Corrigan Town Manager Until Tuesday, When Council Meets to Reappoint Her

by | Nov 8, 2017

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

Town Manager Gayle Corrigan in her office at Town Hall.

Judge Susan McGuirl has given the Town Council a little breathing room with regard to Town Manager Gayle Corrigan. Although McGuirl ruled Wednesday that Corrigan’s appointment as town manager in June was “null and void,” Corrigan remains town manager until the judge enters the order nullifying that appointment and she won’t do that until Tuesday, according to lawyer for the firefighters Elizabeth Wiens.

An agenda for that special Tuesday meeting – to be held in public session –includes three items: appointment of Corrigan as town manager, ratification of her contract back to July 1, and ratification of all actions taken by Gayle Corrigan between July 1 and Nov. 14.

It is unclear what happens to personnel decisions Corrigan executed June 30, when she laid off Finance Director Kristin Benoit, Human Resources Director Sharon Kitchin and assistant to the town manager Pam Aveyard, and hired her consulting colleague Linda Dykeman as finance director and Michaela Antunes as the town manager’s chief of staff (a newly created position). Town Council President Sue Cienki Wednesday night did not immediately respond to a question about this sent to her via text.

In a statement, Cienki said, “We are extremely disappointed in the court’s decision. We firmly believe in responsible and transparent government, and we were not aware of any compliance issues until today’s ruling. Any violations of the Open Meetings Act were inadvertent.”

Despite Cienki’s contention that the Town Council was not aware of any Open Meetings Act compliance issues prior to Wednesday’s ruling, questions about OMA violations have dogged the Town Council since Corrigan’s appointment June 19, including questions from Cienki’s own council colleague Mark Schwager, who repeatedly asked for the council to review past acts. In addition, numerous residents have spoken at length during the public comment portion of council meetings, addressing the very concerns Judge McGuirl found so troubling.

After the ruling Wednesday, Councilman Nino Granatiero called the five OMA violations “embarrassing.”

“The Open Meetings violations … that just shouldn’t happen,” he said. “That’s a procedural error that we should not be making and it undermines the credibility of the Town Council.”

Granatiero placed the blame for the OMA violations on what he called “the team”: the Town Council, Corrigan, and Town Solicitor David D’Agostino, and he said the buck stopped with the Town Council. But he rejected the judge’s characterization of the violations as “willful.”

“Nobody on the council’s trying to get stuff by the residents,” he said. “We have a very smart population. If you think you’re able to get the puck through the five-hole with these residents, you’re out of your mind.” (A five-hole is the a hockey term for the space between the goaltender’s legs.)

Granatiero was not happy about Judge McGuirl’s decision to reinstate firefighter James Perry and stood by the town’s action.

“She disagreed that he had not misrepresented himself,” he said. “I’m obviously very disappointed that she didn’t agree with the reason for the dismissal. He’s back on the team. I don’t like that fact that he lied.”

Granatiero said he did not blame Corrigan for the way Perry was fired because the council had been in on the decision.

“When things go right and when things go wrong, that’s on the Town Council,” he said. “That kind of decision is not made in a vacuum.”

The judge’s words about Corrigan and Perry were unstinting:

“This Court finds it somewhat shocking that after hearing all of the credible testimony in the trial that contradicts her opinion, the Town Manager continues her inexplicable attitude and accusations regarding firefighter Perry…. He deserves better than he received from his employer, the Town of East Greenwich.”

You can find more excerpts from the ruling here.

This story has been updated.

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Eugene Quinn
Eugene Quinn
November 9, 2017 8:05 am

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
3) Ignore the residents

To paraphrase Judge McGuirl, we deserve better.

Alan Clarke
Alan Clarke
November 9, 2017 10:54 am

East Greenwich developed from the beginning as a town controlled by a solid and responsible Republican leadership kept in line by a solid and loyal Democratic opposition. The only real differences between the parties was who was running and because of this it was a well-run town and it prospered. In my estimation, things started to go downhill when the Town Charter ushered in the Town Manager style of government. The thinking was that running a town was much too complex in the modern era for council members from the general population. A professional was needed and that person, hired — not elected — was answerable to the Town Council.
Well that didn’t happen. The reverse was true. The Town Council, being more temporary in nature, became subservient to the Town Manager. It is my opinion that if the town is to have an executive running things, he or she should be called “Mayor” and be elected by the population. This hiring of professionals takes power from the people and this is patently wrong in a democracy. As far as I’m concerned, it’s time to go back to the Town Charter drawing boards.

Renu Englehart
Renu Englehart
November 9, 2017 5:01 pm

“Granatiero was not happy about Judge McGuirl’s decision to reinstate firefighter James Perry and stood by the town’s action.

“She disagreed that he had not misrepresented himself,” he said. “I’m obviously very disappointed that she didn’t agree with the reason for the dismissal. He’s back on the team. I don’t like that fact that he lied.””

Mr. Perry didn’t lie – that’s the problem – Ms. Corrigan did (and the town council president as well) and a court of law saw through her lie. If Mr. Granatiero has no problem with the amount of money wasted here in the tune of of tens of thousands, then perhaps he can debate it with the judge. On the other hand I do agree with Mr Granatiero that the town council should shoulder the blame.

Pam Testoni
Pam Testoni
November 9, 2017 7:50 pm

I am puzzled and concerned by the Councilman’s disappointment that Fire Fighter Perry’s firing was not upheld. I’m wondering if Mr. Granateiro read all 70 plus pages of the judge’s ruling. The ruling makes it very CLEAR that Perry did NOT misrepresent himself in any way. Perry sad he had “certification” not certificates. This was even discussed during his interview. How much clearer can this issue be? Why didn’t the many fire districts’ representatives that testified (explaining that certification and not certificates is very often how training is documented) clear things up for Mr. G.? What more does one need to determine that Perry’s firing was part of some hidden agenda? Perhaps the Councilman should be more concerned about (besides the OMA debaucle) the fact that the Town Council pulled a fast one to give Corrigan the title of “acting chief of the fire department” for administrative purposes JUST so she could fire Perry in her new capacity as the chief of the EG Fire Department. If anyone was acting surreptitiously, it was Corrigan not the fire department.
I’m sick and tired of this nonsense. It is clear that there are hidden agendas where ever Corrigan goes. I’m so disappointed with the way EG government just lined up like little ducks to follow her lead. Furthermore, any member of the TC who either took part in this boondoggle, knew about it but said nothing, or continues to defend this action should be ashamed of themselves. That said, I certainly hope that the Town Council reconsiders its plan to reinstatement Corrigan on November 17th. Shame on them if they do. Oh, and full disclosure, I am the proud wife of a retired firefighter, but had Perry been a policeman my opinion would not change. I encourage all to actually READ the ruling before formulating an opinion.

November 9, 2017 11:30 pm

Pam is “Spot On”, indeed!!

Steve Gregson
Steve Gregson
November 10, 2017 9:39 am

“I’m so disappointed with the way EG government just lined up like little ducks to follow her lead.”

Sounds a lot like the NEA !
How’s it feel?

Donna M. Horan
Donna M. Horan
November 10, 2017 10:38 am

Well said Pam!

Donna M. Horan
Donna M. Horan
November 10, 2017 10:43 am

I read a comment by Joseph O’Hara in the East Greenwich News this morning having to do with the posted agenda for Tuesday’s meeting – and since I have no trust in this Council, as a whole, I think this is something worth considering – “Does this mean that Corrigan will be appointed as an “acting/interim Town Manager” or a permanent Town Manager? (i.e., agenda states that she will be appointed as the Town Manager).” Does anyone know the answer? Elizabeth, do you know? Cudos on your reporting Elizabeth! For those who have posted on your biases – Judge McGuirl has vindicated you!

Bill Higgins
Bill Higgins
November 10, 2017 12:19 pm

“Granatiero said he did not blame Corrigan for the way Perry was fired because the council had been in on the decision”.

“That kind of decision is not made in a vacuum.”

Here we go again, another OMA and Town Charter violation. When and where was the firing of FF Perry discussed and approved by the town council? The OMA requires that “discussions concerning the job performance, character, or physical or mental health of a person in the employ of the Town” must be properly noticed on the agenda and further the person involved must be given written notice. This has never been an agenda item and FF Perry was never given written notice. The Town Charter, Section C-64, requires, “No official vote on any matter shall be taken at any meeting which is not open to the public”. Apparently there was no “official” vote therefore it could be hidden from the public.

Once again, the citizens were lied to. During the appointment of Captain Chief Thomas Mears to acting fire chief for “operational purposes” just two days before the scheduled return of Chief McGillivray, The council president claimed the appointment was required by the Charter when all along it was being done so Corrigan could fire FF Perry.

Wasn’t Corrigan’s fellow consultant, Linda Dykeman, also hired in executive session? Dykeman’s appointment taking place during the June 26th town council meeting. That also wasn’t properly noticed on the agenda. Given the fact Judge McGuirl ruled Corrigan’s appointment was null and void because it wasn’t properly noticed, doesn’t that mean Dykeman’s appointment is null and void as well, in addition to being yet another OMA and Charter violation not ever raised or addressed by Judge McGuirl.

In the statement given by Council President Cienki regarding the decision, she claims, “we were not aware of any compliance issues until today’s ruling”, this would be amusing if it wasn’t so sad. Does she think people really believe that? At almost every council meeting numerous compliance and other issues have been raised and continually ignored. Even worse is, aren’t we paying Attorney D’Agostino or his firm, $168,000 a year plus, for sound legal advice, including compliance issues? Almost every argument he made during the trial was ruled against. The residents are certainly due a refund.

Now the town council wants to appoint Corrigan as town manager next Tuesday. There has been nothing but turmoil within our community since she arrived. The town council also wants to declare “Ratification of all actions taken by Gayle Corrigan as Town Manager from June 19, 2017 – November 14, 2017”.

The East Greenwich Town Charter, Section C-85 under the Powers and Duties of the Town Manager requires, “Appoint and, when necessary for the good of the service, suspend or remove any officer, including department heads and employees of the Town, except as otherwise provided by this Charter or law or personnel ordinance. All appointments, suspensions and removals of departments and officers made by the Town Manager shall be subject to the approval of a majority of all members of the Town Council”. The Judge ruled Corrigan’s appointment was null and void, how can the town say Corrigan’s actions, when she had no legal authority, now be valid? Is the town council thumbing their nose at the decision? Does FF Perry have to go back to court again because his firing took place during that time frame? Is this more sound legal advice from our town solicitor?

The legal actions are just going to keep coming at the residents’ expense. Maybe Nino was right when he said the town was fiscally on a downward spiral, but it’s due to the actions of our elected officials and those of Gayle Corrigan.

Council President Cienki’s statement includes, “We firmly believe in responsible and transparent government”. The transparency has been so clear, we’ve been unable to see it.

If you’re as disappointed as I am, please show up Tuesday and let our elected officials know we DO NOT WANT Corrigan back.

Mary Ann Drake
Mary Ann Drake
November 10, 2017 5:59 pm
Reply to  Bill Higgins

I was born and raised in EG but now live out of state. It is hard to comprehend what is happening to that wonderful town. I realize times are changing but it sounds like people have lost their values.

Melody Alger
Melody Alger
November 10, 2017 1:32 pm

It is so frustrating that Mr. Granatiero, a Council member and respected neighbor, continues to defame firefighter Perry as a liar, despite a judicial finding that “he did not lie”. Mr. Granatiero’s statements reflect either a stubborn bias or willful ignorance on this matter, neither of which serves the town very well. And, if truthful statements are of paramount importance to the Council, why the silence as to Ms. Corrigan’s nonsensical testimony, which rightly earned the judge’s skepticism and rebuke? To re-appoint Corrigan is to endorse testimony that inches perilously close to perjury.


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