Council Settles Old Debt, Honors Bowen

by | Oct 4, 2022

Above: Council Vice President Mike Donegan reads the proclamation to rename the Eldredge basketball courts in Don Bowen’s honor. Photos by Chuck Nadeau (

The Town Council Sept. 28 closed the door on a $396,380 payment to the town left over from the $52 million school bond approved by voters in 2008 for the new Cole Middle School and other school projects. The town had fronted that money, according to Town Manager Andy Nota, and never been paid back, so it sat on the books for a few years. 

The council voted 4-0 (Caryn Corenthal was absent) to pay the town back by issuing a bond, which was possible because the town never bonded the full $52 million; it bonded $48.4 million.

“We just issued the $396,680 to pay the town back because the town had fronted it. We just finally reconciled that,” said Nota this week. “The funding was all spent appropriately but by the time the dust settled in the finance office and was reconciled, an additional amount of money needed to be issued and it hadn’t been.”

In the weeks ahead, Nota said, the Town Council will vote on extinguishing the rest of that original $52 million that was never bonded. Even though it was never bonded, Nota said, is appeared on the books and “had inflated our debt capacity.”

This comes as the town and schools are in the early stages of planning a new, even larger school building project (read more HERE), and the amount of debt the town can safely assume will be an important part of that discussion.

The Town Council also honored Don Bowen Wednesday night, voting to name the Eldredge basketball courts on Cliff Street – which will be getting a complete rebuild – in his honor. Bowen has been a school and town basketball coach in East Greenwich for decades and was star of the EGHS basketball team in the early 1970s, leading the team to state championships in 1971 (the school’s first ever) and 1972. As a coach at EGHS, his teams won the state championship in 1991 and 2018. In 2021, the National High School Basketball Coaches Association awarded him the John Wooden Legacy Award. 

Councilor Mike Donegan said naming the Eldredge courts after Bowen was particularly appropriate since he has spent decades running youth summer leagues there. 

Don Bowen with former player now friend Dan Forbes, and Forbes’s son, Matthew.

“Donnie represents the best of East Greenwich on and off the court,” said EGBA president-elect Dan Forbes. “He was a one-person East Greenwich Basketball Association prior to the EGBA’s formation.”

Forbes himself was taught by Bowen and was a member of the 1991 EGHS team that won the state title under Bowen’s leadership. 

“For almost half a century, he’s developed our children’s basketball skills, with much of that work taking place at Eldredge courts,” Forbes said. “Donnie embodied athletic excellence as a player and now acts as an exemplary role model as a coach and mentor for EG kids.”

At the Sept. 28 meeting, Bowen thanked the community and his wife, Wendy, for her support. 

Don Bowen with his wife Wendy.

“This community is all about relationships,” Bowen said. “Relationships don’t happen overnight, they happen over time.”

He recalled the pride he felt when Forbes told him some years ago that he hoped Bowen would still be coaching by the time his own children were of age to play so they could have the same experience he’d had.

Forbes’s son Matthew, a 5th grader at Hanaford – with his father at the meeting – has indeed been able to play for Bowen. Construction on the basketball courts is expected to take place in 2023.

During public comment at the beginning of the meeting, former School Committee Chair Jean Ann Guliano said she was hoping the Town Council would approve putting a bond referendum before voters to compensate three residents of Sarah’s Trace who have long argued their homes were damaged during the construction of the new Cole Middle School 12 years ago.

“… the Town Council and School Committee came together and completed a successful middle school project benefitting the entire town. Unfortunately, three families suffered,” she said. “After over 10 years, these families have still not been compensated for damages done to their homes. This is not who we are as a town.”

The homeowners, Susan and Chris Lamendola, Keith and Wendy Amelotte and Tom Hogan and Cynthia Pelosi, sued the town during construction and the case went to trial in 2014. The homeowners were awarded $240,000 for nuisance (the judge threw out their claim of damages). They have since argued the lawyer representing the town and schools (Chris Whitney) should not have been hired because he also represented the contractor – Gilbane Construction – in other issues. But since the homeowners were not the people who hired Whitney, they have no standing. 

Because the case went to court, the matter is settled in the eyes of the town. It was, in fact, the town’s insurer that handled this claim, not the town directly. 

But, for Guliano, with the town considering a new school bond project, the time seemed right to suggest that taxpayers should help these homeowners. She said the town could even use the bonds never issued from the original $52 million referendum (see above). And she encouraged the town and schools to make sure they survey all buildings within a certain radius of any new municipal construction before any shovels go into the ground.

Chris Lamendola and Keith Amelotte also spoke. Here’s a copy of Guliano’s comments to the Town Council: Comments Town Council 9.28.22.

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October 5, 2022 6:18 am

Congratulations to Don Bowen ( and Lynn). The award is well deserved.

Also, glad to see The Lamendolas and the other two families might finally
get some peace over their complaints the last ten years.

Gerald Ducharme
Gerald Ducharme
October 5, 2022 8:17 am

In an unsettled world we live in, perhaps it is time to make any possible
corrections per the damages that were inflicted upon the three
residences. Time to seek healing and the involved parties should
be given a fair settlement to close once and forever this 12 year

Chris Lamendola
Chris Lamendola
October 5, 2022 11:41 am

EG News misses the essence of the former Chair of the EGSC speaking at the Town Council meeting. She as well as former SC member Susan Records wrote the Town Council in February concerning the suspected fraud perpetuated on them, the SC in charge of the Cole project as well as all residents of EG. They want to make the letter public and asked the Council if they needed copies. The main point of Jean Ann speaking at the Council meeting, as well as the Sarah’s Trace residents, was the non-response to this letter from the Town Council and her and Susan records demand for a valid independent investigation concerning the whole sordid affair. EG News has the letter, please share the letter and the fact that Jean Ann, Susan Records and we, the residents with destroyed homes are demanding a valid independent investigation. Why is EG news not reporting the facts, sharing the letter and protecting the current politicians? The title of the Article should be “Two former members of School Committee demand investigation”.

Chris Lamendola
Chris Lamendola
October 5, 2022 12:54 pm

Elizabeth please share the letter with the public!

October 5, 2022 2:43 pm

Make this letter public, it is incumbent upon the town council and SC to address this entire issue , and not sweep it under the carpet. If this were their homes that suffered thousands of dollars worth of
damage ( immense structural, foundations cracked, interior walls cracked, chimneys loosened at roof lines , etc. ) all fully documented during the Cole school construction and then knowing the unethical acts committed, to not represent the truth of these acts for these residents …. each of them would be screaming for justice . Right the wrong that you all are now aware of, DO what is right by these homeowners and the townspeople of EG ! EG news, do a deep dive on all of this, and get the truth out.

Jean Ann Guliano
Jean Ann Guliano
October 5, 2022 8:50 pm

EG News has both my and Susan Records’ permission to publish our original letter to the Town Council. We brought copies of the letter to the meeting on Wednesday and offered it to anyone who may want one. This should make it part of the public record, however, I will check with the Town Clerk to make sure. We hope to speak to the School Committee, as well. This is such a tragedy for the Sarah’s Trace neighbors. Having their homes damaged by a public building project and not receiving any compensation for damages to repair their homes is heartbreaking. As former School Committee members who were in office when this happened, we want to do everything we can to help these families and make this right.

Chris Lamendola
Chris Lamendola
October 6, 2022 7:33 am

Elizabeth is EG News a legitimate Journalistic news organization or are you and your board have ulterior motives? Why are you not reporting the facts and news of your own community and sharing this serious letter to the Town Council? Everyone wants to know.

Heather T.
Heather T.
October 7, 2022 12:01 pm

I understand your frustration Chris, but personal attacks are uncalled for

Chris Lamendola
Chris Lamendola
October 7, 2022 12:55 pm
Reply to  Heather T.

Heather it is ironic that my comments aren’t posted but yours are, making my case. I commentented on E. McNamara’s reporting last night and early this morning and your comment gets posted immediately at 12:01? Curious I guess!

October 6, 2022 9:37 am

I don’t believe the destruction of not one but three homes are a Democrat or Republican issue, it is a community issue. Where is the community support for these residents…is this still EG? One that shouldn’t be hidden by anyone. When a former Chair addresses the Town Council with issues that could be illegal, it shouldn’t be ignored. Obviously, there is something awry and not being reported by EG News or our Town elected officials.

When I hear that homes are destroyed by a Town building project and the town doesn’t back its own citizens with damaged homes, something is really wrong. In most simplistic terms who would want to be put into this situation by the town and not your own doing, have your homes destroyed and not compensated. Where are the elected officials!

As to EG news not reporting on the letter sent by the former Chair trying to correct this injustice by her own words is just plain wrong. I have to wonder what EG News advertisers think of the actions of what appears to be censorship. This should be front page news. Most media would be supportive of the residents who clearly to be victims here.

Catherine rodgers
Catherine rodgers
October 6, 2022 12:37 pm

I sincerely hope EG News will feature a piece exclusively on the recent findings by these Sarah’s Trace residents rather than this topic being buried by the lede.

Mark Thompson
Mark Thompson
October 6, 2022 2:06 pm

Congrats, Donnie!

Chris Lamendola
Chris Lamendola
October 6, 2022 10:42 pm

I will let Jean Ann respond with the misrepresentation of Elizabeth McNamara on her not remembering whether she was told about the conflict of Whitney. It is dishonest to represent that fact as what I have in an email from her. She said “ I imagine they would have had to put something in writing. Maybe there is a contract that exists” “I do remember we hired him on recommendation of our attorneys because he was a specialist in construction law”. Christopher Whitney, Esq. was representing East Greenwich at the same time that he was representing Gilbane, with no written conflict agreement between parties, as required by Article V Professional Rules of Professional Conduct: A Lawyer’s Responsibility.

As to the claim that the East Greenwich School Committee did an “Investigation” on the whole affair is ridiculous. The definition of an investigation is: An investigation is a systematic, minute, and thorough attempt to learn the facts about something complex or hidden; it is often formal and official.

1. Who did Mr. Callaghan actually investigate?

2. Did Mr. Callaghan interview any former School Committee members such as Jean Ann Giuliano and Susan Records who have come forward. Did they interview any SC members to find out what they knew??

3. Did Callaghan interview any of the Sarah’s Trace victims, with damaged homes and come forward of evidence of fraud, to get their view?

4. Did Mr. Callaghan interview Christpher Whitney, Matt Oliverio, Victor Mercurio, John Gowell or Jon Winikur who are mentioned in the documents?

5. Did he interview any Town Council members to see what they knew?

6. Did he interview anybody?

Any one can see this was not a valid investigation but a scheme to get rid of the victims, Sarah’s Trace after they came forward with evidence of possible fraud.

So, the Town paid Mr. Callaghan, an old gum shoe, approximately $2000 of taxpayer’s money to investigate claims of fraud, he never speaks with anyone, never interviews anyone and never produces a report for the $2000 but he reports to the School Committee in a back room executive session which received an Open Meeting Act violation from the RIAG after not reporting votes after having this meeting.
If this whole thing doesn’t pass the smell test, your right it doesn’t, It stinks. A whitewash!

The former members, SC Chair Jean Ann Giuliano, Susan Records and the Sarah’s Trace victims, with destroyed homes demand a thorough, independent, valid investigation. No other resident with destroyed homes would expect less!

Chris Lamendola
Chris Lamendola
October 7, 2022 7:19 am

Yes, Elizabeth we did have to settle under the duress of bankruptcy. You always seem to only tell half the story. We were forced to settle due to being $600K dollars into legal bills and being forced by the Judge to pay the contractors legal bills. Yes, the contractors who damaged and destroyed our homes. The cost to appeal would have been another $200K and three years to get it heard at the Supreme Court. And if we won the appeal, we would get another trial at the cost of another $100. We hadn’t even started to think about how would fix our homes with $1.5 Million in damages. What were we to do. We didn’t put ourselves in this situation, the Town did! What were we doing in court to begin with? Now we recently find out after a few years the Town hired lawyer was representing Gilbane at the same time as East Greenwich when EG was indemnified for any responsibility. We settled under FRAUD! Please explain this?

The most remarkable point is: Why was the town of EG on the side of the contractors in court and not their own residents. The Town was indemnified from any responsibility so why would they take sides with all the contractors who damaged our homes. Nonsensical! Jean Ann Giuliano and Susan Records said she instructed the lawyers to help us in anyway and they went against the will and instructions of the elected officials. They were duped by lawyers who were duplicitous and were representing the contactors, Gilbane. This whole affair is fraudulent and needs a valid investigation.

Thanks for getting all the facts EG News.

Please be a real news organization and share the public document 3-22-19 letter the Sarah’s Trace sent the town and School Committee. It’s only fair our community has all the facts and make up their own mind to what transpired. I would post it but am not allowed. It was just sent to your email!

October 7, 2022 3:32 pm

There are so many partial truths being shared here, which are very misleading.

Claim – “the judge threw out their claim of damages”
Truth – The judge didn’t allow the jury to see the damage estimates due to some formatting technicality, which is still a mystery to everyone involved.

Claim – “EG School Committee hired lawyer James Callaghan to investigate allegations”
Truth – Callaghan’s investigation was a document review at best. None of the homeowners, nor the former SC members were ever contacted. There was no real investigation.

Claim – “(Chris Whitney) should not have been hired”
Truth – OK, well that is true, however, there is no record of a letter of engagement signed by any SC member, nor is there a disclosure of the conflict as is required by the rules of ethics. Yet Whitney was still paid somehow.

Claim – “The homeowners were awarded $240,000 for nuisance”
Truth – While factual, this is also incomplete. The judge turned around and ordered us to give 2/3 of that money to the contractors to cover their legal fees unless we settled the matter. Now we find out years afterward that fraud may have been involved.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture by now. It is a complicated matter that can’t be explained in sound bites. Sure, we would like to be compensated. However, all we are asking the SC/TC to do right now is initiate a proper investigation, done by an impartial body (i.e. RI State Police) so we can settle the matter once and for all. There is no statute of limitations on fraud for reasons just like this. Do a proper investigation…what are you so afraid of?

October 7, 2022 5:59 pm

My point is that this situation is very complex and transpired over years. It is easy to form opinions without taking time to learn the whole story. As for Callaghan…if there were no irregularities, then where is the engagement agreement signed by the SC? And since there was clearly a conflict as Whitney himself states in an email, why was there no disclosure? Those should seem like irregularities to any reasonable person. I suspect the real answer was, you already got away with this, nothing good can come out of bringing it back up. Please remember, the residents of Sarah’s Trace are not the one’s bringing this up again. This is being brought up by members of the SC at the time, who are telling the current SC/TC that this information and more was withheld from them by their own employees and appointed volunteers.

Chris Lamendola
Chris Lamendola
October 8, 2022 8:04 am
Reply to  Keith

Elizabeth, you owe former Chair of the SC Jean Ann Guiliano an apology.

Her email response to me from the 3-22-2029 letter to the TC & SC with my question to her on whether she knew and was told about of the Whitney-Gilbane conflict reads:

“I honestly don’t remember. I do remember we hired him upon the recommendation of our attorneys because he was a specialist in construction law. I recall being told construction law was very complex which is why we needed a specialist. If we had been told Whitney was personally and directly working with Gilbane, I think I would have remembered that and it would have raised some red flags, Gilbane was our vendor at the time and their work had not been completed. It was still our job to hold them accountable. On the other hand, if Gilbane was a client of the firm in general, its likely that may have not raised too many red flags. Since Gilbane is so big, most RI firms who specialize in construction law have probably represented them at one time or another.
I imagine they would have to put something in writing. Maybe there is a contract that exists.”

So, Jean Ann went on the advice of Matt Oliverio and Building Committee Chair John Gowell (also an attorney) who knew of the conflict. And is smart enough to know the conflict has to be disclose and has to be in writing!

If you would share the letter sent by the Sarahs Trace residents sent on 3-22-2019 to the Town it would be crystal clear what is going on here. I suspect you will not share the document.

Elizabeth, what you really leave out is that not only does Jean Ann say they were not told of the conflict, you fail to mention that Susan Records another SC member at the time, confirms that fact. I can also tell you a third member of the SC at the time also confirms this nefarious fact but does not want to come forward for her own personal reasons!

Please apologize to Jean Ann Giuliano. I have spoke to her and she is bothered by your antics!

She is a wonderful, honest person, who was a great SC member and Chair as was Susan Records. We need more honest politicians like her and Susan Records!

Thank god they have the courage to come forward to share the truth!

Marlene Hatch
Marlene Hatch
October 8, 2022 11:07 am

Many were affected in some way by the construction at that time. The local residents were invited to participate in the damage claim that proceeded. I chose not to participate because I experienced no physical damage and now it is clear that compensation has already been paid. Let’s leave it at that. The EG News does a wonderful job presenting the facts they have and they are a commendable resource to the EG community. Congratulations and thanks to Don Bowen who was a basketball coach for my daughter at that time, who now is a CPA.

ChRis Lamendola
ChRis Lamendola
October 8, 2022 12:51 pm
Reply to  Marlene Hatch

No Marlene I can’t let you spread false claims. No compensation for damages was ever paid! And god know what you are speaking about concerning people being invited to participate in a damage claim that proceeded. Please provide evidence of that if your going to share something that is plain false! No one knows what you are talking about, respectfully!

Marlene Hatch
Marlene Hatch
October 9, 2022 9:24 am

Chris, also respectfully this is what I read above:

“ Claim – “The homeowners were awarded $240,000 for nuisance”
Truth – While factual, this is also incomplete. The judge turned around and ordered us to give 2/3 of that money to the contractors to cover their legal fees unless we settled the matter.”

So apparently some money was awarded. I had not been following all of this over the years and have no interest in further discussion.

Chris Lamendola
Chris Lamendola
October 10, 2022 7:20 am
Reply to  Marlene Hatch


Spoken like a true East Greenwich snob! Who cares it not my home and property. That is what is wrong Marlene, you admit you don’t know the facts, could care less cause it’s not your home and could care how our elected officials refusal to protect their own residents. Most would want to know the truth! Your attitude reflects exactly what is wrong in East Greenwich, respect for its residents and residents standing up for their neighbors. It used to be different here! You could care less until it’s your home. Thanks neighbor!

October 10, 2022 9:08 am
Reply to  Marlene Hatch

Nuisance has nothing to do with damages. People need to get better informed before making such wildly inaccurate comments. Why would you have any interest in discussing it further…just because you weren’t personally affected? Wow!

Joe fairminded
Joe fairminded
October 27, 2022 5:00 am

‘The judge turned around and ordered us to give 2/3 of that money to the contractors to cover their legal fees unless we settled the matter.”

But you did settle and were compensated along with property tax relief. If you think you have another case, then go back to court. You shouldn’t try to pressure or harass the school committee into giving you more money. That is NOT fair to EG taxpayers!

Also, congrats to Don Bowen. Great coach and more importantly, a good person


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