Gayle Corrigan as town manager in response to a ruling by Superior Court Judge Susan McGuirl last week that nullified her earlier appointment June 19.

Earlier Tuesday, McGuirl had granted the town one more week – until Nov. 21 – to comply with the ruling. While the original agenda had listed a vote on Corrigan’s appointment and votes to ratify her contract and her actions since June 19, Town Solicitor David D’Agostino said concerns raised by a letter from Access RI Tuesday morning about the vagueness of that third vote prompted him to recommend tabling ratifying Corrigan’s previous actions until they were more clearly defined. So Tuesday night was only going to be the vote on Corrigan and, if that passed, on her contract. The judge’s one-week extension, however, gives the council cover to reschedule the meeting and hold it in a larger venue.

“I am disappointed,” said Councilman Mark Schwager. “I was ready. The capacity issue possibly could have been addressed earlier but that wasn’t my call. Generally that decision is made by the town manager and the Town Council president. I know there had been discussions and a number of citizens had brought up holding the meeting at a larger venue. The high school will allow a much bigger crowd. You have to open it up to the community.”

Councilman Mark Schwager speaks with reporters after the meeting was cancelled.

Schwager arrived at Swift shortly before 7 p.m. and many people stood and clapped loudly when they saw him walk in. The lone Democrat on the council, Schwager has consistently questioned actions taken by the council and by Corrigan, including the same issues Judge McGuirl highlighted in her ruling as incorrect.

Swift Community Center has a capacity of 253 people. By 6:20 p.m. Tuesday, there were more than 100 people standing outside Swift waiting for the 6:30 open time. By 6:50, nearly every seat inside was full but Cienki said she was not concerned some people would not be able to get in. “Look,” she said, indicating to the crowd before her, “everybody’s here. We’re good.”

When it became clear there were dozens of people outside who were not allowed to enter because the building was at capacity, Cienki did an about face, announcing the meeting was cancelled and would be held within the next week at East Greenwich High School.

Cienki said she had not earlier considered holding the meeting at a larger venue, such as the auditorium at East Greenwich High School (capacity 700) or the cafetorium at Cole Middle School (capacity 400). For her part, Corrigan said although she had discussed meeting logistics issues with Police Chief Steve Brown, capacity issues had not come up. She added that the meeting was the Town Council’s so she deferred to the council on such things as meeting location.

Among those who gained entry to Swift were about 14 EG firefighters who do not live in town. Firefighter union president Bill Perry said those firefighters gave up their seats for residents after it became clear there were more people who wanted to get in than would be allowed. Perry himself remained, having closed on his new house in East Greenwich on Monday. He and his family had been living in Cranston.

Before the meeting, some residents were handing out “EG Taxpayer” name tags for those who lived in East Greenwich. Others were handing out red and green pieces of paper as a way to respond to the lack of public comment on the meeting agenda. Those who took the papers were told to hold up the red sheets for things they disagreed with and green for those they agreed with as a way to silently register their opinions. Public comment at Town Council meetings is not required by law but traditionally has been allowed at council meetings.

Councilman Schwager said afterwards he hoped Cienki would include public comment at the rescheduled meeting.

“As Superior Court Judge McGuirl stated, this is the most important decision that a council undertakes. Given the importance of the decision and also the engagement of the community, residents should be able to give their input to the council,” he said.

Schwager added he was not optimistic that his colleagues on the council would have a change of mind about Corrigan by the time of the rescheduled meeting.

“My impression is the majority members of the council are resolute about moving forward [with Corrigan],” he said after the meeting. He said just as he did not vote for Corrigan June 19, he will not be voting for her at the rescheduled meeting.

“At some point they have to take into account the public sentiment,” Schwager said about his colleagues. “They really dismissed the Superior Court decision. They did not take it to heart. They are circling the wagons and hoping that the reward down the road will vindicate them. It’s an ‘ends justify the means’ situation. Unfortunately, the means has been so disruptive. I’m not sure what the ends are, but by the time you get there, you’ll have a very divided and damaged community.”

More than 100 people gathered at the Varnum Armory after the Town Council meeting was cancelled, for a “Turn the Lights Back On” public forum.

Following the meeting, more than 100 people moved to the Varnum Armory on Main Street where the EG Town Democratic Committee held what it called a Turn The Lights Back On” public forum, where residents were invited to comment to whichever Town Council members attended as if it were public comment at the meeting. Councilman Schwager was the only member to attend.

Corrigan Opponents Seize On Ruling

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

The Town Council and Town Manager Gayle Corrigan (in the red top) at a meeting Nov. 6.

When the Town Council agenda for its meeting Tuesday promised to correct procedural errors but keep Town Manager Gayle Corrigan in place, that proved too much for some residents who had hoped the ruling Wednesday by Superior Court Judge Susan McGuirl would give the Town Council pause regarding Corrigan.

In the ruling, McGuirl chastised the Town of East Greenwich for five Open Meetings Act violations – including the appointment of Corrigan, which McGuirl rendered “null and void” – and for the improper firing of firefighter James Perry, who she ordered reinstated.

Wednesday evening, an agenda appeared on the town website for a special meeting Tuesday night to do three things: appoint Corrigan town manager, ratify her contract, and ratify all the actions she’s taken since she was initially appointed June 19. And in her statement, Town Council President Sue Cienki said “we are extremely disappointed with the ruling.”

The frustration bubbled over on social media.

“How much is all this litigation going to cost the town? Judge McGuirl has fined the town in the open meeting violation, sending our tax dollars to the State. In addition, the town has to pay the attorney fees for the plaintiff. That could be over $50,000…. I would rather see our tax dollars go to the schools then the lawyers,” wrote Michael Zarrella, who ran for Town Council in 2016, on the East Greenwich Parents for Excellence Facebook page.

On the same page, one resident asked people to reach out to all five members of the Town Council to voice their “disappointment and disapproval” over Corrigan’s planned reappointment.

“Town Council members keep saying they don’t get negative feedback phone calls and emails,” the post reads. “This could be a log of calls, emails, texts, snail mail.”

Comments on East Greenwich News have also questioned the council’s decision to reappoint Corrigan.

“On October 23rd, I sent all members of the East Greenwich Town Council irrefutable evidence that their claims of skyrocketing tax bills are false. To date none have responded. The council’s behavior can be summed up as: 1) Ignore the facts; 2) Ignore the law; and 3) Ignore the residents. To paraphrase Judge McGuirl, we deserve better,” wrote Eugene Quinn.

“The citizens and residents of East Greenwich deserve a Town Council that serves the Town, without ‘unnecessary controversy’ and ‘unnecessary problem creation,’ for the betterment of the town, the schools, the residents, and the good youngsters in our town. The Town Council, with its attitude, has created nothing more than unnecessary controversy. I have resided in East Greenwich for over 40 years, and have never before witnessed the ‘rats nest’ that is being created by the Town Council and Town Manager, with what is going on in town,” commented Joseph O’Hara.

Some have taken further steps.

The East Greenwich Town Democratic Committee is hosting “Turn the Lights Back On,” in response to the decision by the Town Council not to include public comment at the meeting Tuesday. (Judge McGuirl ended her ruling with a call for East Greenwich to “turn the lights back on and keep them on.) The forum will immediately follow the meeting Tuesday, “to give residents the opportunity to voice their concerns and opinions to any willing Town Council members.”

According to the EGTDC’s Facebook page, Councilman Mark Schwager, the council’s lone Democrat and a regular voice of opposition during council meetings, will attend the forum, which will be held at the Varnum Armory on Main Street at Division Street.

“All are welcome. We will walk to the Armory immediately following the Town Council meeting. Please bring a flashlight and walk with us as we ‘turn the lights back on’ together,” reads the event description. 

Resident David Caldwell, who has spoken out against actions taken by Corrigan at nearly every Town Council meeting in recent months, has organized a petition drive to get the council to rethink its decision to appoint Corrigan. His aim, like some others, is to prove that the anti-Corrigan movement has broad support and is not “just a couple of malcontents and union supporters,” he said an interview Friday.

“To run an organization you’ve got to seek out the support of the people who are working for you,” he said of why he’s opposing Corrigan’s reappointment. “Particularly with her illegal firing of Jim Perry, Gayle Corrigan has sent a loud and clear message that she sees public employees – her employees – as the enemy and that they should fear opposing her.”

He added, “I understand that pension costs are a really important fact in state and local government. I am not against doing what we need to do to have those hard conversations. But we need our government to be abiding by the law and treating people who work for us with dignity and respect first and then we can get into policy.”

While Caldwell may be behind the petition, he doesn’t actually think it’s the best way to convince town councilors.

The number one thing they can do is call. Having a conversation with our five Town Council members is the best thing you can do,” he said. “And show up on Tuesday.”

To contact the Town Council, you’ll find their emails on the town website here.

Town Council Sends Message After Failed Meeting

July 11, 2017 – The Town Council adjourned its meeting Monday night (7/10). They sent out this statement on the town’s email list and posted it to the town website shortly after the meeting.

Dear Resident,

Tonight’s scheduled Council meeting was adjourned early due to tremendous discord and disruption from members of the Firefighters Union and NEA. Tonight’s meeting agenda included a discussion of salary and overtime reports, and the Council intended to begin an open dialogue with the Fire Chief to understand these overages and how to prevent inflated salaries that burden taxpayers. In an effort to further promote transparency in town government, we have provided this information to taxpayers in this email.

Sincerely,

The East Greenwich Town Council

Unaudited FY 17 Overtime by Department
http://www.eastgreenwichri.com/…/Copy%20of%20overtime%20by%…

2016 W2 Analysis over $100,000 by Department
http://www.eastgreenwichri.com/…/2016%20East%20Greenwich%20…

2016 W2 Analysis over $100,000 by Amount
http://www.eastgreenwichri.com/…/2016%20East%20Greenwich%20…

Employee 2016 W2 Compensation over $50,000
http://www.eastgreenwichri.com/…/Employee%20Census%2007-09-…