By Ray Alfano
The Town Council race in East Greenwich has officially turned ugly, as Republicans claim that Democratic candidate Caryn Corenthal lied when she said in the first candidate forum that she has not taken one penny of union money.
This is troublesome for two reasons. First, it completely misrepresents reality. Neither Corenthal nor any candidate has taken any PAC money – that much is true. Any and all PAC donations were made to the Democratic Town Committee, not the individual candidates. In addition, the donations were hardly scandalous. The firefighters union and the police union each gave $1,000 in 2018 to the committee, who then used that money to support their entire slate of candidates: Town Council, School Committee, State Senate and State Representative. Even if each candidate got a share of those donations, the amount would be laughably small and certainly not influential. Republican misrepresentations to the contrary are a blatant falsehood, and they are being spread like wildfire.
Plus, the Democratic Town Committee didn’t “take” the money; the firefighters gave them that money. Did they give it to them to influence the upcoming contract negotiations? Or perhaps they gave the money because they are upset at the way the Republicans have demonized the firefighters their entire time in office. We can’t know.
Second, the discussion is even more troubling because of the Pandora’s box it has opened. Now we must look at the Republican donors. In doing so it’s plain to see that neither the Republican Town Committee nor the candidates have taken PAC money. They have, however, taken money from real estate developers. Should we therefore assume, for instance that when Allen Gammons of Prudential Gammons Realty gave $2,150 to the Republican Town Committee in 2016, that it had any influence on the Republican Town Council members when he had business before them? Or how about when developer Paul Mihallides gave the Committee $1,500 in in-kind donations that same year? We have no reason to think they’re giving the money because they want favors; so why do we automatically jump to that conclusion when it’s a union donation?
Then there’s the Bob Flanders connection. We all know that it was Flanders who recommended Gayle Corrigan’s firm Providence Analytics to impose her classic Central Falls-style restructuring here in East Greenwich. Once she got in, both she and Linda Dykeman gave Flanders the maximum donation allowable per year: $5,400 each, while Sue Cienki gave him $1,000. That’s over $12,000 in donations to one candidate – definitely not an insignificant amount of money.
Flanders keeps benefiting from his East Greenwich connections, as his law firm represents the town in its numerous lawsuits against the Fire Department; so far none of which have been successful. How much money has his law firm made off the taxpayers of East Greenwich? Over $300,000 and counting (we don’t know the full amount at this point as the town has not released any legal bills beyond July).
My point is this: if you’re going to attack your opponents for being “in the pockets” of the union, better take a look in your own pockets and make sure they’re perfectly clean. Or better yet, stick to the issues, since that is what truly concerns voters.
Ray Alfano, a retired EG teacher, is a longtime resident.