Goodbye, Chief McGillivray; Hello, Chief Olsen

by | Nov 7, 2017

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

Firefighter union president Bill Perry talks with new interim Fire Chief Christopher Olsen after the Town Council meeting Monday.

When Fire Chief Russell McGillivray took off his East Greenwich Fire Department shirt Monday evening, people knew he was no longer the chief.

It happened while the Town Council met in executive session Monday night, before its regular session. McGillivray was one of the items on the executive session agenda.

After the council reconvened in open session, about an hour after it had gone into executive session, Town Manager Gayle Corrigan read a statement in which she announced she had dismissed McGillivray “without cause.” There was no further discussion before the council moved on to the next agenda item.

Former Fire Chief Russ McGillivray (right) talks with Police Detective Lt. Jay Fague (left) and West Warwick Fire Chief Joe Baris.

With that, McGillivray was gone. He joined the department in February 2011, having started his firefighting career at the West Warwick Fire Department. He was on duty the night of The Station nightclub fire that killed 100 and injured many others. McGillivray always declined to talk about that night. He was well liked, but Corrigan let it be known she had lost faith in him during testimony in the Town of EG vs. EG firefighters trial in September.

He will receive six months severance as per his contract, as well as receive remaining vacation pay.

In McGillivray’s place, at least for now, is Christopher Olsen, who attended the meeting Monday along with his wife. The Town Council voted 4-1 in favor of Olsen to serve as interim fire chief. He will be paid $65 an hour.

Town Council President Sue Cienki talks with newly appointed Interim Fire Chief Christopher Olsen.

Olsen is the retired fire chief for Cotuit, Mass., a small Cape Cod community. He and his wife live in Rochester, N.H.

Olsen stayed through the meeting, then met with firefighters and town officials afterwards. He begins his job immediately.

Corrigan said there would be a search for a permanent chief. No timetable was offered.


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bob ingerson
bob ingerson
November 7, 2017 8:47 am

the town had to have the fire district, they got. now they don’t know what to do with it. when the law suits are over we’ll see how much they “saved ” the taxpayers. look no further than providence.

Alan Clarke
Alan Clarke
November 8, 2017 10:27 am

I wonder what former townie Fire Chief Freddie Miller would think about $65 an hour. He wouldn’t even take a company car – used his own.
What is it with this woman that she comes into town, takes over, and fires people “without cause” and things just sail along. Is this what happens when we give up on democracy and hire our government? I sorta had short conversational coffees with Russell McGillivray for years at the Dunk and wonder what he possibly could have done to deserve this.
Lost confidence?? Anything burned down lately that was his fault? Or wouldn’t have been so bad if he was better at his job? Have we lost confidence in Corrigan yet?

“[New Chief] Olsen is the retired fire chief for Cotuit, Mass. […]. He and his wife live in Rochester, N.H.”
Nothing personal but is he going to commute? Maybe the Governor’s high-speed MBTA commuter train?

It sounds like the whole town has gone nuts and it’s time for martial law, but even Marshall Law would be nonplussed. I really hope that some day the dust will settle and we’ll be able to see the sense in it all. This is not the same town I grew up in… where the worse scandal I ever heard about was someone using political pull to make a section of street one-way… and we all suffer for that one every day.

Steve Fay
Steve Fay
November 8, 2017 2:35 pm

East Greenwich your”upscale” Central Coventry Banana Republic run government. See if Corrigan started another employment agency. If she did, I bet she hired this Olsen guy from her “Corrigan Head Hunters”. She screws the town as a puppeteer and then charges for “finding” a new chief that wasn’t needed. The old one was just fine. Keep putting up with the antics EG. Good luck … used to be a nice town. I think the current solicitor got his law degree at the now closed Bennys based on the , if you want to call it, presented argument for the town. By the way, the town just lost its first suit against it. Good thing you folks have $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$….because when you’re done with Corrigan you will have maybe a $ or $$ left if your lucky. And with that, Good Luck EG!

John Galt
John Galt
November 9, 2017 7:02 pm

What’s all the fuss about? Have we forgotten so soon about McGillivray? Remember this from the Providence Journal?

John Galt
John Galt
November 9, 2017 7:14 pm

McGillvary is still no gentleman if he moons a training class at state police HQ, and an inadequate professional if suspended by state police head from further training there. (Apologies – an earlier posting referred to Providence Journal instead of Patch when noting this story from Nov 16, 2011

November 10, 2017 12:08 am

I just can’t believe that council is raising its nose to the court, and then hurried up and fired fire chief, for no cause, right before judge kicks the town manager out! The chief stood up that firing Perry was not based on sound reasoning and judgment! Seems like he is the only one that had it right, but he gets fired for lost confidence. Come on . . . Just another baseless thug move! I hope he hires Perry’s lawyer. Just more $$$ spent needlessly. Any money Cienki thinks she is going to save will be sucked up by legal fees, lawsuit awards, back pay, etc.

Never before have I seen a town ass-ended like this!

I’ve given up trying to see the logic here, I can’t even follow the gross incompetence!

Town council does not follow the court’s ruling, I would think she could hold them in contempt, issuing more fines!

Renu Englehart
Renu Englehart
November 10, 2017 12:27 am

John Galt – I suspect that your name actually might be Chuck but I digress. How did Ms Corrigan find Chief Olsen? How much is she paying him to commute? How much did she pay Berkshire Advisors and Michael Walker? These are real concerns at least to honest taxpayers.


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