By Elizabeth F. McNamara
The state Ethics Commission voted unanimously Tuesday that there was probable cause East Greenwich Town Manager Gayle Corrigan did not file her 2016 financial disclosure form in time and, once she did file a disclosure form, she did not report compensation of more than $200,000 from Central Coventry Fire District for that year.
This is the second time the Ethics Commission has found probable cause Corrigan committed an ethics violation. The commission voted in September to find probable cause Corrigan illegally hired her business partner, Linda Dykeman, as finance director for the Town of East Greenwich in 2017.
This second complaint was filed by resident Renu Englehart in April. Englehart, a longtime member of the town Zoning Board, is running for Town Council.
“I am very pleased that the R.I. Ethics Commission has found probable cause that Ms. Corrigan did not file her financial disclosure form on time and that the eventual statement was not truthful,” Englehart said in a statement.
“I found that her explanation as to why she did not file to be poor at best since Ms. Corrigan served on the governing board of Common Cause, an ethics watchdog, and appeared in front of the R.I. Ethics Commission in 2015 to verify financial statement disclosures,” she added.
Common Cause Executive Director John Marion confirmed that Corrigan served on the governing board from 2014 to 2016.
The investigation into Englehart’s complaint found Corrigan did not file a financial disclosure form for 2016 until Feb. 16, 2018. According to R.I. General Law § 36-14-16, state and municipal appointed officials are supposed to file financial disclosure forms by April 30 of the following year.
CCFD hired Management Resource Partners (MRP), Corrigan’s company, in March 2016 – Corrigan was named CCFD district manager and MRP provided additional staffing help for the fire district. The ethics investigation found that CCFD paid MRP more than $200,000 for that work in 2016. Corrigan made $11,000 a month for the work in 2016. CCFD still employs Corrigan and MRP.
A finding of probable cause is not a guilty verdict. If the case is not settled, it will proceed to a hearing before a judge in which Corrigan can defend herself. Because there are two findings of probable cause against Corrigan, Ethics Commission Director Jason Gramitt said they may be consolidated into a single claim.
The Town of East Greenwich has been billed $64,500 for “ethics” legal work through July by the law firm Whelan, Corrente. It is unclear how much of that work was on the two Corrigan ethics complaints or why East Greenwich would pay to defend Corrigan on this second claim at all, since the activity in question took place before she came to work for the town. Town Council President Sue Cienki said in September she would find out but no information has been forthcoming. Requests to Cienki for a comment about Tuesday’s hearing have not been returned.
Whelan, Corrente is no longer defending Corrigan on the ethics violations. In September, attorney Christopher Gontarz of Lynch & Pine registered with the Ethics Commission that he was representing Corrigan on both violations.
Find a copy of the Ethics Commission report here: Corrigan Report 10/16/2018.
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